check·​mate | \ ˈchek-ˌmāt How to pronounce checkmate (audio) \
checkmated; checkmating; checkmates

Definition of checkmate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to arrest, thwart, or counter completely
2 : to check (a chess opponent's king) so that escape is impossible



Definition of checkmate (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : the act of checkmating
b : the situation of a checkmated king
2 : a complete check

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Synonyms & Antonyms for checkmate

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Verb

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Figurative Checkmate and Other Chess Terms

Checkmate is one of the most recognizable words from the world of chess. It is often found both in its original sense (referring to the placing of an opponent’s king in an inescapable position) and in a figurative one (“to thwart”). But it is just one of a number of words in English that that either originated in, or gained popularity from, the game of chess before developing an extended metaphorical sense.

End game may refer to the final stages of a game of chess or to the final stage of other actions or processes. Gambit initially had the sole meaning “a chess opening in which a player voluntarily risks one or more pawns or a minor piece to gain an advantage in position” but now may also signify “a calculated move, maneuver, or device.” And pawn has developed the sense “one that can be used often to his own disadvantage to further the purposes of another” from its original designation as the least powerful piece on the chess board.

Examples of checkmate in a Sentence

Verb finally checkmated the billionaire in his attempt to take over the movie studio Noun a brilliant move that resulted in checkmate The challenger can force a checkmate with his next move.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Winning Florida would effectively checkmate Trump in his bid to win 270 Electoral College votes, the amount needed for another term. Joseph Simonson, Washington Examiner, "Biden leads Trump by 5 points in Florida: Poll," 15 Sep. 2020 The schedule includes no Texan with a solo speaking slot, and no signs of any focus on a state where a Democratic win would amount to checkmate in the Electoral College. Todd J. Gillman, Dallas News, "Biden is supposedly targeting Texas but you wouldn’t know it from Democratic convention lineup," 14 Aug. 2020 There’s far too much yet to happen to know if there’s a chance Cleveland can checkmate the league, but at least the franchise seems to be playing the same game other smart front offices favored for years. cleveland, "GM Andrew Berry and the Browns are playing chess, not throwing darts this offseason: This Week in the Cleveland Browns," 29 Mar. 2020 Jackson might be the first to checkmate NFL defenses primarily with his running ability. Childs Walker,, "Five Things We Learned from the first (almost) half of the Ravens’ 2019 season," 25 Oct. 2019 This means working with our allies in Europe, checkmating Iran in the Middle East and working for a free and open Indo-Pacific in the Far East. James Jay Carafano, Twin Cities, "Carafano: Defending America after 2020," 22 Aug. 2019 As the board is set up in the initial shots, Xavier has made many sacrifices but is poised to checkmate Magneto. Eliana Dockterman, Time, "Let's Talk About the Ending of Dark Phoenix," 7 June 2019 Pelosi quickly secured the votes to prevent Republicans from overturning the agreement, thus checkmating the deal’s foes. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "The Republicans’ Desperate Obsession With Nancy Pelosi," 23 Apr. 2018 Against Golden State and Houston, Oklahoma City was bound to be checkmated quickly because of those truly weak links. Ben Golliver,, "Carmelo Anthony's Arrival Further Bolsters a Dangerous Thunder Lineup," 23 Sep. 2017 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Beth Harmon makes every checkmate feel as thrilling as a final touchdown at the Super Bowl. Vogue, "Seriously: It’s Time to Stay Inside. Vogue Editors Recommend 8 New Things to Stream," 13 Nov. 2020 This is easily what put Joe Biden over the top here, the checkmate state. NBC News, "Meet the Press 11.08.20," 8 Nov. 2020 Lakers coach Frank Vogel put the Heat in check, but James appreciates checkmate remains no given with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra. Ira Winderman,, "Heat down, but Jimmy Butler insists not out in NBA Finals, ‘Our confidence ain’t going nowhere’," 7 Oct. 2020 Strength in numbers is the ultimate checkmate, giving us a distinct advantage. Tom Green |, al, "AD Allen Greene: Reduced capacity for football will hurt Auburn’s budget by ‘10s of millions’," 19 Aug. 2020 Nobody pops out of the womb knowing how to pirouette or plot a sneaky checkmate. Popular Science, "Ten-thousand hours of practice isn’t enough to make you a star," 27 June 2020 Here are three great options for time-stopping moves that may lead you to a checkmate. Popular Science, "Time your chess matches with these on-the-mark game clocks," 23 Dec. 2019 Even if things were less of a shambles, Lebanon does not have an extradition treaty with Japan: checkmate. Vivian Yee, New York Times, "Carlos Ghosn, Fugitive but a Favorite Son, Returns to Beirut," 31 Dec. 2019 The quarterback returned it to Harbaugh on the sideline only to have the coach call checkmate. Teddy Greenstein,, "5 things we learned about Big Ten football after Week 12, including Minnesota’s slim playoff hopes and the Big Ten’s Herschel Walker. Plus, our updated power rankings.," 17 Nov. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'checkmate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of checkmate


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for checkmate


Middle English chekmaten, from chekmate, interjection used to announce checkmate, from Anglo-French eschec mat, from Arabic shāh māt, from Persian, literally, the king is left unable to escape

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Time Traveler for checkmate

Time Traveler

The first known use of checkmate was in the 14th century

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Statistics for checkmate

Cite this Entry

“Checkmate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Dec. 2020.

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More Definitions for checkmate



English Language Learners Definition of checkmate

: a situation in chess in which a player loses the game because that player's king is in a position from which it cannot escape


check·​mate | \ ˈchek-ˌmāt How to pronounce checkmate (audio) \

Kids Definition of checkmate

: a situation in chess in which a player loses because the player's king is in a position from which it cannot escape capture

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