Sports Lingo And Terminology

sports lingo and terminology

Sports lingo and terminology is the language used by people to refer to certain sports concepts. There are general sports terms that apply to every sport, but also sports-specific lingo that is unique to each sport. When watching a game, be prepared for sports lingo to be used by announcers, players, fans, and coaches alike. Lingo and terminology can best be learned by watching the sport and listening to what the sports world says. The best way, however, would be to turn the TV off while watching sports and turn on the live radio. Radio announcers often use lots of lingo while they speak.

Sports Basic Terms

Have you ever been to a sporting event and didn't understand what was going on? Did you hear phrases that people said that didn't make any sense to you? Here are some of the most basic sports terms:

  • Winner: the team or player that wins a sports game or match.
  • Loser: the team or player that loses a sports game or match.
  • Offense: in sports with two opposing teams, the offense is the team that is currently attempting to score points, and usually has possession of the game ball.
  • Defense: in sports with two opposing teams, the defense is the team that is trying to prevent points from being scored.
  • Home Team: the team who is playing in their own stadium, town, or city.
  • Away Team: the team who is playing in another team’s stadium, town, or city.
  • Referee: the game supervisors who oversee gameplay and make sure that everyone is following the rules. Referees can also be called “officials” or “umpires,” and issue penalties and decisions on in-game disputes.
  • Opponent: the player or team that is playing against any individual players or teams.
  • Coach: the leader of a team or player, who helps teach players and makes important decisions during games and practices.
  • Superstar: an extremely talented player that turns in impressive statistical performances consistently.

Sports Fields Terms

These terms relate to the various sports fields, stadiums, and the main features of them:

  • Arena: Indoor enclosure surrounded by seating where sports take place, used for massive sporting events.
  • Field: Outdoor, grassy, and open land where sporting events take place particularly football, baseball, or soccer.
  • Court: Indoor or outdoor area with painted sections to denote scoring and boundaries during the game, commonly seen in basketball, tennis, volleyball or racquetball.
  • Rink: Area made of ice or concrete, used for sports that require skates such as figure skating, roller blading, or hockey.
  • Track: Flat area with painted lanes used in racing sports.
  • Goal: The scoring area for football, and soccer. The ball must enter or pass through a goal.
  • Bucket: The scoring area for basketball. The ball must enter the hoop.
  • Finish Line: The final line on a track noting the end of a race.
  • Sideline: Line in team sports where the coach, and players not in play reside. The sideline notes the bounds for the area; crossing the sideline means a play is not valid.

Sports Fouls and Penalties Lingo

These terms relate to penalties and fouls that often occur in various sports:

  • Contact Foul: Illegal physical contact that prevents a player from completing the desired action.
  • Delay of Game: In sports this penalty will be called whenever a player commits an act that delays the progress of the game.
  • Offsides: Lining up or moving across a boundary line that marks the territory occupied by the opposition.
  • Blowout: One team outscores the other by a significant margin.
  • Sudden Death: Refers to a situation in which the first team to score in an overtime period (necessary when the score remains tied after regulation time has expired) is declared the winner.
  • Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Penalization for arguing with an official, demonstrating reckless and unnecessary physical contact towards an opponent or repeatedly using obscene language.
  • Down to the Wire: The result of an event is likely to be decided by the outcome of the final play or sequence.
  • Game Winner: A scoring effort that occurs with little or no time left in the game, effectively securing a win for that team/player.
  • Icing: Calling an abrupt timeout to disorient a member of the opposition and prevent them from succeeding in the closing moments of a game.

Sports Lingo

These terms include some general, unique lingo that is used in multiple sports:

  • Barnburner: A game that is tightly contested from start to finish.
  • Bench Warmer: A player that remains on the sidelines and logs minimal on-field playing time.
  • Enforcer: A player that is relied upon to protect teammates and intimidate the opposition upon entering the field of play.
  • Out of Bounds: The player or ball crosses over one of the boundary lines encapsulating the area of play.
  • Turnover: Committing an action that results in forfeiting possession of the ball to the opposing team.
  • Bang-Bang Play: A play that unfolds in a fairly indiscernible fashion such that the ruling made by the official has the potential to go either way.
  • Call Reversal: The original ruling passed down by the official is changed following a frame-by-frame examination of the replay on the video.
  • Home Field Advantage: A slight advantage gained by the host team due to crowd noise and familiarity of the surroundings.
  • Throwing in the Towel: When a team/player commits an action that expresses minimal confidence in their perceived chance of winning a contest.


What are some common terms used to describe winning in sports?

Some popular slang used to describe when a team or individual wins include “dub,” “w,” and “upset.” Upset is used to describe a specific type of win in which a team or athlete that was deemed the underdog is able to overcome the odds and win. Terms like “dub” and “w” are often used in a phrase such as “caught a dub” or “took the w.”

Where does sports lingo come from?

There is no single person or place that creates sports lingo. Instead, sports lingo tends to come from people who play or watch a certain sport religiously. Most commonly, sports slang comes from players and coaches, who start to use certain terms to refer to aspects of their sport that catch on and spread. Other sports lingo starts as catch phrases or idioms used by commentators, sports journalists, and broadcasters. Many other forms of sports lingo come from the fans of a sport, being used in social circles and then spreading widely until they become part of the culture of a sport.