noun, often attributive
lot·​tery | \ ˈlä-tə-rē How to pronounce lottery (audio) 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 Toto isn't the only Massachusetts resident to recently win the state lottery for the second time. Kelly Murray, CNN, 3 July 2021 That was the first thought of Detroit Pistons general manager Troy Weaver upon seeing his franchise win the 2021 NBA draft lottery Tuesday night, and now own the first pick in the July 29 draft. Marlowe Alter, Detroit Free Press, 23 June 2021 Those three teams all had an equal 14-percent chance to win the lottery. Jeff Mcdonald, San Antonio Express-News, 22 June 2021 Not in the 80′s, when Nicole Sullo and her family were thrilled, on the occasions her dad was lucky enough to win an employee lottery, to spend a week in a one-room cabin with a shared bathroom., 13 June 2021 Vax-a-million: More than a third of adults in Greater Cleveland entered to win Ohio’s Vax-a-million lottery before the first drawing, with the rate of sign-ups in the seven-county region outpacing most of the state. Cliff Pinckard, cleveland, 4 June 2021 The Kraken were provided the third-best odds at 10.3% -- tied with New Jersey -- to win the lottery. Arkansas Online, 3 June 2021 The Kings, who had a 5.8% chance to win the lottery, will draft eighth. Los Angeles Times, 2 June 2021 The Kraken were provided the third-best odds at 10.3% — tied with New Jersey — to win the lottery. John Wawrow, ajc, 2 June 2021

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

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, 3rd 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.

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Time Traveler for lottery

Time Traveler

The first known use of lottery was in 1567

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Dictionary Entries Near lottery



lottery bond

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Statistics for lottery

Last Updated

21 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Lottery.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 Jul. 2021.

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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 How to pronounce lottery (audio) \
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

More from Merriam-Webster on lottery

Nglish: Translation of lottery for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of lottery for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about lottery


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