Sporting Lexicon

PelotonsThe thing about watching (to me) obscure sports once every four years is that the tend to have their own vocabulary, words that I know how they are meant, but not what they mean. If you know what I mean.

Take rowing for instance. We know that taking part in the repechage means being given a second chance, but where does it come from?

I suppose you can guess that it is French in origin, from repêchage meaning to ‘rescue’, to ‘finish up again’. In turn this comes from the old French, re (to repeat) and pêcher, literally to fish out which is appropriate for rowing.

Another French word pops up in road cycle races. The peloton is the main bunch of rider which is quite a good place to be as being in the middle of the pack can reduce air drag by as much as 40%. But what does peloton mean?

Literally a peloton is a little ball and also describes a platoon. It is also the origin of the English word pellet.

The Italian word libero appears in volleyball. He or she is the player in the different coloured shirt who looks like a fifth columnist sent over from the other team to disrupt the opposition.

In fact, the libero is the specialist defensive player and the idea was introduced relatively recently in 1998. Various complex rules govern what the libero can and cannot do, but you can look those up yourself. The question hers is what does the word mean?

This is one you could have a good guess at as it comes from the Italian for ‘free’ and is sometimes used in football to describe the sweeper role in football who is the more versatile type of centre-back.

So now you know. Or rather, now I know.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

2 comments… Add yours
  • Magic Pudding 31st July 2012

    To add to your Olympic lexicon, in basketball, a “bounce-pass” is a pass that bounces off the floor before it reaches the receiver. Bet you didn’t know that!

  • Mr Parrot 31st July 2012

    From the Middle English buncin or bounsen of course.


Your email will not be published on this site, but note that this and any other personal data you choose to share is stored here. Please see the Privacy Policy for more information.

Spelling error report

The following text will be sent to our editors: