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check (chĕk)
a. The act or an instance of inspecting or testing something, as for accuracy or quality: gave the paper a final check.
b. A standard for inspecting or evaluating; a test: The condition of the wiring can serve as a check for the level of the seller's home maintenance.
c. A check mark.
a. A ticket or slip of identification: a baggage check.
b. A bill at a restaurant or bar.
c. A chip or counter used in gambling.
a. Something that stops or slows down motion, action, or expression; a restraint: Heavy rains were a check on the army's advance.
b. The condition of being stopped or held back; restraint: kept my temper in check; holding agricultural pests in check with sprays.
c. A stopping or slowing down of something: "The medicines ... gave a check to the disorder that was destroying him" (Richard Henry Dana).
d. Sports The act of blocking or impeding an opponent with the puck in ice hockey, either with one's body or one's stick.
4. A written order to a bank to pay the amount specified from funds on deposit; a draft.
a. A pattern of small squares, as on a chessboard.
b. One of the squares of such a pattern.
c. A fabric patterned with squares: a dress of pale green check.
6. Games
a. A move in chess that directly attacks an opponent's king but does not constitute a checkmate.
b. The position or condition of a king so attacked.
7. A small crack; a chink.
1. Games Used to declare that a chess opponent's king is in check.
2. Informal Used to express agreement or understanding.
v. checked, check·ing, checks
a. To inspect so as to determine accuracy, quality, or other condition; test: checked the brakes for wear; checked the paper for misspellings.
b. To verify by consulting a source or authority: checked her facts before speaking; check a spelling in the dictionary.
c. To put a check mark on or next to: checked off each item on the list.
a. To arrest or slow the motion or progress of: checked the flow by shutting a valve.
b. To hold in restraint; curb: check an impulse to laugh. See Synonyms at restrain.
c. Baseball To stop (the swing of the bat) in an attempt to avoid swinging at a pitch that is out of the strike zone: The batter checked his swing, and the pitch was called a ball.
d. Sports To block or impede (an opposing player with the ball or puck), as in ice hockey, by using one's body or one's stick.
3. To deposit or consign for safekeeping or shipment: checked his coat at the door; checked my bags and boarded the plane.
4. Games To move in chess so as to put (an opponent's king) under direct attack.
5. To make cracks or chinks in: Sunlight dried and checked the paint.
a. To make an examination or investigation; inquire: phoned to check on the departure time; checked into the rumor.
b. To be verified or confirmed; pass inspection: The suspect's story checked out.
c. To agree point for point; correspond: The fingerprints checked with the ones on file.
a. Sports To block or impede an opposing player with the ball or puck, as in ice hockey.
b. To come to an abrupt halt; stop: The soldiers rushed into the room but checked when they saw their commander.
3. To write a check on a bank account.
4. To undergo cracking in a pattern of checks, as paint does.
5. Games
a. To place a chess opponent's king in check.
b. In certain card games, to announce that one is declining the option of making a bet.
a. To pause to relocate a scent. Used of hunting dogs.
b. To abandon the proper game and follow baser prey. Used of trained falcons.
Phrasal Verbs:
check in
To register, as at a hotel.
check out
1. To settle one's bill and leave a hotel or other place of lodging.
2. To withdraw (an item) after recording the withdrawal: check out books.
3. To record and total up the prices of and receive payment for (items being purchased) at a retail store: The cashier checked out and bagged my order.
4. Slang To die.
check over
To look over; examine: The teacher checked the students' papers over.

[Middle English chek, check in chess, from Old French eschec, from Arabic šāh, from Persian, king, check; see SHAH.]

checka·ble adj.

Word History: The words check, chess, and shah are all related. Shah, as one might think, is a borrowing into English of the Persian title for the monarch of that country. The Persian word shāh was also a term used in chess, a game played in Persia long before it was introduced to Europe. One said shāh as a warning when the opponent's king was under attack. The Persian word in this sense, after passing through Arabic, probably Old Spanish, and then Old French, came into Middle English as chek about seven hundred years ago. Chess itself comes from a plural form of the Old French word that gave us the word check. Checkmate, the next stage after check, goes back to the Arabic phrase shāh māt, meaning "the king is dead." Through a complex development having to do with senses that evolved from the notion of checking the king, check came to mean something used to ensure accuracy or authenticity. One such means was a counterfoil, a part of a check, for example, retained by the issuer as documentation of a transaction. Check first meant "counterfoil" and then came to mean anything, such as a bill or bank draft, with a counterfoilor eventually even without one.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices

    Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:

    Indo-European Roots

    Semitic Roots

    The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.