• Jeffrey Brian Flood

The Next Time You Go to the Gym...

The next time you go to the gym, imagine “naked” in neon letters over the front door. You’ll have a more historically and linguistic picture of what the gym is, and has been.

Gym is an abbreviated form of gymnasium, a Greek-Latin compound word which means “place of” (-asium) “naked” (gymnos). The meaning given an assumed social and cultural context is, “The place for naked exercise”.

The Greek adjective gymnos means naked.

The ancient Greek athletes competed before the public and trained for competition in the nude.

Only men were allowed to enter and train and they did so fully naked. Unlike modern gymnasiums, in ancient Greece they were open air, walled spaces, important centers for social life and intellectual debate, and training for upcoming competitions – running, long-jump, discus, boxing and wrestling.

Although women in Athenian culture were largely confined to the home, and also prohibited from entering gymnasiums, according to Plutarch men and women in ancient Sparta performed nude group exercises together in the open air in preparation for war.


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