pen·​tath·​lon pen-ˈtath-lən How to pronounce pentathlon (audio)
 nonstandard  -ˈta-thə-
: an athletic contest involving participation by each contestant in five different events
especially : modern pentathlon

Did you know?

The Greek word athlos means "contest or trial", so to be an athlete you had to compete in physical contests. The ancient Greek pentathlon tested warriors' skills in sprinting, long jumping, javelin throwing, discus throwing, and wrestling, none of which are part of today's Olympic pentathlon. But a pentathlete must still have muscles and reflexes suited to almost any kind of physical feat.

Examples of pentathlon in a Sentence

the winner of the Olympic pentathlon
Recent Examples on the Web Dumas won the girls’ pentathlon at the Division 2 state championships on May 25, and the MIAA Meet of Champions girls’ pentathlon on June 1. Ethan Fuller,, 5 June 2023 The decision to name Thorpe the sole winner of the decathlon and pentathlon was reported on Thursday by Indian Country Today, which noted that Olympic officials had quietly put him alone at the top spot on the official website of the Games. New York Times, 15 July 2022 After gradually improving upon her personal best in each of her last three pentathlon tries, Franklin junior Sarah Dumas smashed her PR Saturday with 3,518 points and a second-place finish in the girls’ pentathlon. Matty Wasserman,, 17 June 2023 However, according to Olympic historian David Wallechinsky, Hubbard's feat was overshadowed by teammate Robert Legendre, who had failed to qualify for the U.S. team in the long jump but set a world record in the event during the pentathlon a day earlier. Chris Lehourites, Star Tribune, 28 July 2020 Sophomore Nyrah Joseph added a second-place finish in the 100-meter hurdles to her dominant pentathlon performance (3,035 points) on Thursday to take crucial points. Aj Traub,, 27 May 2023 Cajon hurdler Seth Johnson, a Cal commit, showed off his all-around form in running away with the pentathlon competition. Eric Sondheimer Columnist, Los Angeles Times, 29 Jan. 2022 Wieslander and Ferdinand Bie (the Norwegian athlete who had received Thorpe’s gold medal in the pentathlon) are now listed as silver medal winners in their respective events, per the Associated Press (AP). Tara Wu, Smithsonian Magazine, 20 July 2022 Before Friday's announcement, nearly 30 years after his death in 1982, Thorpe was reinstated as co-winner of both events alongside Hugo Wieslander, who placed second in the decathlon, and Ferdinand Bie, who finished just behind Thorpe in the pentathlon, the Times explained. Alexandra Schonfeld,, 15 July 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'pentathlon.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Greek, from penta- + athlon contest

First Known Use

1603, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of pentathlon was in 1603

Dictionary Entries Near pentathlon

Cite this Entry

“Pentathlon.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


pen·​tath·​lon pen-ˈtath-lən How to pronounce pentathlon (audio)
: an athletic contest made up of five different track-and-field events

More from Merriam-Webster on pentathlon

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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