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

Girls at the school, which serves kindergarten to the eighth grade, could only wear skirts, jumpers or skorts (a skirt with shorts underneath) as part of their uniforms, with an exception for physical education classes. Kayla Epstein, The Seattle Times, "Girls were made to wear skirts at school to ‘preserve chivalry.’ So they sued — and won.," 31 Mar. 2019 Since the age of 3, encouraged by his father, Basil, who was a physical education teacher, exercise has always been a constant in the singer's life. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "At 75, Mick Jagger Shares His Incredible Post-Heart Surgery Dance Moves," 15 May 2019 Following his 1990 retirement after 27 years as a health and physical education teacher at Cherry Hill’s Brainerd Junior High School (now Carusi Middle School), Mr. Stagliano became immersed in civic affairs. Andrew Maykuth,, "Anthony D. Stagliano, 84, teacher, coach, Merchantville volunteer," 2 May 2018 In Bartlesville, Superintendent Chuck McCauley, desperate for a math teacher, hired a candidate with a physical education degree and no classroom experience. Moriah Balingit, Washington Post, "‘It just hurts my heart’: Low pay, big classes are the plight of Oklahoma teachers," 30 Mar. 2018 Groark said of the team, which responded to a social-media blitz by the health and physical education teacher. USA TODAY, "Students' gift for grieving teacher brings unexpected 76ers surprise," 5 Mar. 2018 Jenneth Workman, a health and physical education teacher, changed her testing schedule after her Kingdom City, Mo., school district began closing on Mondays last school year. Tawnell D. Hobbs, WSJ, "In These Districts, Friday Is Not a School Day," 9 Oct. 2018 The levy will help the district maintain music, physical education and career technical education programs, as well as other extra curricular opportunities. Christina Lords And Michael Katz, idahostatesman, "West Ada just got the funding to build a new high school and restore teaching positions | Idaho Statesman," 13 Mar. 2018 Vincent will remain at the school and will continue to coach the boys soccer team and teach physical education., "Digest (June 29): McDonogh, UMBC alumnus Kansaye joining Loyola Maryland men's soccer coaching staff," 29 June 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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Statistics for physical education

Last Updated

16 Jun 2019

Look-up Popularity

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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