What is Sport?

What is Sport?       
Prepared by  Prepared by: Dr Ralph Richards, Senior Research Consultant, Clearinghouse for Sport, Sport Australia (formerly Australian Sports Commission)
evaluated by  Evaluated by: Mark McAllion, Chief Executive Officer, Vicsport (April 2016)
Reviewed by  Reviewed by network: Australian Sport Information Network (AUSPIN)
Last updated  Last Updated: 4 September 2018
Please refer to the Clearinghouse for Sport disclaimer page for
more information concerning this content.

Community Sport Coaching
Thinkstock, 92129308


Any definition of ‘sport’ will be contentious, since there are descriptors of sport that may be considered exclusive, and other descriptors that could be interpreted in different ways. There are also many closely related terms; such as social sport, recreational sport, physical activity, physical education, physical literacy, exercise, etc. that, depending upon the context in which they are applied, may look like ‘sport’.

The etymology of the word ‘sport’ comes from the Old French ‘desport’, meaning leisure.  The oldest definition in the English language dates from around 1300 and means ‘anything humans find amusing or entertaining’ [source: Wikipedia]. The first English language use of the word ‘sport’ to mean a game involving physical exercise appeared in the mid-1500’s [source: Online Etymology Dictionary].

What we perceive as ‘sport’ in one instance may not be in another; sport takes on many forms and is constantly changing based upon societal norms, trends, and new directions.

Key Messages 


Sport is more generally defined as a human activity capable of achieving a result requiring physical exertion and/or physical skill which, by its nature and organisation, is competitive and is generally accepted as being a sport.


However, an activity we perceive as sport in one context may not be in another context. Sport takes on many forms and our notion of "what is sport" is continually changing.


There are a number of factors influencing our willingness to engage in sport, these factors also shape our perception of what is (or is not) sport.

Clearinghouse members

Please login to unlock this topic

Please contact us if you are experiencing any difficulty accessing the Clearinghouse information resources that you require.
If you are not a member of the Clearinghouse for Sport please join now

Related Topics


Is this information complete? 

The Clearinghouse for Sport is a sector-wide knowledge sharing initiative, and as such your contributions are encouraged and appreciated. If you would like to suggest a resource, submit a publication, or provide feedback on this topic, please contact us.
Alternatively, if you would like to be kept up to date with research and information published about this topic, please request a research profile setup.