gam·​bit | \ ˈgam-bət How to pronounce gambit (audio) \

Definition of gambit

1 : a chess opening in which a player risks one or more pawns or a minor piece to gain an advantage in position
2a(1) : a remark intended to start a conversation or make a telling point
(2) : topic
b : a calculated move : stratagem

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In 1656, a chess handbook was published that was said to have almost a hundred illustrated "gambetts." That early spelling of "gambit" is close to the Italian word, gambetto, from which it is derived. "Gambetto" was used for an act of tripping-especially one that gave an advantage, as in wrestling. The original chess gambit is an opening in which a bishop's pawn is sacrificed to gain some advantage, but the name is now applied to many other chess openings. After being pinned down to chess for about two centuries, "gambit" finally broke free of the hold and showed itself to be a legitimate contender in the English language by weighing in with other meanings.

Examples of gambit in a Sentence

I couldn't tell whether her earlier poor-mouthing had been sincere or just a gambit to get me to pick up the dinner check.
Recent Examples on the Web McConnell’s gambit is particularly rich coming after the Trump years. Alex Shephard, The New Republic, 22 July 2021 No doubt Abbott is playing politics with his ludicrous gambit for Texas to build its own border wall, a half-baked GoFundMe effort. Arkansas Online, 22 June 2021 Each of the songs in In the Heights takes off along its own visual gambit. Jackson Mchenry, Vulture, 5 May 2021 And this time, Strand's gambit failed as not only did Morgan survive, but neither of them made it to the submarine weapons room in time to stop a missile from being launched that could spell doom for everyone. Ew Staff,, 11 June 2021 But this Bahamas gambit, which Treasury believed to involve only a half-dozen or so taxpayers, was just a sideshow in the larger circus that the department was staging for lawmakers. Joseph Thorndike, Forbes, 24 June 2021 The off-register gambit, a favorite of Saybolt’s, renders the image ghostly while emphasizing its mechanical origins. Washington Post, 11 June 2021 Parish’ gambit to overturn the election is rare but not unprecedented, said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political scientist at The University of Houston. Everton Bailey Jr., Dallas News, 8 June 2021 That’s where this movie’s sly conceptual gambit — and almost every Petzold movie has one — comes into play. Los Angeles Times, 3 June 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'gambit.' 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 gambit

1656, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for gambit

borrowed from Spanish gambito, borrowed from Italian gambetto, literally, "act of tripping someone," from gamba "leg" (going back to Late Latin) + -etto, diminutive suffix — more at jamb

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Last Updated

27 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Gambit.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Aug. 2021.

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More Definitions for gambit



English Language Learners Definition of gambit

: a planned series of moves at the beginning of a game of chess
: something done or said in order to gain an advantage or to produce a desired result

More from Merriam-Webster on gambit

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


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