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

baffle, balk, beat, discomfit, foil, frustrate, thwart

Antonyms: Verb

advance, cultivate, encourage, forward, foster, further, nurture, promote

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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


finally checkmated the billionaire in his attempt to take over the movie studio


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

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

Because what seems like a brutal display of unrequited love was the second-smartest decision Rose made in the whole movie, right after leaving that nude portrait in the safe as a checkmate to her dirtbag fiancé. Alexis Jones, Marie Claire, "Rose Was Right Not to Let Jack Onto Her Furniture When the Titanic Sunk," 22 Nov. 2018 And Rob Reiner weighing in, checkmate, game set match. Fox News, "Coast Guard commandant talks Florence rescue efforts," 14 Sep. 2018 That felt like checkmate again, although Cleveland was forced to return the same personnel. Ben Golliver,, "2018 NBA Finals Preview: Warriors-Cavs IV Will Be LeBron’s Toughest Test Yet," 30 May 2018 Going small to exploit the clunky Timofey Mozgov in 2015 turned out to be checkmate. Ben Golliver,, "2018 NBA Finals Preview: Warriors-Cavs IV Will Be LeBron’s Toughest Test Yet," 30 May 2018 Despite the bid, Shari Redstone, president of National Amusements, the controlling shareholder of CBS and Viacom, nearly has Mr. Moonves in checkmate. Elizabeth Winkler, WSJ, "CBS-Viacom Fight Is Fixed," 5 Apr. 2018 In the spirit of anything goes, in the name of barbershop banter from Tuscaloosa, Ala., to Cleveland, there is only one thing for Saban to do at this point, and that thing is barbershop checkmate. Joseph Goodman,, "Clipper wars: LeBron James vs. Nick Saban," 3 Apr. 2018 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, "The Personality of a Scorpio, Explained," 2 Feb. 2018 Eventually superior talent provided the checkmate for the Buckeyes. Austin Ward, ajc, "Ohio State is still in good hands with arm — and accuracy — of J.T. Barrett," 5 Sep. 2017

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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Statistics for checkmate

Last Updated

14 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for checkmate

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

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on checkmate

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with checkmate

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for checkmate

Spanish Central: Translation of checkmate

Nglish: Translation of checkmate for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about checkmate

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