100 French sports vocabulary words you should know

100 French sports vocabulary words you should know

by Anne-Lise Vassoille

Updated January 26, 2023

Sports play a central part in our daily lives and are a huge part of popular culture in France. To discuss sports in French, you’ll need to learn the right vocabulary. To help you along, we’ve selected 100 important words related to French sports, broken down by categories, that you can learn fast.

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While it’s simply impossible to list all the existing sports names in French, we have focused on the most popular and most common ones in France. To make things easier, we divided them into two categories, depending on whether they involve a ball.

13 ball sports in French

As it turns out, quite a few of these ball sports come from English-speaking countries and as such, they share the same words and pronunciation in both French and English. The only difference is the pronunciation of “handball”, due to its German origin. 

Some of those sports also have a short version, without the word “ball” at the end. 

le football
Short form: le foot
le basketball
Short form: le basket
le football américain
Short form: le foot américain
le rugbyrugby
le tennistennis
le tennis de table
le ping-pong
table tennis
le volleyball
Short form: le volley
le handballhandball
le hockey sur gazonfield hockey
le hockey sur glaceice hockey
le baseballbaseball
le golfgolf

Since all these sports are played with a ball, the main phrase involves the er verb jouer (to play) followed by the preposition au (the masculine form of à, since all ball sports are masculine words in French):

Je joue au foot >> I play football.

20 sports without a ball in French

Though maybe not so media-friendly as some ball sports, especially football, these sports are still very popular and commonly practiced in France:

la boxe boxing
le judojudo
la dansedancing
la gymnastiquegymnastics
la randonnéehiking
l’équitation, le chevalhorseriding
le cyclismecycling
le vélobiking
le VTT (Vélo Tout Terrain)mountainbiking
le patin à roulettes, le rollerroller skating
le skateboard, le skateskateboarding
le patin à glacesiceskating
le skiskiing
le ski nautiquewater skiing
la voilesailing
la planche à voilewindsurfing
la natationswimming
la plongéediving

You may have guessed that they won’t require the verb jouer since there’s no ball. Instead, the verb faire (to do) is used with the preposition de at the relevant form:

Characteristic of the wordSport nameFull phrase
Masculine wordle judoJe fais du judo
Feminine wordla gymnatisqueJe fais de la gymnatisue
Word starting with a vowell’escaladeJe fais de l’escalade

French vocabulary for different types of athletes 

Do you want to be able to talk about the people who play certain sports — for example, a footballer? Below, you’ll find a list of the most common athlete-related vocabulary, using the same two categories in the section above.

21 words of players of ball sports

For most of these sports, you will have two versions: one with the word joueur or joueuse (player) and one without:

French – MasculineFrench – FeminineEnglish
un joueur de football/foot
un footballeur
une joueuse de football/foot
une footballeuse
a soccer player
un joueur de basketball/basket
un basketballeur
une joueuse de basketball/basket
une basketballeuse
a basketball player
un joueur de football américain/de foot américainune joueuse de football américain/de foot américaina football player
un joueur de rugby
un rugbyman
une joueuse de rugbya rugby player
un joueur de tennis
un tennisman
une joueuse de  tennis
une tenniswoman
a tennis player
un joueur de tennis de table
un joueur de ping-pong
une joueuse de tennis de table
une joueuse de ping-pong
a table tennis playera ping-pong player
un joueur de volleyball/volley
un volleyeur
une joueuse de volleyball/volley
une volleyeuse
a volleyball player
un joueur de handball
un handballeur
une joueuse de handball
une handballeuse
a handball player
un joueur de hockey sur gazon
un hockeyeur sur gazon
une joueuse de hockey sur gazon
une hockeyeuse sur gazon
a field hockey player
un joueur de hockey sur glace
un hockeyeur sur glace
une joueuse de hockey sur glace
une hockeyeuse sur glace
an ice hockey player
un joueur de baseball
un baseballeur
une joueuse de baseball
une baseballeuse
a baseball player
un joueur de golf
un golfeur
une joueuse de golf
une golfeuse
a golf player

15 words for athletes in sports without a ball

Most of the words for athletes will bear some resemblance with the sports they are related to. But a few, namely in the case of escalade (climbing), équitation (horseriding), voile (sailing) and aviron (rowing), are a little more particular.

French – MasculineFrench – FeminineEnglish
un boxeur une boxeuse a boxer
un judokaune judokaa judoka
un danseurune danseusea dancer
un gymnasteune gymnastea gymnast
un randonneurune randonneusea hiker
un grimpeurune grimpeusea climber
un cavalierune cavalièrea horse rider
un cyclisteune cyclistea cyclist
un patineurune patineusea skater
un skieurune skieusea skier
un plaisancierune plaisancièrea pleasure sailor
un planchisteune planchistea windsurfer
un rameurune rameusea rower
un nageurune nageusea swimmer
un plongeurune plongeusea diver

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Vocabulary about sports staff and fans

During a championship game or a sporting event, like the world-famous tour de France, you’ll catch a glimpse of a variety of people, both on and off the pitch. Here is how they’re called in French:

French – MasculineFrench – FeminineEnglish
un arbitreune arbitrea referee
un entraîneurune entraîneusea coach
un coachune coacha coach
un capitaine d’équipeune capitaine d’équipea team captain
un coéquipierune coéquipièrea teammate
un adversaireune adversairean opponent
N/Aune équipe rivalea rival team
un journaliste sportifune journaliste sportivea sport journalist
un sponsorune sponsora sponsor
un supporteurune supportricea supporter, a fan
un spectateurune spectatricean audience member
le publicN/Athe audience

Words to describe sports equipment

Finally, no sport would be able to exist without the necessary équipement sportif (sports equipment). Here are the most common ones, depending on the sport you’re playing:

une chaussure de sport/des chaussures de sporta sport shoe/sport shoes
une basket/des basketsa sneaker/sneakers
un shortshorts
un survêtementtracksuit
un maillota jersey
un ganta glove
un ballona ball (the big kind, for soccer, basketball, rugby, football etc)
une ballea ball (the small kind, for tennis, golf, baseball etc)
un volanta shuttlecock
un paleta puck
une raquettea racket
une crossea stick (for hockey)
un club de golfa golf club
un véloa bike
un patin a skate
un gymnasea gymnasium
un stadea stadium
un terraina pitch (for soccer, basketball, rugby, football etc)
un court de tennisa tennis court

Challenge yourself and learn the vocabulary around French sports 

Yes, learning the 100 words in our list may seem like a sporting feat, but it’s worth the effort! Be it to talk about your favorite athletes or team, follow a live game or answer questions about your sporting habits, the vocabulary of French sports is one you’re likely to enjoy learning and find useful to know in your daily life.

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Anne-Lise is a translator and copywriter working for various industries, such as hospitality and travel, as well as health and well-being. Settled down in London since the end of her university years, she cannot get enough of the exceptional cultural life in the English capital city, starting with theater, be it to see a new West End show or to roll up her sleeves with her amateur drama group. She is also interested in photography, as her Instagram profile shows. She indulges her passion for languages in a translation blog she writes with other linguist friends. Go to her Linkedin page to know more about her background and her professional experience.

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