athletic contest of five events, 1852, from Greek pentathlon "the contest of five exercises," from pente "five" (from PIE root *penkwe- "five") + athlon "prize, contest," of uncertain origin. Earlier in English in Latin form pentathlum (1706). The Greek version consisted of jumping, sprinting, discus and spear throwing, and wrestling. The modern version (1912) consists of horseback riding, fencing, shooting, swimming, and cross-country running.
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