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Activity ParticipationPlay
Used when someone is actively taking part in an event, often where skills are tested. SlideHe became a contestant in the national spelling bee.
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Neutral TonePlay
The term 'contestant' is neutral, carrying no implication of success or skill level. SlideEach contestant received a participation certificate.
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Popular CulturePlay
Commonly used in the context of television and reality shows, where participants compete. SlideThe contestant went home after the third round of the cooking competition.