I know the word finale. Almost all dictionaries define this word as the final event of a musical event or competition. Say, the grand finale of American Idol.

But then, can it be used for a sport event? Say football?

The grand finale between Germany and Argentina?

I read it on International Business Times, The Times of India, the USA Today and Orange News but frankly don't agree! :)

The grand finale happens of some musical competition, quiz or the like. For sports, it should be 'The Final'.

I'll be thankful if you all enlighten me on this.

  • Almost all dictionaries define this word as the final event of a musical event or competition.... But then, can it be used for a sport event? Say football? Of course, for a football competition. Why should quizzes (which aren't musical or performances) be eligible to be a finale but not sports? Aug 18, 2014 at 1:08

5 Answers 5


There is a definition of finale in the oed as follows:

  1. The last scene or closing part of a drama or any other public entertainment.

So it's a correct usage of the word, since the world cup is a public entertainment.

I also agree with /u/user8543 that it is used colloquially for any culminating event. Wiktionary says

The grand end of something, especially a show or piece of music.

"Something" is vague enough to include the world cup final, or anything else, although it is rare for it to be used for anything other than a piece of entertainment. For example, you could say

My time at the company culminated in a grand finale when I told my boss "you have no idea how high I can fly".

But as I said, that is quite unusual and sounds a bit unnatural.

The "final" is the specific name of the last match in the world cup. Since it is the culmination of this sporting event, one can say that the final is the finale of the world cup.

The World Cup Final is the finale of the World Cup.

When referring to the match specifically, you would call it "the final".

I wonder whether an England player will score in the final. No, of course they won't, because England will never be in the final.

When referring to the end of the competition in general, you could call it the "finale".

Will the world cup have a spectacular finale, or will it end with a whimper?


In this sense, finale is more of a colloquial term for any culminating event. While, for example, the 'official' name might be the World Cup Final, it can still be a finale in general, or even the finale of the World Cup.

Note that the definition of finale doesn't specify it has to refer to music:

the last part of a piece of music, an entertainment, or a public event, especially when particularly dramatic or exciting.


There's nothing wrong with using "finale" to describe a culminating sporting event, though it's not musical, it is entertainment. The term "finale" stresses the entertainment/performance nature of the event, of which spectators (the audience) are a part. Using the term "final," on the other hand, stresses the competition between teams. In the end, regardless of whether these nuances I've described are intended or not, it's just a matter of style and tone.


Although I think this has been sufficiently answered above, I would add this:

In sports, it's the "final" because a tournament has multiple rounds of competition that need to be identified: qualifying, quarter-final, semi-final, final. It's sort of a numerical distinction for equally spaced iterations within the larger event. Both "final" and "finale" are "the end," but "final" is the last in a series of things.

An event doesn't have to be a series of sub-events in order to have a "finale" but it could: acts in a play, movements in a concerto, scenes in a movie, etc. It could also just be "the end" of a short story or a one-act play - not a series.

A more abstract distinction is timing. Many artistic performances follow an "arc" in energy and tone that almost always reaches a climax shortly before the end, and culminates in a (hopefully satisfying) "finale." It's easy to guess where the peaks & lulls will be. This gives the "grand finale" an air of excitement, suspense, and eventually closure. Ideally that happens in a sports tournament, but you can never tell. The best game of a tournament may be in Round 1, with the Final being a boring disappointment.

"Final" then is sort of shorthand referring to the "final round" or "final stage" of a larger sequence. You can't have a "final" without some preceding rounds, whereas you always have a "finale" as long as the event ends a some point.


First, as everyone said, from Merriam-Webster dictionary:

fi·na·le noun \fə-ˈna-lē, fi-ˈnä-\ : the last part of something (such as a musical performance, play, etc.)
Full Definition of FINALE: the close or termination of something: as
a : the last section of an instrumental musical composition
b : the closing part, scene, or number in a public performance
c : the last and often climactic event or item in a sequence

From definition (c), it becomes totally appropriate for a situation like a WC Final.

From Google books, here are some examples other than a musical event:

  1. Dutch: The Finale
  2. Revelation: God's Grand Finale
  3. The Tragic Finale: An Essay on the Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre
  4. Life's Finale: Voluntary Exit

I hope these examples help you see that authors use it for other purposes.

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