stake (v.2)    "to risk, wager," 1520s, perhaps from notion of "post on which a gambling wager was placed" (see stake (n.2)), though Weekley suggests "there is a tinge of the burning or baiting metaphor" in this usage. Meaning "to maintain surveillance" (usually stake out) is first recorded 1942, American English colloquial, probably form earlier sense of "mark off territory." ...

Alas, I struggle even to guess this metaphor. So what does burning or baiting mean here?

Update: I know that 'stake' can mean a "post upon which persons were bound for death by burning", but Etymonline cites this meaning for its entry on the noun. So how did burning or baiting affect the meaning of the verb above?



The "burning" metaphor refers to burning at the stake, a method of executing criminals.


For a specific example: see, e.g., Joan of Arc.


  • Thanks. I did know about this heroine. Does my updated OP help? – NNOX Apps May 25 '15 at 5:19

I would assume the "baiting" metaphor would be a reference to the use of stakes in animal trapping, both as anchors for ground traps and in the famous "pit with stakes at the bottom". It also seems plausible that it may seem more bait-related because bait itself is able to be staked to the locality for an animal, as one would stake suet to a tree for woodpeckers.

I also assume the burning metaphor is, as suggested, a reference to burning people (or just other flammable material such as a bonfire) at a stake. Weekley may have been suggesting that with those (perhaps) more common usages of the word, using it for wagering carries with it a tinge of the other meanings. After all, one might consider a wager to be nothing but "burning your money", or from the other perspective, "baiting an unwary sucker" into making a poor bet.

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