Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.
Execution by being burned alive while tied to a large wooden stake. The township found her guilty of witchcraft and sentenced her to the stake.
Fig. ready to be won or lost; at risk; hanging in the balance. That's a very risky investment. How much money is at stake? I have everything at stake on this wager.
burn someone at the stake
1. Lit. to set fire to a person tied to a post (as a form of execution). They used to burn witches at the stake.
2. Fig. to chastise or denounce someone severely or excessively. Stop yelling. I made a simple mistake, and you're burning me at the stake for it. Sally only spilled her milk. There is no need to shout. Don't burn her at the stake for it.
have a stake in something
Fig. to have something at risk in something; to have a financial or other interest in something. I have a stake in that company. I want it to make a profit. I don't have a stake in it, so I don't care.
pull up stakes
1. Lit. to pull up tent stakes to take down a tent in preparation to leaving. Let's pull up stakes and head home before the storm hits.
2. Fig. to end one's ties to a particular place; to get ready to move away from a place where one has lived or worked for a long time. Even after all these years, pulling up stakes is easier than you think. It's time to pull up stakes and move on.
stake a claim to someone or something
Fig. to state or record one's claim on someone or something. (Alludes to marking off an area by pounding in wooden stakes.) she staked a claim to Jeff and told all her rivals to stay away. The prospector staked a claim to the gold-rich area.
stake one's reputation on someone or something
to risk harming one's reputation on someone or something. Of course Denise is great. I will stake my reputation on her! It may be so, but I wouldn't stake my reputation on it.
stake out a claim to somethingand stake out a claim on something
to lay claim to something. The prospector staked out a claim to the promising piece of land. We staked out a claim on two seats at the side of the auditorium.
stake someone or something out
1. to position a person so that someone or something can be observed or followed. The cops staked the car out and made the arrest. Barlowe staked out the apartment building and watched patiently for an hour.
2. to position a person to observe someone or something. He staked his best operative out in front of the building. We staked out two men to keep watch.
stake someone to something
to make a loan of something to someone. I will stake you to a hundred bucks if that will help. Jed refused to stake Tex to a loan.
stake something off
to mark out the boundaries of an area of land with stakes. The prospectors staked an area off for themselves. The prospectors staked off an area in which they would look for gold.
to prepare for leaving and then leave. (Up has the force of a verb here. The phrase suggests pulling up tent stakes in preparation for departure.) They just upped stakes and left without saying good-bye. It's that time of the year when I feel like upping stakes and moving to the country.
stake a claim (to something)also stake your claim (to something)
to show that you believe something is yours In recent years, several big stores have staked a claim to the wealthy shoppers in this area. Stevens has staked a claim to a new brand of techno music with a series of exciting concerts.
Etymology: from the idea of marking land that is not owned by someone with stakes (pointed sticks) to show it is yours
in danger of being lost About 3000 jobs are at stake if the company moves to another state.
stake a claim (to something)
to announce that something belongs to you Every kind of group you can think of has staked a claim to space on the Internet.
Usage notes: also used in the form stake your claim: He staked his claim as a liberal.
Etymology: based on the literal meaning of stake a claim (to mark with posts a piece of land belonging to the government that you claim for yourself)
stake somebody outalso stake out somebody
watch someone, often secretly A television news crew staked her out from a next-door neighbor's yard. For a week, police staked out the suspect.
stake out something
1. to claim something belongs to you To avoid a long wait to eat lunch, one of you stakes out a table and the other gets the food. Lars staked out a cot in a third-floor bedroom and tried to make it seem like his own space.
2. to secretly watch a place Private detectives staked out their house, went through their garbage, and interviewed their neighbors.
pull up stakes
to leave the place where you have been living They lived in Los Angeles for several years before pulling up stakes for Nova Scotia.
raise the stakes
to increase in importance or danger Employees who lost all their pensions have raised the stakes for the company by going to court and filing a lawsuit.Related vocabulary: up the ante
pull up stakes(American & Australian)
to leave the place where you have been living He pulled up stakes in Indiana and moved, permanently.
go to the stake(mainly British)
if you say you would go to the stake for a belief or principle, you mean you would risk anything in order to defend it
Usage notes: In the past, the stake was the wooden post to which people were tied before being burned to death as a punishment.She believed passionately that the government were wrong on this issue and was prepared to go to the stake for her views.
stake a/your claim
to make it clear that you want something, and that you think you deserve to get it (often + to ) Descendants of the original settlers are going to court to stake their claim to the land. In order to stake a claim for world prominence in astronomy, the university is building a huge new optical telescope.
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]
burn at the stake
Execute someone by tying to a stake and burning; also, punish severely. This expression refers to a method used in the Middle Ages for putting heretics to death, but now it is used as a hyperbolic metaphor for harsh punishment, as in She was sure she'd be burned at the stake for losing the contract. In fact, the stake can be used loosely for any extreme punishment. William Makepeace Thackeray so used it in Henry Esmond (1852): "'I know I would go to the stake for you,' said Harry."
have a stake in
Have a share, interest, or involvement in something or someone. For example, Every member had a stake in the business, or She knew that she had a stake in her children's future. This term uses stake in the sense of "something to gain or lose," as in gambling. [Late 1700s]
pull up stakes
Move away, leave one's home, job, or country. For example, We've lived here for years, but now it's time to pull up stakes. This expression alludes to the stakes that mark property boundaries. [Early 1800s]
stake a claim
Also, stake out a claim. Indicate something as one's own, as in I'm staking a claim to the drumstick, or She staked out a claim for herself in the insurance business. This term, dating from the mid-1800s, originally meant "register a claim to land by marking it with stakes." It was being used figuratively by the late 1800s.
Keep an area or person under police surveillance; also, assign someone to conduct such a surveillance. For example, They staked out the house, or He was staked out in the alley, watching for drug dealers. [c. 1940]
To gamble or risk something on the success or outcome of something else: I was convinced that the horse would win, and I staked a lot of money on the race. Unfortunately, the candidate has staked the election on a story that will be difficult to prove. How much did you stake on the football game?
1. To mark the location or limits of something with or as if with stakes: We walked the boundary of the property and staked it out with orange flags. Pioneers raced to stake out a claim in the new territory.
2. To claim something as one's own: We ran ahead of the others to stake out a campsite. The new executive staked a place out in the organization as a technology expert.
3. To keep someone or something under surveillance: The police staked out the suspect's house. They staked the car out until the owner showed up.
pull chocksand pull up stakes
tv. to leave a place. (see also up stakes.) Time to pull chocks and get out of here. We pulled up stakes and moved on.
pull up stakesverb
See pull chocks
stake someone/something out
1. tv. to position a person so that someone or something can be observed or followed. Marlowe staked out the apartment building and watched patiently for an hour.
2. tv. to position a person to observe someone or something. We staked out two men to keep watch.
stake someone to something
1. tv. to lend or give someone money to buy something. Stake the man to a meal and a flop, and he’ll tell us what we want to know.
2. tv. to treat someone to something. Can I stake you to a drink to celebrate?
tv. to prepare for leaving and then leave. (Up has the force of a verb here. The phrase suggests pulling up tent stakes in preparation for departure.) It’s that time of the year when I feel like upping stakes and moving to the country.
raise the stakes
To increase one's commitment or involvement.
pull up stakes
To clear out; leave: She pulled up stakes in New England and moved to the desert.
At risk; in question.
pull up stakes
To move, usually one's home. This phrase was first used by Virginia colonists in the early 17th century. Jamestown and other settlements were surrounded by wooden palisade stakes as a defense against marauding Native Americans. To change or expand one's residence would have meant moving the barriers too, much easier than to rebuild from scratch. The phrase is sometimes heard as “pick up stakes.” The opposite is “put down stakes.” The British equivalent is “up sticks,” the sticks referring to army tent pegs.