Etymology
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contestant (n.)

"one who contests, a disputant, a litigant," 1660s, from contestant (adj.), 1660s, from French contestant, present participle of contester (see contest (v.)). Revived and popularized 1861, when it became a journalist's term for the combatants on either side in the U.S. Civil War.

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athletic (adj.)
1630s (athletical is from 1590s), "pertaining to an athlete or to contests of physical strength," from Latin athleticus, from Greek athletikos, from athletes "contestant in the games" (see athlete). Meaning "strong of body; vigorous; lusty; robust" [Johnson, who spells it athletick] is from 1650s.
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bet (n.)
1590s, "the mutual pledging of things of value to be won or lost based on some future event," appearing simultaneously with the verb, originally in the argot of petty criminals, a word of unknown origin. Perhaps a shortening of abet or else from obsolete beet "to make good" (related to better). The original notion is perhaps "to improve" a contest by wagering on it, or to encourage a contestant. Or perhaps the word is from the "bait" sense in abet. Meaning "that which is wagered" is from 1796.
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athlete (n.)
early 15c., from Latin athleta "a wrestler, athlete, combatant in public games," from Greek athletes "prizefighter, contestant in the games," agent noun from athlein "to contest for a prize," related to athlos "a contest" and athlon "a prize," which is of unknown origin.

Until mid-18c. usually in Latin form. In this sense, Old English had plegmann "play-man." Meaning "Anyone trained in exercises of agility and strength" is from 1827. Athlete's foot first recorded 1928, for an ailment that has been around much longer.
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player (n.)

Middle English pleiere, from Old English plegere "one who takes part in pastimes or amusements," an agent noun from play (v.). The stage senses of "performer of plays, professional actor," also "one who performs on a musical instrument" are from c. 1400. The meaning "contestant in field or martial games" is from early 15c.; of table games, late 14c. As a pimp's word for himself (also playa), it is attested from 1974 (the sexual senses of play (v.) go back to 13c.). Player-piano is attested from 1901.

Friends, who on a domestic stage allot parts to each other, and repeat a drama, are actors, but not players. Many a libertine has taken to the stage for a maintenance, and has become a player without becoming an actor. The great theatres engage those who act well ; the strolling companies those who play cheap. [William Taylor, "English Synonyms Discriminated," 1813]
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