1. Also called standing martingale. part of the tack or harness of a horse, consisting of a strap that fastens to the girth, passes between the forelegs and through a loop in the neckstrap or hame, and fastens to the noseband: used to steady or hold down the horse's head.
  2. Also called running martingale. a similar device that divides at the chest into two branches, each ending in a ring through which the reins pass.
  3. Nautical. a stay for a jib boom or spike bowsprit.
  4. a system of gambling in which the stakes are doubled or otherwise raised after each loss.

Origin of martingale

1580–90; < Middle French: kind of hose fastened at the back, allegedly < Provençal martegalo, feminine of martegal, inhabitant of Martigue, town in SE France, though sense apparently influenced by Spanish almártaga harness < Arabic al-martaʿah the vein Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for martingale

Historical Examples of martingale

  • Pray, Mrs. Felix Lorraine, can you tell me what a martingale is?

    Vivian Grey

    Earl of Beaconsfield, Benjamin Disraeli

  • "I bet you what you like you don't get in," said the young Marquis of Martingale.


    William Makepeace Thackeray

  • Their bridle has but a simple snaffle-bit, and no martingale.

    The Prairie Traveler

    Randolph Marcy

  • The gaub lines or back ropes go from the martingale in-board.

    The Seaman's Friend

    Richard Henry Dana

  • Hoist up the martingale and rig it, and reeve the martingale stay and gaub-line.

    The Seaman's Friend

    Richard Henry Dana

British Dictionary definitions for martingale


  1. a strap from the reins to the girth of a horse preventing it from carrying its head too high
  2. any gambling system in which the stakes are raised, usually doubled, after each loss
  3. Also called: martingale boom nautical
    1. a chain or cable running from a jib boom to the dolphin striker, serving to counteract strain
    2. another term for dolphin striker

Word Origin for martingale

C16: from French, of uncertain origin
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 martingale

1580s, from Middle French martingale (16c.), of uncertain origin, perhaps from Old Provençal martegalo, fem. of martegal "inhabitant of Martigue," making the etymological sense "worn in the manner of the people of Martigue;" or perhaps from Spanish almartaga, word for a sort of halter or rein, from Arabic almartak, in which case it might have been influenced in form by the Provençal word.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper