noun, often attributive
lot·​tery | \ˈlä-tə-rē also ˈlä-trē \
plural lotteries

Definition of lottery 

1a : a drawing of lots in which prizes are distributed to the winners among persons buying a chance

b : a drawing of lots used to decide something

2 : an event or affair whose outcome is or seems to be determined by chance

Examples of lottery in a Sentence

They held a lottery to determine who could get a green card. Room assignments are determined by lottery. Life's a lottery, isn't it? It all depends on luck.
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Recent Examples on the Web

For those of us who didn't quite strike lucky in the lottery system but want to follow along with the celebration, tuning in bright and early from the comfort of home to proves to be the next best option. Kara Thompson, Town & Country, "What Time is Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank's Wedding?," 13 Sep. 2018 The couple applied for U.S. visas through a lottery system operated by the government’s Diversity Immigrant Visa Program. Theresa Vargas, Washington Post, "A Nepali immigrant brought his daughter to America for a better life. Then his own was taken.," 11 July 2018 Expanding its draft lottery selection show to an hour was a bust. Phil Rosenthal,, "With ESPN's help, NBA is becoming a year-round concern for sports fans," 9 July 2018 Without him, the Cavaliers were left in ruins, a perennial resident of the draft lottery as one of the worst teams in the league. Scott Cacciola, New York Times, "The N.B.A.’s Decider: How LeBron James Controls Fortunes," 29 June 2018 Four out of 15, in a conference where the bottom seven end up in the draft lottery each year. David Murphy,, "How much value does the Sixers' newly acquired first-round draft pick have? More than you might think | David Murphy," 22 June 2018 Some of those guys will likely be NBA draft lottery selections, probably a year from now. Fletcher Page, The Courier-Journal, "Get ready, amateur alphas: Kentucky basketball isn't for everyone," 31 May 2018 This could not have been true, the Times wrote, because the first draft lottery was not held until 18 months after Trump left Wharton. Avi Selk, Washington Post, "It’s the 50th anniversary of the day Trump left college and (briefly) faced the draft," 20 May 2018 In its first mock draft since Tuesday's draft lottery, USA TODAY projects the Bucks will take Robinson. Matt Velazquez, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "5 players who may interest the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA draft," 16 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'lottery.' 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 lottery

1567, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for lottery

Middle French loterie, from Middle Dutch, from lot lot; akin to Old English hlot lot

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Dictionary Entries near lottery





lottery bond

lottery wheel


Statistics for lottery

Last Updated

20 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for lottery

The first known use of lottery was in 1567

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More Definitions for lottery



English Language Learners Definition of lottery

: a way of raising money for a government, charity, etc., in which many tickets are sold and a few of the tickets are chosen by chance to win prizes

: a system used to decide who will get or be given something by choosing names or numbers by chance

: an event or situation in which what happens is decided by luck or chance


lot·​tery | \ˈlä-tə-rē \
plural lotteries

Kids Definition of lottery

: a way of raising money in which many tickets are sold and a few of these are drawn to win prizes

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Comments on lottery

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


noxious or harmful

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