When writing about a subject, knowing the correct spelling for that subject is essential.
Note: This article is a translation. For the original article, click on Français in the menu.
Yet in the literature and in the media, the acronym of electronic sports is written in all sorts of ways:
- esports (e.g. Kelly & Van der Leij (2021), Taylor (2021))
- eSports (e.g. Dickenson (2021), Lebedeva (2021))
- E-Sport (e.g. Schöber (2021))
- e-sports (e.g. Garcia-Bardidia & Nau (2017), Kartal, (2020))
- e-Sports (e.g. Asselin-Verreault (2021))
- ESports (e.g. Chernyavskaya (2021)),
- Esports (e.g Cripe (2020)),
Origin of the expression
Finding the exact origin of the term electronic sports, or esports, is challenging. First, although there are information resources such as Liquipedia, these types of websites are not designed to cover all possible aspects of electronic sports history (Partin & Bull, 2021). Second, it is important to consider that the movement did not become what it is today overnight, but has evolved over several decades (Hiltscher, 2015). Not everyone embraced it at the same time either. For example, although one of the first traces of the term “eSports” can be found in a press release from the Online Gamers Association in 1999 (Gestalt, 1999), in Quebec, based on my experience and observations, it gradually spread around the 2010s. Anecdotally in 2012, my Clan Bros team never seems to have used the term esports, and was simply using video game competitions (or tournaments). The oldest use of esports I’ve found in Quebec is from a 2013 Reddit post (Siliticx, 2013). There are probably other older examples, but they are hard to find. As we’ll see below, the term “esports (or e-sports)” has even become a word in itself.
A linguistic and cultural question
Since we are trying to answer a linguistic question, this article will answer it first in English, then in French. So, if you are writing in a language other than these two, there may be grammar rules not mentioned here that you should take into account. Also, make sure there are no other cultural specifics with the target audience you are writing for. For example, in North America, the team sport with FIFA as its international federation is called soccer, not football. The term foosball is used in North America to refer to the sport that is called American football elsewhere in the world.
In the English-speaking community, Paul “Redeye” Chaloner is an example of an activist person on how to spell the term “esports” (2020a). Here is the infographic he has posted a multitude of times on Twitter (Charloner, 2020b).
According to him, esports is the only valid way to write it. As in Scrabble, if in doubt, we can check in a dictionary. However, there does not seem to be a consensus even at this level. In the Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries (2021), the Collins Dictionary (2021), the Macmillan Dictionary (2021) and Dictionary.com (2021), the two accepted spellings are esports and e-sports. In the Cambridge Dictionary (2021), only e-sports is accepted. In Webster’s Dictionary (2021), no entry is valid for esports and all its variants.
If you are a media outlet, and especially in the United States, be aware that the Associated Press has ruled that “AP style is esports for competitive multiplayer video gaming. Use alternate forms like eSports or e-sports only if part of a formal name” (Associated Press, 2017). This position has influenced the British Esports Association to choose the use of “esports” (British Esports, 2017).
If you prefer to align with international federations, the International Esports Federation (IESF, 2008) always spells Esports with a capital “E”, then Global Esports Federation (2019) uses esports in the way recommended by the AP.
In French, the Larousse (2021) and LeRobert (2021) dictionaries write “e-sport”.
In Quebec, the Office québécois de la langue française (2009) mentions e-sport, but advises using sport électronique: “The hybrid form e-sport, modelled on the English term e-sport (e for electronic), should be avoided in French. This English structure is morphologically ill-suited to French. Indeed, electronic cannot be abbreviated to e-, as it is the case for English electronic. Moreover, in French, the elements that characterize a noun are most often postposed to it. The Quebec Electronic Sports Federation (2016) variably uses “esports” and “e-sports”. (translated)
France Esports decided to use the “esport” version for three reasons: ”  A concern for international harmonization: France Esports carefully considered the recommendations of the AP Style Book, which removed the dash for English speakers;  The presence of the dash that hardly facilitates the simplification of URLs for players in the sector who set up a platform on the Internet;  The term with a dash is particularly less well referenced on search engines (this is the most important criterion), suggesting that it is less used as shown in the figure below” (translate from France Esports, 2018). A nuance is then added: “France Esports points out, however, that the spelling without hyphens can be confused with the translation of the word “sport” in Catalan in the search for keywords on scientific search engines. The association therefore encourages French academics to favor the hyphenated spelling “e-sport” when writing scientific articles in the French language, and the hyphenated and pluralized spelling “esports” when writing English-language scientific articles, as is customary.” (translated from France Esports, 2018).
As with English, the terms “esports” and “e-sports” are used. To know if esports takes an “l'” or a “le”, we will refer you to the Bescherelle (2021); thus “l”esports”.
Variants with a capital s
Generally, variants are not recommended, but they are tolerated for brands and formal names (e.g. Boreal eSports).
In both French and English, “esport(s)” and “e-sport(s)” can be used. Between the two, we recommend using the term “esport” for reasons of standardization across the industry, and then conjugating it appropriately according to the phrase. If you don’t want to be criticized on this topic, then simply using “electronic sports” is recommended.
- Asselin-Verreault, G. (2021). Le e-Sports arrive en Outaouais. Le Droit. https://www.ledroit.com/2021/11/06/le-e-sports-arrive-en-outaouais-29add77531285ffa5753b98524fe3dd7 (mis en ligne le 14 nov 2021)
- Associated Press (2017). Publication sur Twitter, https://twitter.com/apstylebook/status/849696651111309312 (mis en ligne le 5 avril 2017)
- Cambridge Disctionary (2021). e-sports, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/e-sports
- Bristish Esports (2017). What’s in a name? The eSports vs esports debate, https://britishesports.org/general-esports-info/whats-in-a-name-the-esports-vs-esports-debate/ (publié le 25 juillet 2017).
- Chaloner, P. (2020a). This is esports (and How to Spell it): An Insider’s Guide to the World of Pro Gaming. Bloomsbury Sport.
- Chaloner, P. (2020b). Publication sur Twitter, https://twitter.com/PaulChaloner/status/1269593983807823874/photo/1
- Chernyavskaya, A. G. (2021). ESports: a Review of Foreign and Russian Media Resources. RUDN Journal of Studies in Literature and Journalism, 26(2), 325-330.
- Collins Dictionary (2021). Esports, https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/esport
- Cripe C. (2020). Tfue v. FaZe Clan and Newly Created Players Associations: What Has Happened and How Will it Impact the Future of Esports? Marquette Sports Law Review, 31(1), 151-173.
- Dickenson, V. L. (2021). Games, Gamification, and eSports Intersections Within Digital and Online Learning. In S. Andrews & C. M. Crawford (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Pathways and Opportunities Into the Business of Esports (pp. 128-148). IGI Global.
- Dictionary.com (2021). Esports, https://www.dictionary.com/browse/esports?s=t
- Fédération québécoise de sports électroniques (2016). Site internet, https://esportsquebec.ca/
- Garcia-Bardidia, R., & Nau, J. P. (2017). L’institutionnalisation du e-sport. In Rabu, G. & Reverchon-Billot, M. (Eds.), Les enjeux juridiques de l’e-sport. Presses Universitaires d’Aix-Marseille.
- Gestalt (surnom) (1999). The OGA What the hell is it?. Eurogamer, https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/oga (mis en ligne le 13 décembre 1999)
- Global Esports Federation (2019). Site internet, https://www.globalesports.org/
- Hiltscher, J. (2015). A Short History of eSports. In J. Christophers & T. M. Scholz (Eds.), eSports Yearbook 2013/14 (pp. 9–14). Norderstedt: Books on Demand GmbH.
- IESF (2008). Site internet de l’International Esports Federation, https://iesf.org/
- Kates, A., & Clapperton, G. (2015). The Debate: For & Against e-Sports. Engineering & Technology, 10(1), 28.
- Kartal, M. (2020). E-sports in Turkey within the Context of Globalization. Doctoral dissertation
- Kelly, S. J., & Van der Leij, D. (2021). A new frontier: alcohol sponsorship activation through esports. Marketing Intelligence & Planning, 39(4), 533-558.
- Larousse (2021). e-sports, https://www.larousse.fr/dictionnaires/francais/e-sport/188112
- Lebedeva, N. A. (2021). Hotel Amenities and Hidden Costs Associated With eSports Tourism in the Ukraine: Development of eSport Hospitality Opportunities. In S. Andrews & C. M. Crawford (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Pathways and Opportunities Into the Business of Esports (pp. 371-396). IGI Global.
- LeRobert (2021). e-sport, https://dictionnaire.lerobert.com/definition/e-sport
- Macmillan Dictionary (2021). E-sports, https://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/e-sports?q=esports
- Office québécois de la langue française (2009) Fiche terminologique : sport électronique. http://gdt.oqlf.gouv.qc.ca/ficheOqlf.aspx?Id_Fiche=26502177
- Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries (2021). e-sport, https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/e-sport
- Partin, W. C., & Bull, I. (2021). What is Esports History a History Of? ROMchip, 3(1).
- Schöber, T. (2021, April 30). Definitionen und Diskussion: Sport, Gaming und E-Sport. Retrieved from https://www.paidia.de/definitionen-und-diskussion-sport-gaming-und-e-sport/
- Siliticx (surnom) (2013). Quebec’s most promising talent and 2012 WCS Canada Qualifier, Ks.Jig, All-Kills FXO.NA beating desrow, jimrising, theory, power, drunkenboi and moves on to Ro16 of IPTL Division. Reddit, https://www.reddit.com/r/starcraft/comments/18keqq/quebecs_most_promising_talent_and_2012_wcs_canada/ (mis en ligne le 15 fécrier 2013).
- Taylor, N. (2021). Kinaesthetic Masculinity and the Prehistory of Esports. ROMchip, 3(1).
- Webster’s Dictionary (2021). Esports, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/esports