gam·​bit ˈgam-bət How to pronounce gambit (audio)
: a chess opening in which a player risks one or more pawns or a minor piece to gain an advantage in position
: a remark intended to start a conversation or make a telling point
: topic
: a calculated move : stratagem

Did you know?

Don’t let the similarities of sound and general flavor between gambit and gamble trip you up; the two words are unrelated. Gambit first appeared in English in a 1656 chess handbook that was said to feature almost a hundred illustrated gambetts. Gambett traces back first to the Spanish word gambito, and before that to the Italian gambetto, from gamba meaning “leg.” Gambetto referred to the act of tripping someone, as in wrestling, in order to gain an advantage. In chess, gambit (or gambett, as it was once spelled) originally referred to a chess opening whereby the bishop’s pawn is intentionally sacrificed—or tripped—to gain an advantage in position. Gambit is now applied to many other chess openings, but after being pinned down for years, it also finally broke free of chess’s hold and is used generally to refer to any “move,” whether literal or rhetorical, done to get a leg up, so to speak. While such moves can be risky, gambit is not synonymous with gamble, which likely comes from Old English gamen, meaning “amusement, jest, pastime”—source too of game.

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 But having gotten all these chess pieces on the board, the strategy doesn’t deploy them in any fancy gambits. Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter, 17 May 2024 Queens' gambit: House of the Dragon stars preview season 2's 'march to war' Those who watch the Golden Globe-winning drama will remember how Paddy Considine's King Viserys Targaryen shared a story with his daughter, Rhaenyra (played by Milly Alcock in the character's younger years). Nick Romano,, 15 May 2024 See all Example Sentences for gambit 

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

Word History


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

First Known Use

1656, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of gambit was in 1656


Dictionary Entries Near gambit

Cite this Entry

“Gambit.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 May. 2024.

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