physical education


Definition of physical education

: instruction in the development and care of the body ranging from simple calisthenic exercises to a course of study providing training in hygiene, gymnastics, and the performance and management of athletic games

The Importance (Linguistic and Otherwise) of Physical Education

Physical education has existed since ancient times, but it wasn’t until several hundred years ago that the term itself (abbreviated as phys ed or PE) came into being. Its earliest known use comes, oddly enough, from a 1748 book titled Critical Reflections on Poetry, Painting, and Music: “Cannot some years prove more favorable than others to the physical education of children. . . ?” A few decades after these words were published, gymnasiums opened across Europe, especially in Germany, where gymnastics associations (or turnvereins) fostered physical health as well as civic involvement and cultural enrichment. Thanks in part to immigration, these clubs, and European enthusiasm for athletics in general, spread to the U.S. During the 19th century, American educators adopted European methods of teaching physical training, and both the word physical education and the phenomenon it represents became well established in this country.

Examples of physical education in a Sentence

He teaches physical education at the high school.
Recent Examples on the Web Carlos Gonzales, an Osceola County math teacher, and John Layton, an Orange County physical education teacher, were also arrested in the operation. Landon Mion, Fox News, 10 Sep. 2022 Teachers in Columbus were seeking 8% annual pay raises, as well as commitments to improve heating and air conditioning in dilapidated buildings, smaller class sizes and full-time art, music and physical education teachers in elementary schools. Liam Reilly, CNN, 29 Aug. 2022 Most of the Cleveland school district’s openings are for classroom teachers, particularly arts, music and physical education instructors. Brenda Cain, cleveland, 13 Aug. 2022 That physical distance is recommended for students in the common area or during meals, music and physical education class. Lillian Reed,, 20 May 2021 Students would go home and have art, music and physical education online in the afternoon. Zareen Syed,, 20 Apr. 2021 Wenzel, a physical education teacher at Plainville High, won four CCC championships at Newington and guided the team to the CIAC Class L semifinals in 2016. Staff Reports, Hartford Courant, 8 Aug. 2022 Every day during his commute to work as a physical education teacher in Hillsboro, Daryle Brown drove past a large billboard displaying his father’s missing person flier. oregonlive, 19 May 2022 Ginger is a physical education teacher in Pelham, teaching kids in kindergarten through fifth grade. Mary Colurso |, al, 19 July 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of physical education

1748, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for physical education

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The first known use of physical education was in 1748

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Dictionary Entries Near physical education

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physical education

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Statistics for physical education

Last Updated

14 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Physical education.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Sep. 2022.

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More Definitions for physical education

physical education


Kids Definition of physical education

: instruction in the care and development of the body

More from Merriam-Webster on physical education Encyclopedia article about physical education


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