checkmate

1 of 2

verb

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

transitive verb

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

checkmate

2 of 2

noun

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

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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.
Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
Put more simply: Trump has checkmated Murdoch, clearing one more hurdle standing in his way on the path to the White House. Oliver Darcy, CNN, 7 Mar. 2024 Content by this author: Letter From The Islamist Challenge to Jokowi Indonesian President Joko Widodo appears to have checkmated the hard-line Islamists demanding the jailing of Jakarta’s governor. Simon Roughneen, Foreign Affairs, 7 Dec. 2016 If Booker is that guy, like that guy, then checkmate. Duane Rankin, The Arizona Republic, 11 June 2023 The players also had the option to checkmate the king in just three moves with a much less familiar sequence. Merim Bilalić, Scientific American, 1 Mar. 2014 Cheating to checkmate? Laura L. Davis, USA TODAY, 27 Sep. 2022 The Albertsons deal is the only way to checkmate their out-of-control growth. Gretchen Morgenson, NBC News, 5 Nov. 2022 Democrats in the House of Representatives twice tried to checkmate Donald Trump through the impeachment process. John Bolton, WSJ, 18 Oct. 2022 Frye likened Lue as a coach to a chess player sacrificing a lesser piece to edge closer to checkmate. Los Angeles Times, 15 Apr. 2022
Noun
Perhaps then, there will be a vibe shift in the workplace next year with a clear winner who turns the stalemate into a checkmate. Jane Thier, Fortune, 22 Dec. 2023 Chess grandmasters have, in various epochs, played all the way through to the checkmate, rather than ending the game when an opponent resigns early to save face. WIRED, 26 Sep. 2023 And Callaghan made the two moves that put Canada in checkmate. Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times, 18 June 2023 Life is a game of chess for these calculating water signs, who are constantly plotting several steps ahead in order to orchestrate an eventual checkmate. Aliza Kelly Faragher, Allure, 31 July 2020 The Dodgers were progressing towards checkmate. Jorge Castillo Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 14 Oct. 2021 New year, new checkmate goals. Elizabeth Wallace, CNN Underscored, 14 Jan. 2021 This is very much still a best picture race where many pieces need to move to call: checkmate. Clayton Davis, Variety, 10 Jan. 2023 But the game of chess scoffs at programmers trying to push it into checkmate. Andrew Moseman, Discover Magazine, 13 Feb. 2011

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'checkmate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Verb

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

First Known Use

Verb

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near checkmate

Cite this Entry

“Checkmate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/checkmate. Accessed 25 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

checkmate

1 of 2 verb
check·​mate ˈchek-ˌmāt How to pronounce checkmate (audio)
1
: to block completely : thwart
2
: to check a chess opponent's king so that escape is impossible

checkmate

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

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