gambit

noun
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

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?

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

The phony webpage is the SEC's latest gambit to try to convince the investing public that ICOs -- in which companies sell digital tokens that can eventually be redeemed for goods or services -- are highly susceptible to fraud. Matt Robinson, chicagotribune.com, "SEC tries to scam ICO investors to show them how easy it is," 16 May 2018 By contrast, the birth citizenship gambit puts Mr. Trump on the wrong side of immigration law and politics. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Rewriting the Fourteenth Amendment," 30 Oct. 2018 Similarly, Blake Reid, a law professor at the University of Colorado, pointed out an even more extreme way to thwart the Face-ID-at-the-border gambit. Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica, "How Face ID could be a game-changer for aggressive US border agents," 1 Oct. 2018 This week’s Farnborough air show may tell whether the gambit succeeded. Morning Brief, The Seattle Times, "Aberdeen museum recovers history from a fire, and Seattle is opening more tiny-house villages | Tuesday Morning Brief, July 17," 17 July 2018 Her new gambit of trash talking you to friends — probably to reel you back in — doesn’t suggest much growth. Philip Galanes, New York Times, "Mom, I Need a Break," 5 July 2018 Lawyers purposely used ambiguous wording in the liquidation plan in a gambit to get the chapter 11 plan approved by the court without running afoul of bankruptcy law, Friday’s ruling said. Jonathan Randles, WSJ, "Lawsuit Against Deadspin Author Can Continue, Judge Rules," 3 Aug. 2018 In the worst case, this lame-duck gambit means she’s been set up to take the fall if Brexit goes badly for the economy. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Theresa May Hangs On," 12 Dec. 2018 Trump’s Korean gambit has re-opened the debate, provoking two politically opposed pundits (the progressive Adele M. Stan and the conservative Ross Douthat) to making intelligent arguments for Trump having a coherent policy. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "Does it matter if Trump has a North Korea strategy?," 14 June 2018

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about gambit

Listen to Our Podcast about gambit

Statistics for gambit

Last Updated

9 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for gambit

The first known use of gambit was in 1656

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for gambit

gambit

noun

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on gambit

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with gambit

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for gambit

Spanish Central: Translation of gambit

Nglish: Translation of gambit for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about gambit

Comments on gambit

What made you want to look up gambit? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

to corrupt or become corrupted

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A Green Quiz

  • shamrock
  • What is the best definition of green-eyed monster?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!