noun, often attributive
mar·​a·​thon | \ ˈmer-ə-ˌthän How to pronounce marathon (audio) , ˈma-rə- \

Definition of marathon

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a footrace run on an open course usually of 26 miles 385 yards (42.2 kilometers) broadly : a long-distance race
2a : an endurance contest
b : something (such as an event, activity, or session) characterized by great length or concentrated effort


geographical name
Mar·​a·​thon | \ ˈmer-ə-ˌthän How to pronounce Marathon (audio) , ˈma-rə- \

Definition of Marathon (Entry 2 of 2)

1 plain of eastern Greece in Attica northeast of Athens on the Aegean Sea
2 ancient town on the plain of Marathon

Examples of marathon in a Sentence

Noun We watched a marathon of our favorite movies.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Governors and state legislators should employ a strategy that first acknowledges that the struggle to restore educational sanity is a marathon, not a sprint. William A. Jacobson, National Review, 30 Aug. 2021 Remember that this will be a marathon, not a sprint. Sacha Labourey, Forbes, 29 June 2021 The marathon, which was canceled last year because of the pandemic, will be limited to 4,000 runners (more than 7,000 ran in 2019), with COVID safety measures in place throughout the race. Star Tribune, 7 Apr. 2021 In Game 2 — a 4 hour, 18-minute marathon that went into extra innings — Justin Steele labored through 3⅔ innings, surrendering four runs. Meghan Montemurro,, 26 Aug. 2021 On Wednesday, Holbrook recalled how Hussle was known to say that life was a marathon, not a sprint. Rebecca Lurye,, 18 Aug. 2021 Wim Hof had once run a marathon in Namibia without drinking any water. Emma Cline, The New Yorker, 16 Aug. 2021 His wife, Gretchen, is an Ironman triathlete, but Tuff wasn’t much of a swimmer, hadn’t run a marathon, and wasn’t a real cyclist., 28 July 2021 Mphela offers a summertime invitation to the dance floor, but the track’s restrained tempo is a reminder that the return to nightlife is a marathon, not a sprint. New York Times, 23 July 2021

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

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First Known Use of marathon


1896, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for marathon


Marathon, Greece, site of a victory of Greeks over Persians in 490 b.c., the news of which was carried to Athens by a long-distance runner

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The first known use of marathon was in 1896

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Last Updated

9 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Marathon.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for marathon



English Language Learners Definition of marathon

: a running race that is about 26 miles (42 kilometers) long
: something (such as an event or activity) that lasts an extremely long time or that requires great effort
: a contest in which people compete with each other to see who can do something for the longest amount of time


mar·​a·​thon | \ ˈmer-ə-ˌthän How to pronounce marathon (audio) \

Kids Definition of marathon

1 : a long-distance running race
2 : a long hard contest


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