at stake


2 [steyk]
something that is wagered in a game, race, or contest.
a monetary or commercial interest, investment, share, or involvement in something, as in hope of gain: I have a big stake in the success of the firm.
a personal or emotional concern, interest, involvement, or share: Parents have a big stake in their children's happiness.
the funds with which a gambler operates.
Often, stakes. a prize, reward, increase in status, etc., in or as if in a contest.
stakes, Poker. the cash values assigned to the various colored chips, various bets, and raises: Our stakes are 5, 10, and 25 cents: you can bet out 10 cents on a pair and reraise twice at 25 cents.
verb (used with object), staked, staking.
to risk (something), as upon the result of a game or the occurrence or outcome of any uncertain event, venture, etc.: He staked his reputation on the success of the invention.
to furnish (someone) with necessaries or resources, especially money: They staked me to a good meal and a train ticket.
at stake, in danger of being lost, as something that has been wagered; critically involved.

1520–30; origin uncertain

1. wager, bet. 5. winnings, purse. 8. bet, gamble, hazard; jeopardize. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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World English Dictionary
stake1 (steɪk)
1.  a stick or metal bar driven into the ground as a marker, part of a fence, support for a plant, etc
2.  one of a number of vertical posts that fit into sockets around a flat truck or railway wagon to hold the load in place
3.  a method or the practice of executing a person by binding him to a stake in the centre of a pile of wood that is then set on fire
4.  Mormon Church an administrative district consisting of a group of wards under the jurisdiction of a president
5.  pull up stakes to leave one's home or temporary resting place and move on
vb (often foll by out or off)
6.  to tie, fasten, or tether with or to a stake
7.  to fence or surround with stakes
8.  (often foll by out) to lay (a claim) to land, rights, etc
9.  to support with a stake
[Old English staca pin; related to Old Frisian staka, Old High German stehho, Old Norse stjaki; see stick1]

stake2 (steɪk)
1.  the money or valuables that a player must hazard in order to buy into a gambling game or make a bet
2.  an interest, often financial, held in something: a stake in the company's future
3.  (often plural) the money that a player has available for gambling
4.  (often plural) a prize in a race, etc, esp one made up of contributions from contestants or owners
5.  (plural) horse racing a race in which all owners of competing horses contribute to the prize money
6.  informal (US), (Canadian) short for grubstake
7.  at stake at risk: two lives are at stake
8.  raise the stakes
 a.  to increase the amount of money or valuables hazarded in a gambling game
 b.  to increase the costs, risks, or considerations involved in taking an action or reaching a conclusion: the Libyan allegations raised the stakes in the propaganda war between Libya and the United States
9.  to hazard (money, etc) on a result
10.  to invest in or support by supplying with money, etc: to stake a business enterprise
[C16: of uncertain origin]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

"pointed stick or post," O.E. staca, from P.Gmc. *stakon (cf. O.N. stiaki, Du. staak, Ger. stake), from PIE base *steg- "pole, stick." The Gmc. word has been borrowed in Sp. (estaca), O.Fr. (estaque), and It. stacca) and was borrowed back as attach. Meaning "post upon which
persons were bound for death by burning" is recorded from c.1200. Stake-body as a type of truck is attested from 1907.

early 14c., "to mark (land) with stakes," from stake (n.). Hence, to stake a claim (1857). Meaning "to risk, wager" is attested from 1520s, probably from notion of "post on which a gambling wager was placed," though Weekley suggests "there is a tinge of the burning or baiting
metaphor" in this usage. Noun meaning "that which is placed at hazard" is recorded from 1530s. Plural stakes, as in horse racing, first recorded 1690s (cf. sweepstakes). To have a stake in is recorded from 1784. Meaning "to maintain surveilance" (usually stake out) is first recorded 1942, Amer.Eng. colloquial, probably form earlier sense of "mark off territory."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

at stake

At risk to be won or lost, as in We have a great deal at stake in this transaction. This phrase uses stake in the sense of something that is wagered. Shakespeare used it in Troilus and Cressida (3:3): "I see my reputation is at stake." [Late 1500s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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