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

Keep scrolling for more

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 Some do have nets, whether bought and attached by civic-minded individuals like Amador, or provided by a school, a generous physical education teacher, or another anonymous donor. David Waldstein, New York Times, 15 July 2021 Cox holds a bachelor of arts in History degree from Hanover College and master of arts in history and master of education in physical education with a specialization in athletic administration degrees from Bowling Green State University. James Weber, The Enquirer, 27 May 2021 Three dozen classes are being offered, including seven in language arts, six in math, four in art, three in foreign language, two in music, one in physical education. Chuck Fieldman,, 26 Apr. 2021 Klunder had been hired as a physical education teacher and to coach baseball and basketball. Star Tribune, 9 July 2021 Amy Trench, a physical education teacher at Hillcrest who worked on power strength training with both Anjay and Ajani, said Anjay would constantly ask about how his younger brother was doing. Mike Nolan,, 7 July 2021 Arnie was a beloved elementary school physical education teacher. Author: Linda Robertson, Anchorage Daily News, 4 July 2021 Loudoun’s implementation of this policy spurred more opposition, including a lawsuit from physical education teacher Tanner Cross, which is ongoing. Washington Post, 1 July 2021 Chase had been Morgan’s varsity assistant on the basketball team for the last three seasons and is a health and physical education teacher within the district. Matt Goul, cleveland, 7 May 2021

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.

See More

First Known Use of physical education

1748, in the meaning defined above

Keep scrolling for more

Buying Guide

Our team at The Usage has selected the best resistance bands of 2021.

Learn More About physical education

Time Traveler for physical education

Time Traveler

The first known use of physical education was in 1748

See more words from the same year

Dictionary Entries Near physical education

physical double star

physical education

physical environment

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for physical education

Last Updated

28 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Physical education.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 Jul. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

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 Encyclopedia article about physical education


Test Your Vocabulary

Dog Words Quiz

  • shiba puppy more or less demanding cuddles
  • Which of the following animals has a dog in its etymology?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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