13 Synonyms For “Champion” That Will Make Your Language Unrivaled

What makes a champion? As boxing great Muhammad Ali allegedly once said, “Champions are made from something they have deep inside them—a desire, a dream, a vision.” Whether in sports, business, or just life in general, becoming a champion requires passion, talent, and skill. There’s no one recipe for success—and there are many ways to describe champions.

Champion [ cham-pee-uhn ] can be a noun, an adjective, or a verb. As a noun and adjective, it is most often used to mean “a person who has defeated all opponents in a competition” or “first among all contestants or competitions.” When used as a verb, it’s a little bit different. Champion as a verb means “to defend, to support.”

With the world’s best athletes gathering in Japan for the COVID-delayed 2020 Olympics, we have been thinking about the meaning of champion and the variety of words we can use to describe those who are truly at the top of their game. Read on to learn more about some creative synonyms for champion.


Today, we are most likely to use Olympian to mean “a contender in the Olympic Games.” But did you know that this term comes from ancient Greek mythology? The ancient Greeks believed that the gods and demigods lived on a mountain known as Mount Olympus. Being an Olympian, then, is a little bit like being a modern-day deity.


  • The Olympian Allyson Felix has won more gold medals than any other female track and field athlete.


Goats are adorable, agile, trouble-making animals of the genus Capra. But as cool as they are, they are not generally considered champions. No, that distinction is saved for GOATs, an acronym for “Greatest of All Time.” GOAT is “used to refer to or describe a person or thing that is considered to be the best ever in a particular field, especially in sports.” The term was coined by Muhammad Ali who used it to refer to himself (a true GOAT move).


  • With five Olympic medals and dozens more championship wins in gymnastics, Simone Biles is widely considered the GOAT.


GOATs always leave a big impact … so try using some of these other terms for impactful when talking about them.


When it comes to sports, there is one clear way to tell who is the champion. They’re the person who gets handed a medal at the end of the competition. In other words, they are a medalist, which is a noun meaning “a person to whom a medal has been awarded.”


  • Swimmer Michael Phelps is the most-decorated medalist in the history of the modern Olympics.


Champions often become legends after they die—or, in rare instances, they may become legends in their own time (during their lifetime). Legend has a variety of meanings, but here we are using it as a noun meaning “a person who is at the center of stories” for being admirable in some way.


  • My grandfather was a bit of a legend in our small town, because he grew the biggest, reddest tomatoes every summer.

When used in informal or slang contexts, legend may be modified by the word absolute for emphasis, as in “My friend is an absolute legend for helping me move.”

The adjectival form of legend is legendary.


  • We were eager to meet the legendary artist whose work had so inspired us.


Someone who is a champion does things better than almost anyone else. You might even say that their accomplishments are superlative, an adjective meaning “of the highest kind, quality, or order; surpassing all else or others; supreme; extreme.” Something that is superlative is truly the best.


  • The crowd was thrilled at the violinist’s superlative performance.


Elevate your top-quality writing with this look at superlative adjectives.

top banana

A less-formal way to note that someone is at the top of their game is with a variety of expressions that make use of the word top. For example, the expression top banana means “the chief person in a group or undertaking.”


  • After he perfected all of the steps in the process, Carlos became the top banana at work.

An expression that is nearly synonymous with top banana is top dog, “the winner of a competition or rivalry; champion.”


  • Evelyn practiced everyday to become the top dog on her tennis team.

Another related expression is top flight, “the highest or most outstanding level, as in achievement or development.”


  • Our hard-working students all expect to be accepted into top-flight universities.

These expressions are all nouns. If you are searching for an adjective that expresses the same notion, the word tops would do the trick. Tops (always with the plural S) means “ranked among the highest, as in ability, performance, comprehensiveness, or quality.”


  • These new state-of-the-art microphones are tops.


Our next synonym for champion as an adjective comes to us from the French language. Nonpareil [ non-puhrel ] means “having no equal; peerless.”


  • My grandmother’s delicious burnt almond cake is nonpareil.

Peerless, a word used to define nonpareil, is another strong synonym for champion. It means “matchless; unrivaled.” Peer here means “equal.”


  • Fedwa had developed a peerless method for getting the best results from her students.

par excellence

Another synonym for champion that comes from French is par excellence [ pahr -ek-suhlahns ]. Par excellence is an adjectival expression meaning “being an example of excellence, superior, preeminent.”


  •  With his expert use of character,  storytelling, and language, William Shakespeare was a writer par excellence.

Using the somewhat literary expression par excellence is a neat way to add a bit of a flair to your vocabulary.

number one

A quite literal synonym for champion is the expression number one, meaning “a person, company, etc. that is first in rank, order, or prestige.”


  • Over a decade of practice and hard work paid off when Kelly became number one.

The expression number one can also be used as an adjective.


  • We produce the number one best-selling whiskey on the market.

A less-formal version of this expression is numero uno, which is number one in Italian. Find out more about this expression by reading our Vocab Builder about numero uno here.


Another literal synonym for champion is the adjectival expression world-class, which means “ranking among the world’s best, outstanding.” The notion behind this expression is that someone is so talented that they are amongst the best in the whole world.


  • Our high school athletics program has produced some world-class athletes, including several who went on to represent the United States at the Olympics.


Someone who is a champion is able to perform in a way that seems out-of-this-world to us mere mortals. This is what the essayist David Foster Wallace was writing about in his classic essay “Roger Federer as Religious Experience.” Another word for this phenomenon is transcendent, an adjective meaning “going beyond ordinary limits, surpassing, exceeding.”


  • Tennis stars like Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams move so quickly on the court that they appear transcendent.


As the expression goes, to the victor belong the spoils. This expression doesn’t mean that some guy named Victor ruined something, although we can see how you might think that. Here, spoils means “rewards,” and victor is a noun meaning “a winner in any struggle or contest.”


  • The nail-baiting match came down to penalty kicks, and ultimately Italy was the victor.

Victor comes from the Latin vincere meaning “to conquer.” Talk about winning.


When someone wins big, be ready to congratulate them with one of these phrases instead.


One sophisticated synonym for champion is paladin [ paluh-din ], a noun meaning “any knightly or heroic champion.” The word paladin comes from the Latin palātīnus meaning “imperial functionary.” Paladins are most closely associated historically with chivalric knights.


  • My advisor has come to be seen as something of a paladin at my school for her passion for student rights.

This antiquated word is not often used, but it does give a gravity and literary tenor to your language.

Do you want to become a champion of these synonyms? We think that would be tops. To brush up on all of these terms, check out our word list of champion synonyms here. Or, you can skip right to checking your mastery of the many ways to describe a champion by taking our short world-class quiz.

Take the quiz here!

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