While watching the steeplechase race at the Olympics today, my brother-in-law commented that steeplechase was a funny name for a foot race: “Steeples can’t run… so why would anyone even bother to chase one?”
The word-nerdy part of my brain started to itch… and there’s only one thing to do when that happens. I looked it up.
I knew the foot race was named after a hunt or horse race of some kind that I had read about in Dickens or Austen or Trollope, but what was the origin of the word?
In late 1700s, steeplechase was the name given to a cross-country horse race in which the church steeple, visible across the landscape, was the finishing point. This race was originally known as a steeplehunt.
Steeplechase is a compound word, made from steeple, a tall, usually pointed part of the roof of a church, and chase, as in a pursuit, or a fast ride or run.
While the foot race for people is not a cross-country run, it does involve both long distance and obstacles: it’s a 3000 meter run with hurdles and a water pit.
#OlympicGames #words #steeple