gam·​bit | \ ˈgam-bət \

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 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 The opening is the first part of an ambitious gambit for Nordstrom, which is pushing into New York at a precipitous time for the department-store industry. Justina Vasquez,, "Nordstrom Looks to Win Over Manhattan With Focus on Service," 12 Apr. 2018 His opening gambit—a decision Tuesday to delay a fuel-tax increase that sparked the protest movement—failed to mollify the crowds that descended on the capital on Saturday, many of them demanding his resignation. Stacy Meichtry, WSJ, "Riots Resurface Across France, Piling Pressure on Macron," 9 Dec. 2018 Whether or not there are mom-and-pop investors who felt hoodwinked by some of their favorite celebrities, neither Khaled nor Mayweather offered an apology or admitted any wrongdoing for their promotional gambits. Theodore Schleifer, Recode, "The federal government is cracking down on DJ Khaled and Floyd Mayweather for telling fans to invest in cryptocurrencies," 29 Nov. 2018 Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images Recognizing that the Dodgers like to jumble up their players inspired Counsell to attempt his pitching gambit Wednesday. Jared Diamond, WSJ, "The Brewers, Dodgers Take Lineup Shuffle to the Next Level," 18 Oct. 2018 The bright spot in South Africa’s expropriation gambit is that there probably won’t be time to finish the legislative process before next year’s national elections. The Editorial Page, WSJ, "How to Stop a South African Land Grab," 23 Nov. 2018 Still, White House officials, who have been monitoring focus groups measuring political fallout from the Kavanaugh nomination, believe the gambit worked. Peter Nicholas, WSJ, "The Man Behind the Brett Kavanaugh Strategy: Don McGahn," 4 Oct. 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.

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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

12 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for gambit

The first known use of gambit was in 1656

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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

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 Encyclopedia article about gambit

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tremendous in size, volume, or degree

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