noun gam·bit \ˈgam-bət\

Definition of gambit

  1. 1 :  a chess opening in which a player risks one or more pawns or a minor piece to gain an advantage in position

  2. 2a (1) :  a remark intended to start a conversation or make a telling point (2) :  topicb :  a calculated move :  stratagem

gambit was our Word of the Day on 01/28/2013. Hear the podcast!

Examples of gambit in a sentence

  1. 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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of 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

First Known Use: 1656

Other Game Terms

GAMBIT Defined for English Language Learners


noun gam·bit \ˈgam-bət\

Definition of gambit for English Language Learners

  • : 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

Seen and Heard

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


a trip made at another's expense

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