I have a definition in need of a word: A universal term for a place where opponents compete. Unfortunately, most words are specific to one type of sport or combat, but I can't think of one that would apply universally.

Limited examples: Boxers fight in a boxing ring; MMA fighters have a cage or octagon. A circus act has a ring, card players have a table, cars have racetracks, punk rockers have mosh pits, and politicians have districts.

The significant constraint is that it has to be a place with a boundary or demarcation, and the only people inside these places (excluding support personnel) are the opponents.

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    Could combine my and jimm's answers and use combatArena. Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 13:16
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    Maybe Battlefield? Battleground? The mosh pit example is a bit off, i don't think that's supposed to be fighting?
    – jimm101
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 13:20
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    Interesting you were after a software variable, which seemed to be frowned upon based on a question of mine. Does anyone know the stance on this? Mine is the application of the word shouldn't influence the validity of the question.
    – rrrr-o
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 13:55
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    Interesting how 'frowning upon' would be a constraint to some. Whether it's wordsmithing or nuclear fission, the audience and context do indeed matter more than detached purists. What Howard Cosell considered his most erudite descriptions were merely pretentious pontifications to me. But when verbally sparring with Mohammed Ali, he rose to the occasion. Sometimes the application is more important than the academic. Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 15:19
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    @rrrr I've asked about this before, though I'm not as good at locating the comment in the site as some. The main idea communicated to me then was that good ELU posts should be applicable in more than just the OP's context. The main reason for the frowning is that variable names tend to be specific to their own context. Even so, I think ELU regulars would agree that if the question can be asked in such a way that it is independent of a programming context, the existence or otherwise of said context is irrelevant. To me, the OP's question passes this test.
    – Lawrence
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 15:32

10 Answers 10


You appear to be looking for an arena.

a place or scene of activity, debate, or conflict.
Merriam Webster

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    I did consider Arena, but this word doesn't necessarily exclude the spectators. Per the reference, "a building for sports and other forms of entertainment that has a large central area surrounded by seats."(Once inside the arena, we could clearly see the boxing ring.) Pretty good, though and thanks. Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 12:59
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    The spectators aren't usually in the arena itself, but in a viewing area surrounding it. If you wanted another viable alternative, consider battleground, though that has a more war-centric connotation and wouldn't work for everything. Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 13:00
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    @JohnClifford In current AmE usage, arena often describes the entire venue. This is particularly true when discussing the NBA and NHL.
    – bradimus
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 13:25
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    +1 for arena. While an arena can be a building (which is built to be a place for competition and spectating), the word arena could be used metaphorically to mean anywhere that you're going to compete, even without the more general definition.
    – Samthere
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 15:13
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    The term "arena shooter" or "arena fps" is sometimes used to describe less-realistic competitive FPSes like Unreal Tournament, Quake 3 (subtitle: arena), Red Eclipse and so. In at least some of the Unreal Tournaments the opponents are shown entering an actual arena with an audience, from which they are teleported to a combat arena and presumably watched remotely.
    – Weaver
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 17:56

Battleground is defined by Merriam Webster as:

  • a place where a battle is fought
  • an area of conflict or disagreement

This seems to meet the criteria for combatants only, and gives a defined boundary to the area.


Field of Battle is not a single word, but Battlefield is and does fulfill most of your requirements. It is often used to describe matches between opponents other than just of actual battles;

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    Ah, but battlefield is! Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 15:19
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    Simply 'field' could be used to indicate field of battle, or also lend it a sports connotation.
    – Jesse M
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 13:02
  • If it doesn't need to be one word then "Field of battle" is better than "Battlefield", as it has more crossover to non-warfare contexts. Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 13:40

Ring is used to refer to a place where opponents fight, both literally and figuratively:

  • the field of competition or rivalry

Collins Dictionary

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    This is most often used in the context of sport, specifically boxing or wrestling.
    – AJFaraday
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 15:58
  • Yeah. No one would call a soccer field a "ring".
    – Barmar
    Commented Mar 29, 2016 at 4:08

A venue simply is

ven·ue ˈvenˌyo͞o/Submit noun the place where something happens, especially an organized event such as a concert, conference, or sports event. "the river could soon be the venue for a powerboat world championship event"

It could be a boxing or wrestling match, a drag race, a ball game, or a concert. Even a Donald Trump rally. But now we're back to fighting.

  • This might be too broad of a word but it certainly fits OP's request. Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 15:05

The term stage covers this generically, and excludes spectators:

a raised platform in a theater, auditorium, etc., where the performers stand


  • Also a great answer, though it doesn't specify opponents competing and isn't necessarily related to combat or sport. +1 though! Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 13:03
  • There might not be a word that carries all this weight ... maybe "fighting stage" or "combat stage"?
    – jimm101
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 13:06
  • I was wondering that too. Hopefully one of the possibilities we've stated will meet OP's requirement. :) Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 13:09
  • There might be some mining possible around garrison or battlement, that wanders more into this territory, but I haven't found it.
    – jimm101
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 13:12
  • "field of battle" is sometimes used as a less-warrish variant of battlefield when used idiomatically for non-combat activities, so that's another possibility. Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 13:15

the word "fray", as in, "into the fray" might be of interest to you. In old books and things this word often denote an area contest relating specifically to the combatants and is super generic! Hope this helped!

  • Thanks. No idea why someone down-voted you, but I bumped it back up. Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 10:21
  • @KiloVoltaire Not my down vote, but I think this answer lacks the important stuff called "reference". Without it, this should only be a comment.
    – NVZ
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 13:35
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    I think "fray" refers to the battle itself, not the place. "Into the fray" means to join the battle, not merely step onto the field.
    – TMN
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 14:46

theater or theatre

A place that is the setting for dramatic events.

American Heritage® Dictionary

A place or area where some important action is carried on: a theater of war

Merriam-Webster for Kids

(MILITARY) ​An area or ​place in which ​important ​military ​events ​happen: a theatre of ​war

Cambridge Dictionsries Online

Any place where events take place; scene of operations; specif., an area of military operations, as in a war: a commander in the Southern Pacific theater

Webster's New World College Dictionary; Collins American English Dictionary

Before the construction of the relative buildings that functioned as the city's central administration, the Forum area was the theater for gladiator combat.

Panem et Circenses

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    I have heard of a "theater of war". But I don't think of my basement as a "theater of poker".
    – GEdgar
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 18:11
  • Theaters have combatants and non-combatants mixed together. I can see how the term is related, but I don't think the military sense fits well given the restriction that the only people within the boundary are opponents.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Mar 22, 2016 at 18:42

So many great suggestions -- thanks everyone! While many suggestions were close to the mark, the variety of respective definitions were definitely food for thought.

The best choice for me: Crucible.

  • I'm glad you found what you wanted, but can you explain briefly how this word works for you? Definition? Example sentence? No?
    – NVZ
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 13:41
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    I'm as glad as NVZ is that you managed to answer your own question, but I feel I should point out that crucible is a term for the situation of conflict, not the location at which it takes place. Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 15:08
  • @NVC I found a definition for Crucible: a place or occasion of severe test or trial. At least in this definition (powered by Google), it fits. Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 18:38

A stadium

noun 1. a sports arena with tiers of seats for spectators.

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