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 White House chief of staff typically would be central to such a momentous gambit for a president, coordinating logistics, public statements and notifications of congressional leaders and allies. NBC News, "Mulvaney was left in the dark on al-Baghdadi operation," 30 Oct. 2019 Seventeen shows in Brooklyn kick off the gambit, with many tickets pricy enough to deserve censure by Elizabeth Warren. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "Madonna at War," 20 Sep. 2019 There are two problems with Johnson’s potential election gambit, though. David Meyer, Fortune, "Currency Markets and Big Banks Now Prefer a Banker-Baiting Marxist to Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson," 4 Sep. 2019 Curry’s Warriors won three of the four over James’ Cavaliers, with insouciant because-I-can gambits such as this: The world was his. Gary Peterson, The Mercury News, "LeBron James Jr. hits ridiculous trick shot, leaves calling card for Stephen Curry," 16 Aug. 2019 Connoisseurs of nature television are well aware that drama is usually attained via the old anthropomorphism gambit, i.e., the characterization of predator and prey as villain and victim. John Anderson, WSJ, "‘Enchanted Kingdom’ Review: Emphasis on the Environment," 4 July 2019 In perhaps its boldest promotional gambit, Apple is literally giving the service away to customers. Ryan Faughnder,, "Apple TV+ is here. Can it compete with Netflix and Disney?," 31 Oct. 2019 His trademark security gambit was to create a National Guard force, now deployed across the country and numbering more than 50,000 and growing. Los Angeles Times, "Mexican President Lopez Obrador has transformed the office, but old problems thwart progress," 14 Sep. 2019 China’s desire to exert control will have been one of the motives for the Hong Kong exchange’s London gambit. The Economist, "Hong Kong’s bourse seeks to snap up the London Stock Exchange," 12 Sep. 2019

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

Time Traveler for gambit

Time Traveler

The first known use of gambit was in 1656

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast about gambit

Statistics for gambit

Last Updated

30 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Gambit.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 9 December 2019.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for gambit


How to pronounce gambit (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for gambit

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with gambit

Spanish Central: Translation of gambit

Nglish: Translation of gambit for Spanish Speakers 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).


contradictory or incongruous words

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Semantic Drift Quiz

  • a twisty river
  • Which of the following was once a synonym for fun?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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