at stake

at stake

Meaning

  • It means to be on wager or bet, when there is some sort of uncertainty.
  • It is usually referred to money but in the current times the important aspects can all be at stake. For example a person’s reputation, assets and even relationships.

Example Sentences

  1. You needn’t have all your money at stake in the share market, it is better to diversify.
  2. She has to manage getting the contract this time since her job is at stake if she fails.

Origin
In 1948, GB Harrison edited the complete work of Shakespeare. In a particular part within the appendix 5, there is a detailed description of a form of entertainment from the era which involved a tussle between a bear and dogs. People would place bets on the killings of the dogs or how long the bear would be able to sustain. This was the first usage of money being “at stake”. It has since been used in many literature reviews. Currently the scope of the phrase is more than what is started out as and is used in common parlance.

A 1 Comment

1 Comment

Author Barend writes on 25th August 2016

I wondered about the origin of modern “…at stake” while reading in Hamlet: “… but greatly to find quarrel in a straw when honour’s at the stake”, and wether Shakespear may be it. Might yet be, as he seems to have taken it from his observance of the bear being bated by the dogs. As far as I know these bears were tied to stakes?

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