Word of the Day


Liz Potter
Written by Liz Potter


1. the last few games, races etc in a competition

2. the last set of examinations that students take before they finish at a college or university

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

Origin and usage

The noun final comes from the adjective final which was first recorded in English in the early part of the 14th century. The noun appeared with various meanings over the centuries: the two meanings recorded above both date from the late 19th century.


The last set of exams taken by students at British universities at the end of their degree courses is referred to as finals, short for ‘final exams’. American English also uses the term final, which was used briefly in British English before being superseded by the plural form, to refer to exams at the end of both school and college. In sport, a final is the last match or race in a competition, the one that decides who the overall winner is. Finals are the last few games or races of a competition that has had several stages. In the case of the Wimbledon tennis tournament, the finals are the matches that decide the overall winners of the various singles and doubles competitions that have unrolled over the two weeks of the championships. While all forms of the game have their fans, the most eagerly awaited finals are the Ladies’ singles final, played on the last Saturday of the tournament, and the Gentlemen’s singles final played on the last Sunday. This is not to detract from the interest in the other contests, which include senior, junior, invitation and wheelchair events. The doubles and mixed doubles matches in particular always attract enthusiastic crowds; this year the men’s doubles and mixed doubles are a focus of particular home interest due to the presence in both competitions of former Wimbledon men’s singles champion Andy Murray, returning to the game following hip surgery.


“We used to rehearse in unused lecture halls at Imperial and recorded our first album, ‘Queen,’ in 1971 while I was studying for my biology finals – it is amazing I passed.”
(Roger Taylor)

“I don’t think it’s a low point being in the finals of the French Open, three points away from the victory.”
(Martina Hingis)

Related words

decider, knockout, play-off, showdown

Browse related words in the Macmillan Thesaurus.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter

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