Physical education Definition & Meaning - Merriam-Webster

physical education


Definition of physical education

: instruction in the development and care of the body ranging from simple calisthenic exercises to a course of study providing training in hygiene, gymnastics, and the performance and management of athletic games

The Importance (Linguistic and Otherwise) of Physical Education

Physical education has existed since ancient times, but it wasn’t until several hundred years ago that the term itself (abbreviated as phys ed or PE) came into being. Its earliest known use comes, oddly enough, from a 1748 book titled Critical Reflections on Poetry, Painting, and Music: “Cannot some years prove more favorable than others to the physical education of children. . . ?” A few decades after these words were published, gymnasiums opened across Europe, especially in Germany, where gymnastics associations (or turnvereins) fostered physical health as well as civic involvement and cultural enrichment. Thanks in part to immigration, these clubs, and European enthusiasm for athletics in general, spread to the U.S. During the 19th century, American educators adopted European methods of teaching physical training, and both the word physical education and the phenomenon it represents became well established in this country.

Examples of physical education in a Sentence

He teaches physical education at the high school.
Recent Examples on the Web The middle son of three boys, Bohn was raised mostly by his mother, Marlyn, a feisty physical education teacher, who became the first female state Little League baseball director west of the Mississippi. Los Angeles Times, 22 Nov. 2021 Led by the school’s physical education teacher, Keith Adams, a burly and effervescent deaf man whose two deaf sons are also on the team, the Cubs are a fast and hard-hitting squad. New York Times, 15 Nov. 2021 The daughter of a dairy worker, Chaudhary in 2011 bought a parcel of land outside Jaipur for about $1,300 with her husband, a physical education teacher. Washington Post, 4 Nov. 2021 Galvin attended Loyola University New Orleans on a basketball scholarship and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1955. Bob Goldsborough,, 14 Oct. 2021 In August, a physical education teacher and coach at an Alpharetta private school was arrested and charged with possessing child pornography and inappropriate contact with a child on the internet, police said. Alexis Stevens, ajc, 4 Nov. 2021 Flanagan would like to see more physical education and intramural sports that include everyone. Washington Post, 16 Sep. 2021 Ronald Coltress was hired as a physical education teacher from Florida and helped out as an assistant coach. Eric Sondheimer Columnist, Los Angeles Times, 13 Sep. 2021 Ronald Coltress was hired as a physical education teacher from Florida and helped out as an assistant coach. Eric Sondheimer Columnist, Los Angeles Times, 13 Sep. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'physical education.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of physical education

1748, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for physical education

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The first known use of physical education was in 1748

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Last Updated

25 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Physical education.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Nov. 2021.

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More Definitions for physical education

physical education


English Language Learners Definition of physical education

: sports and exercise taught in schools

physical education


Kids Definition of physical education

: instruction in the care and development of the body

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