What Does Parkour Mean? – Definition & Spelling

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Danielle McLeod

Danielle McLeod is a highly qualified secondary English Language Arts Instructor who brings a diverse educational background to her classroom. With degrees in science, English, and literacy, she has worked to create cross-curricular materials to bridge learning gaps and help students focus on effective writing and speech techniques. Currently working as a dual credit technical writing instructor at a Career and Technical Education Center, her curriculum development surrounds student focus on effective communication for future career choices.

Parkour is a twenty-first-century word that has its roots in the military. Its unique background is just as interesting as the athleticism of the people who “play.”

If you’ve heard the term dropped but aren’t sure what it meant, or even if you are familiar with the sport, chances are you might not know where it originated from. That’s why we’ve created a quick guide explaining the meaning of parkour, how to use it in a sentence, and its origin.

What Does Parkour Mean?

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The definition of parkour is a sport or discipline that involves rapidly negotiating an urban area by climbing, jumping, or vaulting over obstacles without pause. Practitioners use no equipment other than light running shoes. Although primarily non-competitive, it is a physical discipline that helps train the body to move freely over a variety of different terrain.

It focuses on strength, mental discipline, spatial awareness, balance, coordination, and control.

Parkour is also known as freerunning and is a branch of parkour that is not as traditional in its techniques. Participants in freerunning are known as traceurs. Freerunning incorporates athletic discipline while negotiating urban obstacles.

Parkour is defined as a mass noun, which is one that represents something that can not be counted and therefore has no plural form.

For example:

  • This weekend’s 5K race includes a parkour-influenced section that will challenge the agility and speed of the contestants.
  • A new gym opened in my home town based on parkour-style training and offers various training rooms to hone climbing and jumping skills.
  • Parkour is a great way to sharpen your mental abilities as well as work your entire body.

What Is the English Translation of Parkour?

Parcours du combattant translates literally as a fighter’s journey or route, which is best understood as an obstacle course. Parkour is the modern name and spelling but derives from parcour, which means “route,” to describe the path taken by the warrior.

How do You Spell and Pronounce Parkour?

Even though the original spelling was “parcour,” the “c” was changed to a “k” when it was used to form a group of athleticism in the 1980s. 

It is pronounced, “PARK-OR.”

Where Did Parkour Originate From?

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Public Consciousness of Parkour

The discipline of parkour is derived from French obstacle course training that was practiced before World War I, known as parcours du combattant. These courses involved both natural and man-made obstacles to mimic the control needed on the battlefield.

David Belle, the son of a Parcours Warrior in the French Military, changed the “c” to a “k” and formed the Yamakasi parkour group in the 1980s. The Yamakasi pride themselves in keeping the traditional parkours du combattant discipline of training form alive before the freerunning split into a more competitive sport.

Yamakasi is from the Central African Lingala language and means “strong body or strong spirit.”

The sport of parkour moved into the public consciousness in the early 2000s when parkour videos appeared on YouTube.

Let’s Review

Parkour is the name of a mental and physical discipline involving obstacle course-style training methods. Founded off the principles of a French military training strategy, it has become a popular athletic skill requiring agility and highly honed focus abilities. It also has a more competitive offshoot called freerunning.