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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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 In 2011, Yemen’s embattled president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, accused the US, his closest ally, of instigating the mounting protests against him, but the gambit failed to slow the momentum of his ouster., "Today in History," 1 Mar. 2021 But the gambit of bundling an increase with the Covid reconciliation package has failed. Osita Nwanevu, The New Republic, "The Democrats Are Blocking a $15 Minimum Wage," 27 Feb. 2021 The gambit failed, Ellison left for Lowe's, and Soltau was hired to clean things up. David Goldman, CNN, "JCPenney's CEO is out after two years of failure," 30 Dec. 2020 The gambit amounted to a flagrant effort to overturn the most basic liberty enshrined in the Constitution: the right of the people to choose their leaders. John Cassidy, The New Yorker, "The G.O.P. Can No Longer Be Relied On to Protect Democracy," 12 Dec. 2020 If this gambit sounds familiar, there’s a good reason for it. Gilbert Garcia,, "Garcia: Cruz once again tries to pander his way to the top," 29 Dec. 2020 Influential Republicans who oppose this legal gambit are invoking GOP principles about protecting states' rights, saying states should not interfere with other states' elections. Aj Willingham, CNN, "5 things to know for December 11: Pandemic, transition, stimulus, Lebanon, Brandon Bernard," 11 Dec. 2020 At a hearing this week in Detroit, lawyers for the city had asked Judge Kenny not to delay certification out of concern about this gambit. Alan Feuer, New York Times, "Trump Loses String of Election Lawsuits, Leaving Few Vehicles to Fight His Defeat," 13 Nov. 2020 Even if the laws are circumvented, this gambit would mutilate constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. Steve Chapman,, "Column: Trump’s crazy Electoral College scheme is doomed," 13 Nov. 2020

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

5 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Gambit.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Mar. 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

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More from Merriam-Webster on gambit

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for gambit

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

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