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

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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

Ezekiel Ansah works with Ghanaian youth to promote physical education; Tamba Hali was nominated for a Walter Payton Man of the Year award for assisting in the construction of an Ebola treatment unit in Liberia. Conor Orr,, "The 2018 Draft Is an African Immigrant Story," 24 Apr. 2018 The state charges involved the abuse of three disabled children while working as an instructional assistant for adapted physical education in the Oregon City School District. Maxine Bernstein,, "Former Oregon City teaching aide sentenced to 28 years for child pornography, sex abuse," 16 Apr. 2018 Belichick’s father, Steve, spent 33 years as a Navy assistant coach and scout, and worked as an instructor in the physical education department., "Patriots coach Bill Belichick: 'My heart goes out to the victims' at the Capital Gazette," 30 June 2018 Galante, who was the Phoenix Brophy Prep defensive coordinator under Scooter Molander on 6A state championship teams in 2005 and 2007, also was head of Seton's physical education department. Richard Obert, azcentral, "Gary Galante steps down as football coach at Seton Catholic," 2 June 2018 Middleton school’s physical education department connected with Fuller for the assembly through a mutual friend of teacher Katie Chambers, the teacher said. Genevieve Bookwalter,, "Chicago Bears' Kyle Fuller talks family, hard work at Skokie school," 27 Apr. 2018 Turchi, Lincoln’s physical education department chair, promotes an inspirational brand of instructional leadership., "Lindback Foundation 2018 distinguished Philadelphia teachers," 27 Mar. 2018 Special courses include French, music, drama, ballet, and physical education, which features games, gymnastics, and swimming. Temi Adebowale, Town & Country, "Prince George Can Expect More Homework at School This Year," 23 Aug. 2018 At the academy, retired special education teachers work with students on topics such as reading, math, social skills, nutrition, communication tools, music and physical education, Rocha said. Tracy Maness, Houston Chronicle, "Down syndrome students learn by selling lemonade," 21 May 2018

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.

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First Known Use of physical education

1748, in the meaning defined above

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Last Updated

13 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for physical education

The first known use of physical education was in 1748

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More Definitions for physical education

physical education


English Language Learners Definition of physical education

: sports and exercise taught in schools

physical education


Kids Definition of physical education

: instruction in the care and development of the body

More from Merriam-Webster on physical education

Spanish Central: Translation of physical education Encyclopedia article about physical education

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