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

Citizens of America’s growing cities tried new sports such as baseball and football, and exercise advocates built the first public playgrounds and pushed for physical education for both boys and girls. Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "The Wheel, the Woman, and the Human Body," 6 July 2018 Grant was a 35-year physical education teacher at Noah Wallace Elementary School in Farmington prior to his untimely passing in October of 2015. Courant Community, "Community News For The Valley Edition," 2 July 2018 After two years in the Army, he was hired by Auburn in 1955 as an assistant professor of physical education and assistant track coach. Frank Litsky, New York Times, "Mel Rosen, Coach of Powerful ‘92 Olympics Track Team, Dies at 90," 27 Mar. 2018 The incident in question took place Feb. 26, when a physical education teacher found two boys in a locker room, one with his pants pulled down and the other with his pants unzipped, according to the complaint. Nicole Aimone, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Waukesha School District administrator didn't report student's sexual assault, complaint says," 6 July 2018 His favorite subjects are math and physical education. The Star, kansascity, "An active trio, siblings love spending time together," 6 July 2018 The district could lose as many as eight physical education teachers, six music teachers and a theater teacher. Arika Herron, Indianapolis Star, "More than two dozen teachers given notice by Indianapolis Public Schools," 29 June 2018 West Greene students take music, art and physical education every week. New York Times, "What Budget Cuts Mean for Third Graders in a Rural School," 5 June 2018 At the community forum, attendees heard from each subgroup, which included extracurriculars, athletics and physical education; academics and student achievement; fine and applied arts; and the whole building team. Steve Schering,, "Eyes on upgrades: Imagine OPRF group identifies school facilities that could be targeted for improvements," 1 Mar. 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

11 Aug 2018

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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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