Can any one tell me for meaning about the difference between game and sport in the broadest context possible?

I mean, Magic: The Gathering tournament play is still a game, while hunting is considered a sport.


17 Answers 17

  • Definition of sport:

    1. Physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively.
    2. A particular form of this activity.
    3. An activity involving physical exertion and skill that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often undertaken competitively.
    4. An active pastime; recreation.
  • Definition of game:

    1. An activity providing entertainment or amusement; a pastime: party games; word games.

      • A competitive activity or sport in which players contend with each other according to a set of rules: the game of basketball; the game of gin rummy.
      • A single instance of such an activity: We lost the first game.
      • GAMES: An organized athletic program or contest: track-and-field games; took part in the winter games. [like the Olympics]
      • A period of competition or challenge: It was too late in the game to change the schedule of the project.

      • The total number of points required to win a game: One hundred points is game in bridge.
      • The score accumulated at any given time in a game: The game is now 14 to 12.
    2. The equipment needed for playing certain games: packed the children's games in the car.
    3. A particular style or manner of playing a game: improved my tennis game with practice.

    (There are more meanings to "game" but they are not relevant)

There is an overlap between games and sports. Generally, sports require some sort of physical effort of specialised skill while games are more organised affairs with rules.

The word game has several meanings. You can, for example, play a game of sports, but you can't sport a game. A good example would be if you think of the Olympics. The Olympics are referred to as a the Olympic Games yet the game is a competition to collect as many medals as possible by partaking in specific sports.

Another example is baseball. Baseball is a sport but the Baseball World Series is a game in which teams play the sport of baseball while their overall scores between games are tracked for a position on a leaderboard (the game).

  • 3
    +1 While I agree with much of your analysis, in some of your examples, you conflate the instance meaning of games with the categorical meaning. Sport has no such instance meaning and is always a category.
    – bib
    Jan 6, 2014 at 19:59

I was so intrigued by this I've just read through Roget's and checked various dictionaries, and what I've always suspected appears to be confirmed. First, it seems 'game' and 'sport' are synonyms, though originally 'sport' might have meant physical exertion, as in hurdling or whatever. Both games and sports are, though, pastimes or contests, and having been married to a cricketer many years ago, I discovered that, although the team members often said things like 'the game is up' or 'we won the game', my calling it a game or pastime provoked a strong reaction. No, no, it is a 'sport' they'd say, as if this was somehow different.

I believe it's an ego thing - a game is a sport is a contest, but somehow, 'sport' seems to confer gravitas in a way which game does not, presumably because of the obvious use of 'game' to mean any game, including parlour games or children's games. Technically, one is at sport if you're playing charades, and it is a contest of a sort, but played simply for fun, so 'game' seems to be used for, or perceived as, a word for something which is just for fun, whereas 'sport' appears to mean something we should take very seriously, and in which the contenders are very serious. The application of the word 'sport' to, say, a game of cricket or football is something players or supporters will want to hear used - they will be somewhat annoyed if these contests are reduced to the status of Old Maid or any other children's game.

Games/sports are about pitting your wits and/or energies against another person or team or animal (fox hunting), usually with the ultimate aim of winning. We all enjoy a challenge, no matter how small, but whether you use sport, game, or contest, ultimately, they are all just pastimes. (I now anticipate a storm of protest, so I'll get my coat...)

  • Yet some things are sports that are not games. For example, horse-racing is always known as a sport, never a game.
    – Robusto
    Jan 3, 2014 at 13:47
  • Still a pastime and a contest, horse racing, not to mention an excuse to gamble.
    – bamboo
    Jan 3, 2014 at 14:10
  • @Robusto: been thinking, and you're right, it is known as a sport and never a game. But its racing - car racing isn't called a sport, is it? Nor a game come to that, its just racing, or am I wrong and it counts as a 'sport'?
    – bamboo
    Jan 3, 2014 at 15:41
  • yea, it was car racing I was querying - as for the sport of aristos and royalty, that's cos everyone else was too poor to partake, no special accolades there then... So, greyhound, horse and car racing seem to be sports but NOT games, hmmm... are we any closer to a definition between the two then I wonder
    – bamboo
    Jan 3, 2014 at 17:08

The difference between sport and game comes down to nuance and subtext. Both are technically synonyms, but only in the way that boat and ship are synonyms. There are differences between the terms, but almost all are cultural rather than literal. Here are some specific characteristics:

  • Practicallity of Professionalism: Sports in general are activities that someone can engage in full-time as a profitable profession. In contrast, games do not have realistic competition between full-time participants.

  • Altheticism: As noted elsewhere, sports tend to require more physical activity, while activities that do not require significant exertion tend to be called games.

  • Seriousness of Competition: Sports tend to involve more zero-sum competition with absolutely clear winners and losers, whereas games may be individual or even collaborative.

  • Audience Interest: Sports are in general activities which can be enjoyed entirely vicariously, by a passive audience not involved in the contest itself. Games, in contrast, are rarely interesting to watch.

  • Implied Maturity: Although it is almost entirely a cultural aspect, calling something a sport marks it as an unquestionably appropriate activity for adults to participate in. Calling it a game instead implies that it is an activity that may not be appropriate for adults, or which is appropriate for children.

Note that each of the above notes are build around "tend", because as with any item of nuance there are sure to be examples which do not fit easily into either category. (For instance, in modern economies you cannot be a full-time hunter.) If none of the above are appropriate, such as an "American Idol" style competition, the word "contest" may be appropriate in lieu of either sport or game.

(Also, be aware that there is a certain degree of historical inertia attached. There are full-time competitors in Starcraft, but the activity is still called a "game".)


This subject has, I recall, generated a lot of correspondence in newspaper letter columns. Starting with the dictionary,

A game is:-

  1. An activity providing entertainment or amusement; a pastime: party games; word games.
  2. a. A competitive activity or sport in which players contend with each other according to a set of rules: the game of basketball; the game of gin rummy.

A sport is:-

a contest or game in which people do certain physical activities according to a specific set of rules and compete against each other

Since each is defined in terms of the other, that doesn't get us very far, although it does appear that sports could be a subset of games that involve physical activity. So the essence of a game is a contest, and a sport a contest involving physical activity.

Having said that, when I was at school, sports were played on games afternoon, and we would always attempt to bunk off or skive games, not sports.

The correspondence in the newspaper suggested that if you have to change clothing to play it, it's a sport, and otherwise a game.

Another writer said that was piffle, and that there are only three sports, namely, huntin', shootin' and fishin'. All the others, he averred, were games.

  • 2
    Ah, but perhaps he wasn't aware of parascendin', BASE jumpin' and white water raftin'. Nov 29, 2013 at 9:43
  • 1
    Well, the thing is some of the games are considered sports as well, even that the physical activity involved is minimum. Consider chess: "Chess is a recognized sport of the International Olympic Committee...". The physical activity here is compared to abovementioned MTG, so the definition of sport is not unique to "a contest involving physical activity"
    – Vilmar
    Nov 29, 2013 at 9:44
  • 'Twister' is possibly a more logical member of the set of 'sports'. If people want to argue over a few, there are bull-fighting (including the no-blood [hopefully!] Portuguese version), darts, alligator-wrestling, arm-wrestling, snooker, tiddlywinks ... Nov 29, 2013 at 12:13
  • In the US at least, most people wouldn't consider chess a sport. I'm aware that internationally it's quite different but I'd say examples like chess are the exception, not the rule. Scrabble, spelling, mathematical problem solving, can all be done at a high competitive level but most people don't consider them sports. Jan 3, 2014 at 13:17

Both game and sport can be used to refer to recreational activities and competitions. They can be used almost interchangeably, thus they are listed as synonyms in dictionaries. Because other answers have already quoted their definitions, I will not repeat them. However, I would like to point out a crucial difference between the commonly used senses of the two words.

In recreational activities, we play games for fun. We play sports to practice ourselves (and yes, we can have a good time playing them). Generally, we consider sport a good thing because people who play a sport can learn about good sportsmanship.

In competitions, we use the word game to emphasize the "goal", which is "to win" the game. We use the word sport to emphasize the sportsmanship and the high level of skills, usually only obtained through serious practice. This usually involves physical activities, but recently it has been extended to cover mental activities as well.

In the competition sense, a game does not always lack sportsmanship. For example, consider Olympics Games. Those games in Olympics Games can also be called sports because there is the strong sense of sportsmanship associated with them. However, we usually associate the word game with activities that lack sportsmanship in competitions. A few good examples of these are the game of politics, the games people play, or even the title of a well-known best seller novel "Hunger Games".

And that is the way games and sports are different.


Probably worth pointing out that Wittgenstein used the very word game to illustrate how impossible it is to define some concepts.

Historically the words meant the same dang thing. So part of any complete answer would trace exactly how distinct meanings arose.

(My favorite definition of game is Anna Anthropy's: A game is an experience created by rules.)


Of the many definitions of a "game", I like Roger Callois' definition the best. A "game" is an activity undertaken by humans that has all of the following characteristics (courtesy of Wikipedia):

  • fun: the activity is chosen for its light-hearted character
  • separate: it is circumscribed in time and place
  • uncertain: the outcome of the activity is unforeseeable
  • non-productive: participation does not accomplish anything useful
  • governed by rules: the activity has rules that are different from everyday life
  • fictitious: it is accompanied by the awareness of a different reality

This encompasses the overwhelming majority of activities that we colloquially call "games". However, depending on your interpretation of some criteria, it can include activities more commonly known as "puzzles", like Sudoku, and at the same time it can exclude games that involve monetary gain or loss (and therefore participation can accomplish a useful goal of making money).

Other interpretations may correctly delineate between these; puzzles are not "uncertain" in the sense that the solution is known, and therefore it's reasonable to expect you will discover that same solution given sufficient time and effort. Gambling games are typically zero-sum if that; when one person wins, another loses, so there is no net product for participants as a whole, unlike the creation of a work of art.

Given this definition, a "sport" is generally defined as a subclass of games with the following traits:

  • A relatively large playing area (typically a large indoor room or an outdoor field; this criterion excludes tabletop and video games)
  • A relatively high level of physical exertion or skill ("human chess" or life-sized mazes, despite requiring a sizable area, simply require participants to walk from place to place)
  • A significant general interest in the game by the public, from an amateur participant and/or a spectator perspective, especially when played at the highest levels of competition (so bocce, lawn darts, shuffleboard etc are generally not considered "sports" despite meeting all other criteria)

All of these points are subjective; one might make a cogent argument against motor racing or golf as being sports because they involve significantly less physical activity than a game like soccer, despite their land use and public interest. Similarly, one could argue against curling for its relatively low following, especially outside the Winter Olympics. Conversely, there is a growing interest in "electronic sports", the playing of video games in front of a virtual audience and even commentators. These games meet no other criteria of a traditional sport except a notable amateur and spectator following, and yet the term is growing in popularity to describe the phenomenon.

  • eSports may not require a high level of physical exertion, but there is a high level of physical skill required to win, say, an FPS tournament (split-second reactions, very precise degrees of control).
    – Hannele
    Jan 9, 2014 at 1:49
  • There is a high degree of physical skill needed to win a typing competition; nobody's calling typing a sport. My point was that the term is subjectively applied in many cases to activities that defy attempts to systematically define the term.
    – KeithS
    Jan 14, 2014 at 19:23
  • I doubt many would call a typing competition a 'game', either. You've also limited your large playing area to a real-life, physical, playing area - many of the games use the term eSports have a very large virtual playing area (first-person shooters, real-time strategy, tower defense are all classic examples). I'm not trying to argue that they should be termed 'real' sports (i.e. lose the qualifying 'e'), just that there is more in common with eSports and 'real' sports than you might think, if you drop the physcial exertion aspect.
    – Hannele
    Jan 14, 2014 at 19:35

Games are strictly for entertainment purposes while sports are things done during the lull between wars to keep in shape.


Definitions for both have been provided in other answers.

Both games and sports can refer to competitive and/or physical activities.

With games, the competitiveness and physicality are optional.

For example, improvisation games are often not competitive, inasmuch as they cannot or need not be won, or they focus on collaboration.

Alternatively, a sport always ends with a winner (or a tie). The competitiveness cannot be removed.

Additionally, a sport must involve physical skill. Thus archery, which requires strength and hand-eye coordination, is a sport, whereas Magic, alas, which requires only your wits and cards, is not.

That being said, competitiveness is the heart of sport. If the stakes of a game involve sufficient competition, it may qualify for sportsmanship.

As noted in other answers, chess is one example of such a game; another is poker.

Any number of arguments might refer to the intellectual challenges of these activities to justify their status as sports. The perceived mental effort certainly assists in compensating for the lack of physical skill. However, I believe it is fierce competition that distinguishes them from spelling bees and competitive programming.


How about having a look at an etymological dictionary?

The Online Etymology Dictionary, on the Internet, tells you:

game comes (I am quoting, from here) from Proto-Germanic ga- collective prefix + mann "person", giving a sense of "people together"

sport comes… from Old French desporter "to seek amusement", literally "carry away" (the mind from serious matter), from des- "away" + porter "to carry"

So, it seems that the community aspect, and the pleasure derived thereof, is paramount in "game", whereas in "sport" it is more the diversion aspect which is stressed, and the pleasure is derived from the activity itself and not from the being-together.


I can say: Sport is a general definition of game. Every game is sport already but not every sport is a game.

I think that because every game depends on one activity like brain activity, strength activity and so on and so for.

But all sports depend on all activity.


It has already been said (more than once) that the two words had had the same meaning back then (which was doing something for fun). Considering the present meaning of the two words (which also include achieving whichever goal) I'd suggest the following differenciation: Sport always involves movement (even if it is only about moving around chess pieces or moving one's fingers over the keybourd when at an e-sports tournament). A game works without movement because one can also play a game only in one's mind or solely by talking with others.


If linguists and language experts like those who responded above, don't have one convincing definition for the two terms, the chances that people in-charge of the 'Olympic committee" or the "International Chess Association" are clueless about the definition of 'Sport' and 'Game' as well and hence go by what they 'perceive'. Since I don't see a definitive answer, I'd like to offer my own theory about the difference (having gone through most of the answers).

A 'sport' is a broad term that involves practice (preparation) and is governed by a set of rules that need to be adhered to.

In contrast, a 'game' is where two or more 'teams' (comprising of one or more individuals/entities) participate (and play within a defined set of rules) with the intent of winning. In some cases, it can be an instance of a sport (but this is not always necessary, as with 'games' for children).

So, applying the above, the winner of a sport is always decided by playing a game (one instance of the sport with a clearly identified winner).


I'm surprised no one has mentioned the famous quote:

“There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games.” It's implied that to be a sport, it must defy death.


Game and Sport are entirely different. A game involves more than one person and a sport pertains to only an individual’s skills and performance.

A physical activity, Sport is carried out under an agreed set of rules. Sport is related to recreational purpose, either for self-enjoyment or competition or for both. A game is also for recreational activities and it involves one or more players. Played on the basis of a set of rules, a game is defined as a goal that the players try to achieve. As like sport, game is also played for enjoyment.

Read more: Difference Between game and sport


It depends a lot on who you ask. Chess is considered by the International Olympic Committee to be a sport.

Games are by their nature activities that aren't serious. Games are supposed to be fun.

Sport on the other hand are about performance. You have fixed goals that you want to achieve.

  • Is chess not a game, then?
    – The Photon
    Nov 29, 2013 at 18:44
  • 1
    Depending on the context it can be. The same goes for tennis. You can play it for fun or you can play it as sport.
    – Christian
    Nov 29, 2013 at 22:07
  • 2
    Is roulette a sport for many people then? Nov 30, 2013 at 9:06

I believe football is a game; there us nothing to lose but abstract points. I believe deer hunting is a game, but would be a sport if the deer had close to the same chance of killing you as you killing it. Facing a mountain lion with only a knife would be a true sport, the lion having a sporting chance to win. With guns, the lion is doomed before he starts, no contest, so it is only a very sad game. And shooting animals on a game preserve? If they are equally armed, fair is fair.

  • can you provide some sourcing?
    – virmaior
    Feb 11, 2014 at 0:58

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.