Also called mate. Chess.
  1. an act or instance of maneuvering the opponent's king into a check from which it cannot escape, thus bringing the game to a victorious conclusion.
  2. the position of the pieces when a king is checkmated.
a complete check; defeat: His efforts to escape met with a checkmate.

verb (used with object), check·mat·ed, check·mat·ing.

Chess. to maneuver (an opponent's king) into a check from which it cannot escape; mate.
to check completely; defeat: Napoleon was checkmated at Waterloo.


Chess. (used by a player to announce that he or she has put the opponent's king into inextricable check.)

Origin of checkmate

1300–50; Middle English chek mat(e) < Middle French escec mat < Arabic shāh māt < Persian: literally, the king (is) checked, nonplussed
Related formsun·check·mat·ed, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for checkmate

Contemporary Examples of checkmate

Historical Examples of checkmate

  • She got their whole plan and went along to try to checkmate them.

    Poisoned Air

    Sterner St. Paul Meek

  • He moved about the board with an assumption that said, I can checkmate you when I will!


    Charles James Lever

  • I can see that he is artfully intriguing for Mr. Wharton's favor, but I must checkmate him.

    The Cash Boy

    Horatio Alger Jr.

  • It was the cruellest thing to checkmate him after so much labour, she considered.

  • Therefore, it is imperative that we know Grant's plans so that we can checkmate them.

    The Lost Despatch

    Natalie Sumner Lincoln

British Dictionary definitions for checkmate



  1. the winning position in which an opponent's king is under attack and unable to escape
  2. the move by which this position is achieved
utter defeat

verb (tr)

chess to place (an opponent's king) in checkmate
to thwart or render powerless


chess a call made when placing an opponent's king in checkmate

Word Origin for checkmate

C14: from Old French eschec mat, from Arabic shāh māt, the king is dead; see check
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for checkmate

mid-14c., from Old French eschec mat (Modern French échec et mat), which (with Spanish jaque y mate, Italian scacco-matto) is from Arabic shah mat "the king died" (see check (n.1)), which according to Barnhart is a misinterpretation of Persian mat "be astonished" as mata "to die," mat "he is dead." Hence Persian shah mat, if it is the ultimate source of the word, would be literally "the king is left helpless, the king is stumped."


late 14c.; see checkmate (n.). Related: Checkmated; checkmating.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper