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 But in a category packed with word-of-mouth sensations, the addictive Queen's Gambit should simultaneously checkmate all four opponents. David Canfield,, 22 Feb. 2021 The object of the game is to checkmate your opponent's king by surrounding him with pieces that limit his movements. Faith Karimi, CNN, 6 Dec. 2020 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, 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, 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, 29 Mar. 2020 Jackson might be the first to checkmate NFL defenses primarily with his running ability. Childs Walker,, 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, 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, 7 June 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Beth Harmon makes every checkmate feel as thrilling as a final touchdown at the Super Bowl. Vogue, 13 Nov. 2020 This is easily what put Joe Biden over the top here, the checkmate state. NBC News, 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,, 7 Oct. 2020 Strength in numbers is the ultimate checkmate, giving us a distinct advantage. Tom Green |, al, 19 Aug. 2020 Nobody pops out of the womb knowing how to pirouette or plot a sneaky checkmate. Popular Science, 27 June 2020 Here are three great options for time-stopping moves that may lead you to a checkmate. Popular Science, 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, 31 Dec. 2019 The quarterback returned it to Harbaugh on the sideline only to have the coach call checkmate. Teddy Greenstein,, 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 15 Jun. 2021.

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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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