de·​cath·​lon | \di-ˈkath-lən, -ˌlän, -ˈka-thə-\

Definition of decathlon 

: a 10-event athletic contest specifically : a composite contest that consists of the 100-meter, 400-meter, and 1500-meter runs, the 110-meter high hurdles, the javelin and discus throws, shot put, pole vault, high jump, and long jump

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

Decathlon from deca- and athlon, "contest", means "ten contests". The ancient Greek Olympics held five-contest competitions, or pentathlons, that were based on the skills needed in battle. The modern Olympic decathlon, which was born in 1912, consists of the 100-meter run, 400-meter run, 1500-meter run, 110-meter high hurdles, javelin throw, discus throw, shot put, pole vault, high jump, and long jump. The original winner was the legendary Jim Thorpe, who would later be judged the greatest American athlete of the 20th century. And ever since, the Olympic decathlon winner has been called the finest all-around athlete in the world.

Examples of decathlon in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

In a step toward common sense, there will be a women's open decathlon championship this summer, with Pole Vault Power's Becca Gillespy Peter putting up prize money. Ken Goe,, "On NCAA meet projections, a women's decathlon and Hayward: Oregon track & field rundown," 29 May 2018 First non-decathlon event on the track will be a preliminary heat of the men's 4x100 relay at 4:32 p.m. The meet concludes Saturday. Ken Goe,, "NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships end a six-year run at Hayward Field: Quick facts," 5 June 2018 Playing against the University of Pittsburgh in 1911, the future Olympic gold medalist in both the decathlon and pentathlon blasted a long arching punt from near his own goal line. WSJ, "Five Best: Gordon Marino," 22 June 2018 Many of those people were in Hayward and on their feet as Ashton Eaton crossed the finish line after setting the world record in the decathlon at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials., "Comment about opponents of Hayward reconstruction is unfair: Oregon track & field rundown," 29 Apr. 2018 Courtney Harris achieved runner-up recognition in the 17-18 year-old decathlon with a score of 5,861. Alex Kushel,, "Boynton track club trio blitz to top efforts at national meet," 7 July 2018 When: Meet begins Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. with the decathlon 100 meters. Ken Goe,, "NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships end a six-year run at Hayward Field: Quick facts," 5 June 2018 Garland qualified for the Finland trip by winning the decathlon in June at the USATF junior outdoor championships. Dearbea Walker,, "Germantown Academy's Kyle Garland to compete in decathlon at under-20 world championships," 9 July 2018 Mitch Modin, no longer the reigning Pac-12 decathlon champ, vlogs about how this year's competition went, Portland State's Donte Robinson comes from behind to win the Big Sky Conference decathlon title with 7,307 points. Ken Goe,, "Hayward Field's east grandstand appears doomed now: Oregon track & field rundown," 10 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'decathlon.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of decathlon

1910, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for decathlon

French décathlon, from déca- deca- + -athlon (as in pentathlon)

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about decathlon

Statistics for decathlon

Last Updated

30 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for decathlon

The first known use of decathlon was in 1910

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for decathlon



English Language Learners Definition of decathlon

: a sports contest for men that consists of 10 different events

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on decathlon

See words that rhyme with decathlon

Britannica English: Translation of decathlon for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about decathlon

Comments on decathlon

What made you want to look up decathlon? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


playful or foolish behavior

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Autumn Words of the Day 2018

  • a-top-down-image-of-road-through-an-autumn-forest
  • Which is a synonym of fugacious?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!