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

Republicans wouldn’t go for that on ObamaCare – though the administration has continued to pursue parts of that plan – and Congress is highly unlikely to play along with this gambit either. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "GOP repeats ObamaCare mistakes on immigration," 18 June 2018 As a gambit, but also maybe as a better way to live. Devin Friedman, GQ, "Dads Don’t Have to Be Bad Friends," 13 June 2018 The gambit helped Trump win the White House, and McGahn, now serving as White House counsel, is leading an aggressive campaign to reshape not only the Supreme Court but the entire federal judiciary. Joel Achenbach,, "A look at the list helping Trump reshape the Supreme Court," 8 July 2018 The move was seen by the U.S. as an attempt raise the gambit in the ongoing dispute with Washington over trade and industrial policy. USA TODAY, "Reports: Trump moving ahead with steep tariffs on Chinese goods," 14 June 2018 If successful, the legislative gambit could restore the agency's regulations and hand a victory to tech companies, activists and consumer advocacy groups. The Washington Post,, "Senate votes to restore net neutrality," 16 May 2018 Judge Alsup shrewdly saw through the gambit by Democratic politicians and plaintiff attorneys to loot big oil companies to pad their coffers. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "A Climate Shakedown Flops," 29 June 2018 Elsie tried to blackmail Charlotte, which ended up being a fatal mistake, as the head of the Delos board answered Else's gambit with two bullets to the chest. Josh Wigler, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Westworld': Here's Who Is Still Alive Heading Into Season 3," 26 June 2018 Both these efforts plus the new tariffs target Made in China 2025, Beijing’s strategic gambit to upgrade Chinese manufacturing from cheap and cheerful to innovative and high-tech. Charlie Cambell/beijing, Time, "Lei Jun Wants to Be China’s Answer to Steve Jobs. But Trump’s Trade War Is Getting In His Way," 12 July 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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Statistics for gambit

Last Updated

2 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for gambit

The first known use of gambit was in 1656

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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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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).


obstinately defiant of authority

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