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At stake

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.
a .
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.
a stick or metal bar driven into the ground as a marker, part of a fence, support for a plant, etc
one of a number of vertical posts that fit into sockets around a flat truck or railway wagon to hold the load in place
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
(Mormon Church) an administrative district consisting of a group of wards under the jurisdiction of a president
pull up stakes, to leave one’s home or temporary resting place and move on
verb (transitive)
to tie, fasten, or tether with or to a stake
often foll by out or off. to fence or surround with stakes
(often foll by out) to lay (a claim) to land, rights, etc
to support with a stake
the money or valuables that a player must hazard in order to buy into a gambling game or make a bet
an interest, often financial, held in something: a stake in the company’s future
(often pl) the money that a player has available for gambling
(often pl) a prize in a race, etc, esp one made up of contributions from contestants or owners
(pl) (horse racing) a race in which all owners of competing horses contribute to the prize money
(US & Canadian, informal) short for grubstake (sense 1)
at stake, at risk: two lives are at stake
raise the stakes

to increase the amount of money or valuables hazarded in a gambling game
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

verb (transitive)
to hazard (money, etc) on a result
to invest in or support by supplying with money, etc: to stake a business enterprise

“pointed stick or post,” Old English staca, from Proto-Germanic *stakon (cf. Old Norse stiaki, Dutch staak, German stake), from PIE root *steg- “pole, stick.” The Germanic word has been borrowed in Spanish (estaca), Old French (estaque), and Italian 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. In pull up stakes, “The allusion is to pulling up the stakes of a tent” [Bartlett].

“that which is placed at hazard,” 1530s, from stake (v.). Plural stakes, as in horse racing, first recorded 1690s (cf. sweepstakes). To have a stake in is recorded from 1784.

early 14c., “to mark (land) with stakes,” from stake (n.1). 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. Meaning “to maintain surveilance” (usually stake out) is first recorded 1942, American English colloquial, probably form earlier sense of “mark off territory.” Related: Staked; staking.

noun phrase

The group of unescorting males at a dance, thought of as a line beside the floor, studying the women as possible dance partners (1934+)
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 ]

stake a claim
stake out

also see:

at stake
burn at the stake
have a stake in
pull up stakes


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