French Vocabulary: Learn How to Talk About Sports

Playing Sports is Fun and So is This Simple French Lesson

Do you enjoy playing sports? Bring your favorite activities into your language lessons by learning how to speak about various sports in French.

Not only will you learn the French name for many sports, but you will learn how to use the verbs associated with each. You will also be able to dive deeper into the equipment and actions for a few of the sports like basketball, golf, hockey, and skiing.

When you have completed this lesson, feel free to move onto a lesson about different hobbies and games as well.

Note: Many of the words below are linked to .wav files. Simply click on the link to listen to the pronunciation.

Names of Sports (Noms de sports)

First of all, you will need to learn the names of each type of sport. It is a very simple vocabulary list and you will notice that in many instances, the French and English words are nearly identical.

archeryle tir à l'arc
baseballle base-ball
basketball (specific terms below)le basket(ball)
biking or cycling (learn more)le cyclisme
boxingla boxe
divingla plongée
fishingla pêche
footballle football américain
golf (specific terms below)le golf
(ice) hockey (specific terms below)le hockey (sur glace)
joggingle jogging
sailingla voile
skatingle patinage
rollerskatingle patin à roulettes or le skating 
skiing (specific terms below)le ski
cross-country skiingle ski de randonnée or le ski de fond
downhill skiingle ski de descente or le ski de piste
water skiingle ski nautique
soccer (learn more)le foot(ball)
swimmingla natation
tennis (learn more)le tennis
volleyballle volley(ball)
wrestlingla lutte

French Verbs Used in Sports

In French, playing or doing sports is normally expressed with one of the verbs, jouer au or faire. This first list includes sports that use jouer au... (to play...) and you will simply add the name of the sport after the verb.

  • to play golf - jouer au golf
  • to play hockey -  jouer au hockey
    to play... jouer au...
    ...  baseball... base-ball
    ...  basketball... basket(ball)
    ... soccer... foot(ball)
    ... football... football américain
    ... golf... golf
    ... hockey... hockey
    ... tennis... tennis
    ... volleyball... volley(ball)

    This next set of sports is not quite so easy, though they all use the verb faire (to do), which is placed in front of a form of the noun.

    • to swim - faire de la natation
    • to do archery -  faire du tir à l'arc

    In some cases, there is also a verb for that activity which is a one-word form of the original noun. Thos are listed in the right-hand column. 

    • to wrestle - faire de la lutte or lutter

    Notice that golf can use either verb and is in both of these lists. There is more about golf later in this article.

    to do... faire...or you can use
    to boxde la boxeboxer
    to ride a horsedu cheval 
    to bikedu cyclisme or monter sur bicycletterouler
    to golfdu golf 
    to jogdu jogging 
    to wrestlede la luttelutter
    to swimde la natationnager
    to skatedu patin(age)patiner
    to inline skatedu patin à roulettes or du skating 
    to divede la plongéeplonger
    to skidu skiskier
    to downhill skidu ski de descente or du ski de piste 
    to cross country skidu ski de randonnée or du ski de fond 
    to water skidu ski nautique 
    to shoot archerydu tir à l'arc 
    to sailde la voile 
    to hikeune randonnée 

    Fishing is our one sport that uses neither of those two verbs. Instead, we use aller... (to go).

    to go...aller...or you can use
    to go fishingà la pêchepêcher

    Basketball (Le Basket)

    If you enjoy basketball, then you will want to dig deeper into the French vocabulary of the sport. You can even practice these words while playing or watching your favorite teams. Learning a language is just like sports: the more you practice, the better you will get.

    First of all, we will begin with members of the basketball team. Notice that basketball player has both a masculine and feminine form.

    basketball teaméquipe de basket
    basketball playerbasketteur (m) or basktteuse (f)
    guardarrière
    offensive playerattaquant
    jumpersauteur

    Next, you will want to memorize some of the equipment used by players and on the court.

    equipmentmatériel
    basketballballon de basket
    courtterrain de jeu
    basketpanier
    opponent's basketpanier adverse
    rim, ringanneau
    backboardpanneau

    And, of course you have to play basketball and that requires a number of actions.

    to catch the ballattraper le ballon
    to blockbloquer
    to dribbledribbler
    to steal the ballintercepter le ballon
    to handle the ballmanier le ballon
    to guard a playermarquer un joueur
    to passpasser

    Golf (Le Golf)

    Golf is a popular sport throughout the world and you can practice this vocabulary next time you hit the links.

    Notice that here we also use a masculine and feminine form for golfer.

    golferjoueur de golf or golfeur (m)
    joeuse de golf or golfeuse (f)
    foursomequatuor

    There are many parts of a golf course that every golfer will want to memorize in French.

    golf courseterrain / parcours de golf
    greens feedroit de jeu
    driving rangeterrain d'exercice
    fairwayallée
    grass bunkerfosse d'herbe
    sand trapfosse de sable
    waste bunkerfosse naturelle
    water hazardobstacle d'eau
    greenvert
    holetrou

    Your golf equipment also includes a long list of useful vocabulary.

    equipmentmatériel
    golf bagsac de golf
    caddiecadet(te)
    cartchariot, voiturette de golf
    golf ballballe de golf
    ball markerrepère
    golf glovegant de golf
    set of clubsjeu de bâtons de golf
    golf clubclub, crosse, canne (de golf)
    woodbois
    ironfer
    driverbois n° 1
    pitching wedgecocheur d'allée
    sand wedgecocheur de sable
    putterfer droit

    Golf includes many actions and these verbs can be used to describe your play on the course.

    to golffaire du golf or jouer au golf
    tee
    tee markerjalon de départ
    handicaphandicap
    golf strokecoup de golf
    swingélan
    backswingmontée
    half swingdemi-élan
    chipapproche roulé
    pitchapproche lobé
    divotmotte de gazon

    Of course, you need to keep score and this list is filled with the most important words you will need.

    score cardcarte de pointage
    parnormale
    birdieoiselet
    bogeyboguey
    double bogeyboguey double
    eagleaigle
    double eaglealbatros
    hole in onetrou d'un coup

    Your golf ball also performs actions and has a special set of words in French.

    ball trajectorytrajectoire de balle
    hookcrochet de gauche
    slicecrochet de droite
    drawléger crochet de gauche
    fadeléger crochet de droite

    Hockey (Le Hockey)

    Ice hockey is a popular sport in many French-speaking countries and has a special set of vocabulary associated with it.

    Notice that when we speak of hockey players, French-speaking Canadians tend to use a different word than is used in France. Either will be understood in either country, but you should learn both if you travel to both areas.

    hockey player

    hockeyeur/euse (France)
    joueur/euse de hockey (Canada)
    goaliegardien de but
    opponentadversaire

    The hockey rink has a few French words that you should know.

    rinkpatinoire
    goalbut or cage
    goal creaseterritoire de but

    There are only a few pieces of equipment that hockey players will want to know in French.

    equipmentmatériel
    hockey stickcrosse de hockey
    puckpalet
    helmetcasque protecteur
    face maskprotecteur facial
    glovegant
    skatepatin

    You will want to finish up your hockey French lesson with a few verbs associated with the sport.

    to play hockeyjouer au hockey
    to checkmettre en échec
    to clear the puckdégager le palet
    to score a goalmarquer un but
    to shootlancer or tirer

    Skiing (Le Ski)

    Skiing is another popular sport and there are many forms of it that you will want to familiarize yourself with.

    to skifaire du ski or skier
    cross-country skiingski de fond
    downhill skiingski de descente or ski aval
    cross-country skierskieur de fond or fondeur
    downhill skierdescendeur
    forerunnerouvreur de piste
    freestylelibre
    classicalclassique
    jumpingsaut
    downhilldescente
    giant slalomslalom géant
    slalomslalom
    super-Gsuper géant

    No matter which type of skiing you enjoy, the equipment remains the same in most.

    equipmentmatériel
    hatbonnet
    headbandserre-tête or bandeau
    goggleslunettes
    glovegant
    ski polebâton de ski
    skisskis
    bootchaussure
    coverbootsurchaussure
    bindingfixation

    Finally, learn the French words for parts of the ski hill or course.

    ski courseparcours de ski
    trailpiste
    marked coursepiste balisée
    hilltremplin or piste de saut
    start platformplate-forme de départ
    length of the traillongueur de la piste
    flagfanion or drapeau
    jumptremplin
    mogulbosse
    finish timetemps à l'arrivée
    control pointposte de contrôle
    gateporte