One of my blog visitors asked me when the following words are used:

  • match
  • tournament
  • contest
  • competition
  • pageant

match (n.) and tournament (n.):

These two words are used with games or sports where a single player or more (a team) compete with an opponent to win a prize. A match is a single game, while a tournament is a series of games.


  • I’m taking part in a badminton match tomorrow.  = only one game
  • The tennis tournament will be held in four venues.  = a few games in a series

So, if you’re playing badminton (or any other sport) only once, then it’s just a match. On the other hand, if you’re playing it in a few stages till you reach the finals, then it’s a tournament.

That’s why the World Cup (soccer) is a tournament, not a match. Teams play in the preliminary, quarter-final, semi-final and final rounds. Eventually, only one team wins.

contest (n.) and competition (n.)

These words are interchangeable. You can either use “contest” or “competition” when you are competing with many other contestants for a prize. Usually, there are two or three main prizes and a few consolation prizes.


  • My sister won a consolation prize in the singing contest/competition.
  • The scratch-and-win contest/competition was a fraud; many people were cheated.

pageant (n.)

This word refers to a show – a competition where women are judged on their beauty, intellect and charm to win a prize. Sometimes, “contest” is also used.


  • Miss Argentina won the beauty pageant for two consecutive years.
  • Malaysia organises beauty contests annually.

Posted on October 18, 2009, in Word Power and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Hi Kevin Great blog guess can check and balance my ‘Engrish’ bumped into your blog while commenting on reanaclaire’s recent post. We have taken English for granted and so glad to be back to school. Thanks will certainly be back for more.

    • Hi there 🙂 Nice to meet you. I’m glad you like the blog as much as I do posting updates. We could’ve been better in English if not for political (and non-political) interferences. On one hand, we have avid supporters of English; on the other, we have the oppositions. Sadly, the latter is more dominant in Malaysia.

      Do come back for more, and be a subscriber to be notified of updates. Thanks again, cheers! 😀

  2. Thanks for fast respond, your explanation is easy to understand!

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