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 While the Pistons' lottery pick in last year's draft still has strides to make as a scorer, his defense and passing appear to be ahead-of-the-curve at this stage in his career. Omari Sankofa Ii, Detroit Free Press, "Killian Hayes shines as Detroit Pistons blow out Oklahoma City Thunder, 132-108," 6 Apr. 2021 Both Christopher and Bagley have been projected to be taken in most mock drafts with Christopher pegged as a lottery pick very early on. Michelle Gardner, The Arizona Republic, "ASU freshman Marcus Bagley declares for NBA draft," 6 Apr. 2021 His name is popping up on draft boards as a top-10 lottery pick and while the senior would be eligible for an extra year the NCAA would grant because of the pandemic, now is the time for Kispert to make the jump. Eddie Timanus, USA TODAY, "What's next for Gonzaga men's basketball after title run fell short?," 6 Apr. 2021 The Lakers are using their final roster spot to sign guard Ben McLemore, adding a former lottery pick who is a career 36% three-point shooter, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Times. Dan Woike, Los Angeles Times, "Lakers add former Rockets guard Ben McLemore," 6 Apr. 2021 Vols freshman guard Keon Johnson is projected as a likely lottery pick and is expected to declare for the draft in the coming days. Jon Hale, The Courier-Journal, "Former North Oldham star Justin Powell is transferring from Auburn to Tennessee," 3 Apr. 2021 The Magic were able to bring back former lottery pick Wendell Carter Jr., swingman Otto Porter (who may be bought out), guard Gary Harris, and former first-round pick R.J. Hampton., "With clear eyes, Toronto says goodbye to championship core — except Kyle Lowry," 27 Mar. 2021 Mobley is expected to be the second straight USC player to be a lottery pick in the NBA draft. Joe Reedy, Star Tribune, "UCLA, USC go from late night to NCAA prime-time spotlight," 26 Mar. 2021 Among them, the Warriors traded former lottery pick Marqueese Chris to the Spurs for Cady Lalanne, and sent Brad Wanamaker to the Hornets in exchange for cash. Andy Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Utah Jazz deal for Toronto Raptors sharpshooter Matt Thomas just before the NBA’s trade deadline," 25 Mar. 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

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The first known use of lottery was in 1567

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Statistics for lottery

Last Updated

16 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Lottery.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Apr. 2021.

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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 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

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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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