athlete : only for athletics?

< Previous | Next >

Anticlée

Senior Member
French
Does the word athlete refers to other sports than athletics?
Does an athlete practise basketball?
Can I say "he was a top-level athlete in soccer" ? or is it better "a top-level sportsman in soccer" or "top-level soccer player" ?
Thanks for your help
 
  • Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    Does the word athlete refers to other sports than athletics?
    It depends on context. It can refer to a person who practices athletics but a person who plays a team sport might also be referred to as athletic or as an athlete.
    Can I say "he was a top-level athlete in soccer" ? or is it better "a top-level sportsman in soccer" or "top-level soccer player" ?
    The first two aren't natural. The third works.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    "Athlete" is loosely used nowadays.

    A coworker who does a lot of exercise to compete in bikini contests refers to herself as an athlete.
    I've heard billiards referred to as a sport and thus the players are athletes.

    Where do you draw the line?

    I say that dart playing is not a sport and the participants are not athletes. But big arguments have been started over my position on that matter.

    Is competitive poker a sport? Are the card players athletes?

    Is fishing a sport? Are participants athletes?

    I think you are going to have to make your own decisions on this. I know I do.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Although what constitutes an athlete is a gray area in many ways, it's safe to say that players in any team sport that uses a ball or a puck would be considered athletes.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Although what constitutes an athlete is a gray area in many ways, it's safe to say that players in any team sport that uses a ball or a puck would be considered athletes.
    My criteria is more specific: If it generally requires an athletic supporter, it is a sport; if not, it is not a sport.

    Athletic supporter:
     

    rhitagawr

    Senior Member
    British English
    Nice picture, Packard. I too certainly wouldn't call darts players and snooker players athletes. They never seem to run very far or break into a sweat. Darts players have to drink a lot of beer and snooker players have to stay up all night, at least in the finals of important competitions. Personally, I'd confine athlete to athletics. But perhaps that's just me. Athletic is more flexible. I'd speak of an athletic ballet dancer. It depends on how much physical strain's involved.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Nice picture, Packard. I too certainly wouldn't call darts players and snooker players athletes. They never seem to run very far or break into a sweat. Darts players have to drink a lot of beer and snooker players have to stay up all night, at least in the finals of important competitions. Personally, I'd confine athlete to athletics. But perhaps that's just me. Athletic is more flexible. I'd speak of an athletic ballet dancer. It depends on how much physical strain's involved.
    Dancing makes athletic demands on the body but I would not call the dancers "athletes". I dated a ballerina once and she could do 20 pull-ups and 50 push ups so she was in top physical shape. But she was not an athlete; she was a dancer.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I'd use the word like rhita: athletes are for those who participate in athletic events, not just anyone involved in sport.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    There is a definite move away from limiting "athlete" to those who do "athletics"
    It is so well-established that it features in the first entry in the OED:

    In early use: a competitor in public games, participating in any of various individual sporting events, such as running, jumping, boxing, and wrestling (chiefly hist., esp. with reference to the games held in ancient Greece and Rome). In later use more generally: a competitor in any sporting event that requires physical skill, strength, endurance, etc

    Even so, your original sentence using footballer AND athlete in the same sentence is not idiomatic. If you know an individual's sport you'd use that not the more general and generic "athlete". It is more used when there are a group of people from different discipines.

    e.g. the footballers stay in the Athletes' Village at the Olyipic games.


    The second definition in the OED is this:
    A person who (naturally or through training) has the traits required for proficiency in sports and other forms of physical exercise; one is physically strong, fit, and active.

    Which I used myself the other day under a photo of my sister warming up for a fun-run in her home town. She is not a professional nor even a competitor in races etc but she sure looks like an athlete to me!
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    In the U.S., anyone who plays for a professional sports team is referred to as a professional athlete. Football, baseball, basketball, hockey, whatever.

    Somebody who played any of those sports in high school would be referred to as a high school athlete.
     
    < Previous | Next >
    Top