I am trying to find an exact answer of this question:

Is a person who goes to gymnastics school a 'student' or a 'pupil?'

  • 1
    It's a valid question, I hadn't realized that it might be possible for a learner to confuse gym with gymnasium (the humanities school) and gymnastics. But the ambiguity disappears when a context is given.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 19, 2014 at 7:24
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    If the marketing department had its way, they would be called customers or clients...
    – toandfro
    Apr 24, 2014 at 6:09
  • The title should be changed as a "Gymnastics school" - if such a thing existed - could only be where pupils studied gymnastics.
    – user24964
    Apr 25, 2014 at 9:45
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    Actually, at this point I am curious if someone does provide an answer for an attendee of a gymnastics school. If you study a discipline, be it sport, science or art, I suppose you could be called a student (but not a pupil).
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 25, 2014 at 11:33
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    I would love to edit this question into shape, but despite reading every word the OP has written, I still haven't the faintest clue whether he's actually wondering about "gymnastics school", i.e. a school where kids are taught tumbling, parallel bar, vault, balance beam, and the like; or whether he's actually trying to ask a duplicate of the "what do you call gym goers" question; or whether he's wondering about gymnasiums (gymnasia?), i.e. the rough equivalent of American "high school"; or something else entirely.
    – Marthaª
    Apr 25, 2014 at 13:52

7 Answers 7


UPDATED (We need pictures)

Schools of Gymnastics

enter image description here

Gymnastics schools exist, but the more common term is Schools of gymnastics. In the US there is the Los Angeles School of Gymnastics and on their website, the children who attend these classes are simply called: girls, boys, child or children (trust me I went through a lot of pages).

(Boys: beginner classes) Our classes emphasize proper training techniques of the bars, beam, vault, floor exercise, flexibility training, strength training and more! Each class is carefully constructed to motivate your child in a fun and progressive environment... (Boys: intermediate classes) Boys intermediate classes become a bit longer to help with the increased skill level required to learn intermediate level gymnastics. (Girls team) The award winning pre-team programs are designed to prepare athletes for the competitive arena of USA Gymnastics (governing body of gymnastics the United States).

However, there was one page where the term, students, was used

The Los Angeles School of Gymnastics offers financial aid/scholarship to students after a six month enrolment period. After the 6 month commitment, the student will need to bring in the most recent tax return from the family household.

The Wiltshire School of Gymnastics in the UK is undoubtedly a smaller school with humbler ambitions but nevertheless with a history dating back to 1975. Again the school prefers to identify their members as children, girls, boys or gymnasts.

WSG were honoured to welcome the Princess Royal, Princess Anne, on Thursday 8th February 2001, to perform the official opening. Seating was provided for parents and the gymnasts undertook a normal training session with one or two displays intermingled. (...) Princess Anne also met and talked to the gymnasts alongside whichever piece of apparatus they happened to be training on as she passed by on her tour of the facilities.

Another American school called International Gymnastics Camp uses the term, gymnast extensively. If you have the inclination, watch the video on their World Class facilities page. The size of their gyms, the sheer number of apparatus available, the level of professionalism is in a word, astounding. In the video, the children are always referred to as "kids" never students.

IGC campers range in age from 7 to 17 and are from beginner to advanced gymnasts. (...) Our reputation as an innovator and our constantly evolving facility bring gymnasts here from around the world. (...) Each summer over 4000 aspiring gymnasts ranging from beginners to Olympians attend this one of a kind facility. (...) Instructors set individual goals with their campers and teach new gymnastics skills with each individual gymnast, in addition to improving gymnast’s technique in current skills.



is a type of school with a strong emphasis on academic learning, and providing advanced secondary education in some parts of Europe and the CIS, comparable to British grammar schools, sixth form colleges and U.S. preparatory high schools. In its current meaning, it usually refers to secondary schools focused on preparing students to enter a university for advanced academic study.

enter image description here

In Italy we have Il liceo Classico, students will study the humanities, Latin, ancient Greek, two foreign languages and in some lyceums, a musical instrument is also "studied". In the UK/England there is no such type of school, the nearest equivalent would be a grammar school but between the 70s and 80s many were transformed into comprehensive state schools.

In the all the above cases, yes, a young person who attends any of these scholastic institutions is normally called a student. The word pupil nowadays is perhaps considered old fashioned and better suited for nursery schools (kindergarten in the US) and primary schools.



is slang for gymnasium and gymnastic services such as in schools and colleges and is attributed to compounds such as gym shoes. Gymnasia are open air and covered locations for gymnastics and athletics.



1 a : a large room used for various indoor sports (as basketball or boxing) and usually equipped with gymnastic apparatus b : a building (as on a college campus) containing space and equipment for various indoor sports activities and usually including spectator accommodations, locker and shower rooms, offices, classrooms, and a swimming pool

enter image description here

People (i.e. the general public) who regularly attend gyms are NOT called gymnasts, students, or pupils. I would call them gym goers or gym rats. See this question What do we call people who go to the gym

Gymnastics Schools

What is gymnastics

These are schools which train (or teach) children and adults gymnastics, a complex discipline that includes different agility and coordination exercises all of which require years of practice and dedication. Girls/women will usually do exercises on uneven bars, balance beam, floor, vaulting horse and floor exercise; while boys/men will specialize on the horizontal and parallel bars, rings, floor, pommel horse and floor exercise. People who take up this sport seriously and compete in competitions are usually called gymnasts.


It depends upon their age and level of agency. In general, a student may or may not have chosen to study, but a pupil has made no choice. So we can have Elementary School Students or Pupils, but College Students never College Pupils.


pupil n. (Random House Kernerman Webster's Col. Dict.)
a person, usu. young, who is learning under the supervision of a teacher at school or a private tutor; student.
[1350–1400; pupille < Middle French < Latin pūpillus (masculine), pūpilla (feminine) orphan, ward, diminutives of pūpus boy, pūpa girl]

[emphasis added]

In the context of education, pupil is generally used for children (law: below 14/12), while student is used for the adolescents/ adults. However, student is broader, while pupil is not.

Whether a "school" teaches gymnastics or another subject, probably does not tell us anything about whether those attending it are pupils or students. Rather, it is their age that matters.

  • The link to "ward", I think, indicates this is really about the degree of agency, rather than directly about age. Study requires a choice, whereas being force-fed information makes you a pupil. Apr 30, 2014 at 14:42

One early gymnastics school in the United States (during an era known as the Battle of the Systems) was the Posse Normal School of Gymnastics, which opened in 1890 in Boston and taught "Swedish gymnastics." As this classified ad from the Boston Evening Transcript (October 18, 1913) indicates the school called its attendees "students":



Now open. New building with latest modern improvements. Classes forming. Opportunity for every kind of gymnastic and athletic work. Normal students in educational and medical gymnastics received until Nov. 1st. Hall to let for clubs, dancing parties, etc. Office hours 9 to 5. Evenings by appointment.

On the other hand, Dr. E. H. Arnold, "Discussion," in response to Professor Carl Kroh, "The German System of Gymnastics," in National Educational Association, Journal of Proceedings and Addresses of the Thirty-Sixth Annual Meeting held at Milwaukee, Wisconsin (July 6–9, 1897), writes as follows:

As the number of modifying positions, free standing, is limited, the use of gymnastic apparatus which allows the reproduction of the same type of movement in sheer endless variety, presenting it in all stages of difficulty, is of utmost importance and greatest help. The teacher is, however, not the only person benefited by such help, but the pupil is quick to learn by analogy what feature of the exercise decides its greatest or less difficulty.

It thus appears that discussions of gymnastics schools (or at least of gymnastics taught in schools) have historically used both student and pupil to refer to the person being taught, coached, or trained in gymnastics.Both terms continue to be used in contemporary times. From Bottom Line Business, volume 29 (2000) [snippet]:

Example: A gymnastics school in Texas sends a thank-you letter to parents of students. The letter asks for referrals and gives a discount to current customers if at least two referrals sign up.

From Brad Herzog, 20 Greatest Athletes of the 20th Century (2000) [snippet]:

Bela [Karolyi] would later coach U.S. champions Mary Lou Retton and Kim Zmeskal, but Nadia [Comăneci] was his first famous pupil. Have you ever heard the expression, Practice makes perfect? Well, if that is true, Nadia was on her way!

From a cursory look at search results for recent occurrences of "gymnastics school" in Google Books, however, it appears that writers use student more frequently than pupil to describe the people taking these classes.


It is correct, absolutely so. Though you could call him a gymnast but pupil is good.


Actually, I think it depends on the identity of the person. That's mean we should know what's the relationship between you and that person.


First I am assuming that you are talking about a place that teaches gymnastics like the picture below.

enter image description here

In AE a gymnastic schools normally aren't called schools. They would be called centres (centers), academy, or clubs. Some may still be called schools but that is older terminology. They would usually have the word training in them too. So an average name might be New York Gymnastic Training Academy.

If you belong to a gymnastic "school" you could go by student but that is so 90s. Now you would probably go by athlete, aspiring athlete, or more likely team member.

  • @Mari-LouA - I don't really care about the bounty. I didn't answer it originally because I thought it should be on ELL. It is common sense to me - that is if the question is even written correctly, which your original answer might be right. I just think the regulars need to take a small stand on answering questions when they aren't written in correct English. Or we will keep getting these. The site has become much more like ELL over the past couple months... and we keep answering the questions. Apr 26, 2014 at 11:51
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    @Mari-LouA - I see more and more people writing answers for what they think the OP might be asking. Maybe this would be a good meta topic. In my opinion if it isn't clear, if the OP can't write in correct English, or if they can't use basic grammar I think it gets closed or moved. I understand your original answer, I just think it is a slippery slope to give it. The fact that you gave it is just trying to help the OP but the fact that people upvoted an answer when you clearly stated you weren't sure what was being asked is worse... in my opinion. Apr 26, 2014 at 11:59
  • Ahh, but you see the question is very clear, and grammatically acceptable, it's not a duplicate and it's not off-topic. I've seen worse questions posted and be upvoted. In the end I was intrigued and realized that the word, gym, whose meaning seemed so obvious to me could be easily misinterpreted by a non native speaker. I don't think speakers of European languages will be confused (In Italy we have ginnasio, palestra and il keep fit) but what of other speakers? The OP's question is not dumb, it's a valid one. Take a look at the original question, before the edit, it was very clear.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 26, 2014 at 12:05
  • But it certainly could be closed duplicate for anything that has students vs pupil or be closed because of common knowledge. Either the question is too basic or not written how they wanted it written. Apr 26, 2014 at 12:10
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    @Mari-LouA - so we are non-native English detectives? I totally understand where you are coming from but I think it will cause more poor questions on the site if they are given attention. It is an easy ELL question. Apr 26, 2014 at 12:19

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