"athletic contest of five separate events involving the same competitors and all taking place on the same day," 1650s, from Greek pentathlon "the contest of five exercises," from pente "five" (from PIE root *penkwe- "five") + athlon "prize, contest," a word 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. Related: Pentathlete.