See also: olympiad


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From the plural forms Olimpiades, Olympiades, and Olympiadiz of Middle English Olimpias and Olympias (ancient Olympic Games, 4-year period between these games, intense battle or competition)[1] from Middle French Olympiade and Old French Olympiade (ancient Olympic games, 4-year period between these games), from Latin Olympias (4-year period between Olympic Games) whose genitive form was Olympiados or Olympiadis), from Ancient Greek Ὀλυμπῐᾰ́ς (Olumpiás, ancient Olympic Games, 4-year period between these games) whose plural form was Ὀλυμπῐᾰ́δες (Olumpiádes), from Ὀλυμπῐ́ᾱ (Olumpíā, Olympia), the town in ancient Greece where the games were held, + -ᾰ́ς (-ás, a suffix forming feminine adjectives or nouns),[2] from either Ὀλῠ́μπῐος (Olúmpios, of or related to Mount Olympus, Olympian, the Olympian Zeus) or Ὄλῠμπος (Ólumpos, Mount Olympus) + -ῐ́ᾱ (-íā, suffix forming feminine abstract nouns).

The use of olympiad for academic competitions aspiring to the level of the Olympic Games was first popularized by the International Mathematical Olympiad, a calque of its Romanian name Olimpiada Internațională de Matematică.





Olympiad (plural Olympiads)

  1. A four-year period, particularly (historical) those based on Hippias's computations of the ancient Olympic Games which placed Coroebus's footrace victory in 776 BCE and (sports) those based on the modern Summer Olympic Games first held in 1896.
    Ancient sources variously dated the founding of Rome to the 38th year before the first Olympiad, the third or fourth year of the sixth Olympiad, the first year of the seventh or eighth Olympiad, or the fourth year of the 12th Olympiad.
    • 1598, George Chapman, “Fifth Sestyad”, in Christopher Marlo[w]e, George Chapman, Hero and Leander: [], London: [] A[ugustine] M[atthews] for Richard Hawkins: [], published 1629, →OCLC:
      Now was bright Hero weary of the day,
      Thought an Olympiad in Leanders ſtay.
    • 1610, Saint Augustine, “Of Certaine Starres that the Pagans Call Their Gods”, in J[ohn] H[ealey], transl., St. Augustine, of the Citie of God: [], [London]: [] George Eld, →OCLC, book VII, page 274:
      Olympiad. 42. about the yeare of Rome 142. ſhee [the planet Venus] is bigger then all the other ſtarres, and ſo cleare that (ſome-times) her beames make a ſhadowe.
    • 1614, Walter Ralegh [i.e., Walter Raleigh], “Of Vzzia”, in The Historie of the World [], London: [] William Stansby for Walter Burre, [], →OCLC, 1st book, §. V (Of the Olympiads, and the Time when They Beganne), page 576:
      Now therefore ſeeing that the firſt yeare of Cyrus his Monarchie (which was the laſt of the ſixtieth Olympiad, and the two hundredth and fortieth yeare from the inſtitution of thoſe games by Iphitus) followed the laſt of the ſeuentie yeares, of the captiuitie of Iuda, and deſolation of the Land of Iſrael; manifeſt it is, that we muſt reckon back thoſe ſeuentie yeares, and one hundred threeſcore and ten yeares more, the laſt which paſſed vnder the Kings of Iuda, to finde the firſt of theſe Olympiads; which by this accompt is the one and fiftieth of Vzzia, as wee haue alreadie noted.
    • 1736, Edward Wells, “Of Epoch’s or Æra’s; and Especially of the Æra of Year of Christ, the Æra of the Olympiads, and the Æra of the Building of Rome”, in The Young Gentleman’s Astronomy, Chronology, and Dialling, [], 4th edition, London: [] James, John, and Paul Knapton, [], →OCLC, paragraph 4, pages 64–65:
      The moſt Antient and Renowned Epoch uſed by the Heathens is that of the Olympiads or Olympick Games, which were inſtituted by one Iphitus, in the Fields of Olympia, a City or Town of the Region Elis in the Peloponneſe; and which laſt whereof fell on the Full Moon, which was the next after the Summer Solſtice. Theſe Games were celebrated every four Years, that is, there were three Years between the Years wherein the next preceding and the next following Olympiad was celebrated. Hence by a compleat Olympiad, is denoted the Space of four Years; the Year wherein the Olympiad was celebrated, being ſtiled the firſt Year of the ſaid Olympiad, and ſo on.
    • 1911 January, Jack London, “The Apostate”, in When God Laughs and Other Stories, New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company, →OCLC, page 55:
      When he was fourteen, he went to work on the starcher. [] It marked an era. It was a machine Olympiad, a thing to date from.
    • 2021 July 12, Natalie Merchant, “Explainer: The Tokyo Olympics by Numbers”, in World Economic Forum[1], archived from the original on 2 August 2021:
      The Games of the XXXII Olympiad is going ahead in Tokyo a year late, despite concerns about coronavirus. [] The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Japanese government are pressing ahead with the XXXII Olympiad after it was delayed last summer – albeit in a very different manner from usual.
    • 2021 July 24, Tatsuro Sugiura, “Emperor in bind over use of ‘celebrate’ for Tokyo Olympiad”, in The Asahi Shimbun[2], Osaka: The Asahi Shimbun Company, →OCLC, archived from the original on 30 July 2021:
      Emperor Naruhito was caught in a conundrum when it came to wording in his speech in Japanese to declare the 2020 Tokyo Olympics open during the July 23 Opening Ceremony at the National Stadium. [] The official English version for the Tokyo Olympics was: "I declare open the Games of Tokyo celebrating the 32nd Olympiad of the modern era." [] Following discussions among central government officials and the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee, it was decided to allow Naruhito to use "kinensuru" for celebrating. The term has more of a nuance of marking or commemorating an important occasion.
  2. (sports, sometimes proscribed) Synonym of Olympic Games: an instance of the ancient or modern Olympic Games.
    Victors at the ancient Olympiads only won an olive wreath but were usually freed from paying taxes for the remainder of their life, but modern Olympians have frequently needed to pay taxes on the market value of their gold, silver, or bronze medals.
    • 1707, Thomas Hind, “Book II. The Second Period, from the Taking of Troy, to the Battle of Marathon, Containing the Space of 700 Years.”, in The History of Greece. [], London: [] S. and J. Sprint, A[wnsham] and J[ohn] Churchill, Tim[othy] Childe, and Rob[ert] Knaplock, →OCLC, page 124:
      It was their [the priests of Jupiter Olympius's] Buſineſs, alſo not only to regiſter the Names of the Victors in the ſeveral Games, with other Matters relating to them, but alſo whatever occurr'd remarkable, during the Intervals between the Celebration of every Olympiad.
    • 1752, John Jackson, “Of the Origin and Æra of Oracles. [Of the Institution of the Olympic Games.]”, in Chronological Antiquities: Or, The Antiquities and Chronology of the Most Ancient Kingdoms, from the Creation of the World, for the Space of Five Thousand Years. [], volume III, London: Printed for the author; and sold by J. Noon, [], →OCLC, page 340:
      Strabo [] makes Corœbus the firſt Victor at the firſt Olympiad of Iphitus; who, he ſaies, was the Reſtorer of them. This Olympiad was in the Year before Chriſt 776.
    • 1840, Edgar A[llan] Poe, “Epimanes”, in Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, volume II, Philadelphia, Pa.: Lea and Blanchard, published 1840, →OCLC, pages 16–17:
      The noble and free citizens of Epidaphne being, as they declare, well satisfied of the faith, valor, wisdom, and divinity of their king, [] do think it no more than their duty to invest his brows (in addition to the poetic crown) with the wreath of victory in the foot race—a wreath which it is evident he must obtain at the celebration of the next Olympiad, and which, therefore, they now give him in advance.
    • 1896 November, Pierre de Coubertin, “The Olympic Games of 1896. []”, in The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine, volume XXXI (New Series; volume LIII overall), number 1, New York, N.Y.: The Century Co.; London: Macmillan & Co. Ltd., →OCLC, page 50:
      After the distribution of the prizes, the athletes formed for the traditional procession around the Stadion. Louës [i.e., Spyridon Louis], the victor of Marathon, came first, bearing the Greek flag; then the Americans, the Hungarians, the French, the Germans. [] The king announced that the first Olympiad was at an end, and left the Stadion, the band playing the Greek national hymn, and the crowd cheering.
    • 1903 November 20, “Olympic Games”, in Message from the President of the United States, Transmitting a Statement Showing the Receipts and Disbursements of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition Company from Date of Incorporation to September 30, 1903, together with a Report Submitted by the Exposition Company Showing Progress Made by the Various Departments of the Exposition (58th Congress, 1st Session, document no. 12), Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, →OCLC, page 58:
      [I]t is the intention of the management of the exposition to make the Olympiad of 1904 the greatest ever held. The first of these modern Olympiads—which are the reproduction of the famous games of Ancient Greece—was held at Athens in 1896, when an American astonished the world by winning the discus-throwing championship. [] The representatives of athletics in America propose that nothing shall be left undone to make this first American Olympiad a phenomenal success.
    • 1950, “[Athletics] 1950 Varsity”, in Blue and Gold 1950, volume 77, Berkeley, Calif.: Associated Students of the University of California, →OCLC, page 234:
      1950 marks the twilight of one of the greatest eras of California crew history. Many of the graduating crew men were in the jayvee Poughkeepsie winning boat in 1947; the next year these same men rowed to the eight-oared championship in the 14th Olympiad in England.
  3. (by extension, usually preceded by descriptive words) A competition aspiring to the importance of the Olympic Games or considered similar to them, especially one occurring at 4-year intervals, representing a national or international range of amateur student rather than professional adult competition, and/or requiring the highest level of ability in the field for success.
    • 1943 November, Margaret King, “Southwest District Association News [California]”, in Mary Wibel, editor, The Journal of Health and Physical Education, volume 14, number 9, Washington, D.C.: American Association for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation, →OCLC, page 492, column 1:
      The Junior Olympiad track and field meet was a major special event with 276 entrants.
    • 1977 May–July, “USA Team Wins over 20 Nations”, in Clarence T. Smith, editor, Army Research and Development, volume 18, number 3, Alexandria, Va.: Development and Engineering Directorate, HQ. U.S. Army Materiel Development and Readiness Command, →ISSN, →OCLC, page 29, column 2:
      Selected competitively from more than 400,000 high school students to represent the United States in the 19th International Mathematical Olympiad in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, July 5–6, an 8-man team emerged victorious over teams from 20 other nations. [] Credited with developing the International Mathematics Olympiad in 1959 is Rumania, the winner that year in competition with Bulgaria, Czechosolvakia, Poland, German Democratic Republic, and Soviet Union. [] The idea of a U.S. Mathematical Olympiad was spawned in 1971 when Prof. Nura D. Turner of SUNY (State University of New York), Albany, authored an article in the American Mathematical Monthly that led in 1972 to the USA Mathematical Olympiad.
    • 1978 June, “Olympiad Set for Second Go”, in Bill Amick, editor, American Motorcyclist, volume 32, number 6, Westerville, Oh.: American Motorcyclist Association, →ISSN, →OCLC, page 34, column 3:
      [] Kent Howerton led dominance of the initial Motorcycle Olympiad by AMA professional moto-crossers. [] The fans dug it, the bike press agreed, and the Second Annual Motorcycle Olympiad will be held September 16–17 at Saddleback Park in Orange, California. More on the Olympiad in future issues.
    • 1999 December, “Miscellaneous”, in Mahendra Jain, editor, Competition Science Vision, volume 2, number 22, Agra, Uttar Pradesh: Mahendra Jain for M/s Pratiyogita Darpan, →OCLC, page 1266, columns 2–3:
      The Prize distribution ceremony of the First National Science Olympiad was held at National Museum Auditorium, New Delhi on October 18. [] The Second National Science Olympiad will be conducted on 28th January 2000.
    • 2021 July 14, “Second Online Chess Olympiad from August 13, says FIDE”, in The Times of India[3], Mumbai, Maharashtra: The Times Group, →OCLC, archived from the original on 6 August 2021:
      The FIDE Online Chess Olympiad 2021 will be held between August 13 to September 15, the International Chess Federation (FIDE) announced. Each national federation intending to take part in the Online Olympiad shall confirm its participation by July 31, it said.

Usage notes


The forms 1st Olympiad, second Olympiad, Third Olympiad, etc. can be used for either the ancient or modern games. Some sources discuss the ancient Olympiads as 5-year cycles but only do so using inclusive counting; the actual span of known games was always a four-year period. Because of its close association with the Olympic Games, Olympiad is generally capitalized although some writers prefer lower-case olympiad, particularly for generic four-year periods or general discussions of international academic competitions.

The ancient olympiads are usually written in the form Olympiad 1, Ol. 2, etc. with Arabic numerals. They may be variously abbreviated with their years, with those of Olympiad 3 being variously written as Ol. 3/1, Ol. 3/₂, Ol. 3, 3, Ol. 3. 4. in different scholarly sources. There are some 2nd century Roman inscriptions which date the Olympics from a new epoch after Hadrian's refurbishment of the Olympieion in 131 CE (Ol. 227) but this was never in general use. The convention is usually to date the ancient years from the midsummer Olympic contests, so that the first months of 1 CE were in the fourth year of Olympiad 194 and the latter months in the first year of Olympiad 195. This is often simplified to the point of using July 1 in the Julian or Gregorian calendar as the beginning of each Olympiad rather than using the various 12 and 13-month lunisolar or solar calendars of the governments controlling Olympia during each of the specific games.

The modern olympiads are officially written in the form the I Olympiad, the II Olympiad, etc. with Roman numerals. They are not typically abbreviated or used to number individual years. The modern olympiads are only used in reference to the Summer Olympics and not commonly used for any other purpose; even the Winter Olympics are not reckoned using olympiads but are simply counted as they occur. Modern olympiads are dated from the beginning of the Gregorian calendar year in which the Summer Olympics occur: the I Olympiad began on 1 January 1896 and ended on 31 December 1899; this system continues to run even when the games are not held (as during World War II) or delayed (as during the coronavirus epidemic).

Alternative forms

  • Ol. (abbreviation)
  • olympiad (alternative case, typically in generic uses)



Coordinate terms


Derived terms





  1. ^ olimpias, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ Olympiad, n.”, in OED Online  , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, June 2021; Olympiad, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–2022.