lot·​tery ˈlä-tə-rē How to pronounce lottery (audio)
 also  ˈlä-trē
plural lotteries
often attributive
: a drawing of lots in which prizes are distributed to the winners among persons buying a chance
: a drawing of lots used to decide something
: 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.
Recent Examples on the Web Those who did not advance to the lottery were informed Friday. Katie Shepherd, Washington Post, 12 Feb. 2024 Calling bitcoin an investment is like calling a lottery ticket a financial strategy. Larry Light, Forbes, 11 Feb. 2024 In addition to editing content, Alex also covers breaking news, writing about crime and severe weather as well as everything from multistate lottery jackpots to the July Fourth hot dog eating contest. Alex Sundby, CBS News, 7 Feb. 2024 The first ticket landed the 56-year-old $75, the second was a dud, but the third scored him the game’s top prize of $5 million, lottery officials said. Paloma Chavez, Miami Herald, 5 Feb. 2024 Jian received a master’s degree in the United States — in business analytics from UC San Diego — and over the next three years of work failed to win the H-1B lottery every year. Ethan Baron, The Mercury News, 5 Feb. 2024 Other popular camping areas have adopted lottery systems for reservations. Nicole Blanchard, Idaho Statesman, 31 Jan. 2024 There might be shawarma next to the shotgun shells, or wedges of mild hoop cheese and packets of saltines for sale at the counter along with lottery tickets and pecan pie that the owner’s sister made. Kim Severson, New York Times, 29 Jan. 2024 The man’s win came after someone else with a morning lottery routine got richer in South Carolina, McClatchy News reported in August. Simone Jasper, Miami Herald, 30 Jan. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'lottery.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from Middle French loterie, probably borrowed from Middle Dutch loterye, from loten "to draw lots" (derivative of lot "lot, prediction, destiny," going back to Germanic *hluta-) + -erye -ery — more at lot entry 1

Note: Alternatively the Middle Dutch word could have been borrowed from Middle French loterie (despite the French word's later date), perhaps a calque on Middle Dutch lotinge "action of drawing lots" (thus the Oxford English Dictionary, third edition). The earliest state-sponsored lotteries in Europe were held in the cities of Flanders in the first half of the 15th century. The first English state lottery was held in 1569, with advertisements using the word lotterie having been printed two years earlier.

First Known Use

1567, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of lottery was in 1567

Dictionary Entries Near lottery

Cite this Entry

“Lottery.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


lot·​tery ˈlät-ə-rē How to pronounce lottery (audio)
plural lotteries
: a drawing of lots in which prizes are given to the winning names or numbers

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