Where Does the Word Gamble Come From. What is It's Origin?

Posted on November 23rd, 2012

Gamble. Gambling. It’s such as well used word (on this site anyway!), that you just kind of take it for granted. It just is, right? We’ve already written a post about the origin of gambling, so we thought we’d cover this one too.

But what’s the origin of the word gamble, we got to thinking? Where does it come from?

We thought maybe that it referred to the first gambler, a Mr Gamble or Mrs Gambling…but no. It’s root lies in the same direction as the root for “game”- it’s from  and old middle English term called “gamenen” which means to play ( Old English is gamenian ).

Somewhere along the line, someone swapped out some letters and added a b. Maybe someone with a speech impediment? Anyway, it stuck.

Also thought to be a variant of gamenen “to play, jest, be merry,” from Old English, gamenian “to play, joke, pun,” or gamen (game). Another possibility is that gamble comes from gamel “to play games”.

The B may also be a confusion with gambol that stuck over time. That’s generally how languages evolve. To gambol means to spring, caper, frisk, romp. etc (nothing to do with gambling, except maybe a description of what you do when you win a big jackpot). Gambol comes from the Middle French word: Gambade.

So now you know! It comes from the same roots as Games and Gaming. But you probably guessed that.

Fascinating, eh? (Well, we think so).

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