verb (used with object)

  1. to stop or arrest the motion of suddenly or forcibly: He checked the horse at the edge of the cliff.
  2. to restrain; hold in restraint or control: They built a high wall to check the tides.
  3. to cause a reduction, as in rate or intensity; diminish: The new measures checked the rapidity with which the epidemic was spreading.
  4. to investigate or verify as to correctness: She checked the copy against the original.
  5. to make an inquiry into, search through, etc.: We checked the files, but the letter was missing.
  6. to inspect or test the performance, condition, safety, etc., of (something): Check a used car thoroughly before buying it.
  7. to mark (something) so as to indicate examination, correctness, preference, etc. (often followed by off): Please check the correct answer. They checked off the names of people they wanted to invite.
  8. to leave in temporary custody: Check your umbrellas at the door.
  9. to accept for temporary custody: We accept responsibility for any article we check here.
  10. to send (baggage) on a passenger’s ticket, usually on the same carrier used by the passenger, for pickup at the destination: We checked two trunks through to Portland.
  11. to accept (baggage) for conveyance, and to convey, under the privilege of a passenger’s ticket: Check this trunk to Portland.
  12. to mark with or in a pattern of squares: to check fabric.
  13. Agriculture. to plant in checkrows.
  14. Chess. to place (an opponent’s king) under direct attack.
  15. Ice Hockey. to obstruct or impede the movement or progress of (an opponent).Compare back-check, fore-check.

verb (used without object)

  1. to prove to be right; correspond accurately: The reprint checks with the original, item for item.
  2. to make an inquiry, investigation, etc., as for verification (often followed by up, into, etc.): He checked to make sure his answer was correct. Check into the matter.
  3. to make a sudden stop; pause: The horse checked before he jumped.
  4. Chess. to make a move that puts the opponent’s king under direct attack.
  5. to crack or split, usually in small checks: Painted surfaces may check with age.
  6. Poker. to decline to initiate the betting in a betting round, usually to force another player to make the first bet rather than raise it.
  7. Hunting. (of hounds) to stop, especially because the line of scent has been lost.
  8. Falconry. (of a hawk) to forsake the proper prey and follow baser game (followed by at).

noun, plural checks or for 40, chex.

  1. Also British, cheque. Banking. a written order, usually on a standard printed form, directing a bank to pay money.
  2. a slip or ticket showing the amount owed, especially a bill for food or beverages consumed.
  3. a ticket or token that when matched with a counterpart identifies an article left in the temporary custody of another, the purchaser of a ticket, a person who is to be served next, etc.
  4. a criterion, standard, or means to insure against error, fraud, etc.: This handmade sample is a check that the machine-made samples have to match.
  5. an inquiry, search, or examination: We made a quick check but found nothing missing.
  6. Also called check mark. a mark, often indicated by (✓), as on a list, to indicate that something has been considered, acted upon, or approved.
  7. a person or thing that stops, limits, slows, or restrains: The increase of duty was an effective check on imports. He was a check on her enthusiasm.
  8. a sudden arrest or stoppage; repulse; rebuff: Taxation caused a check in the accumulation of vast fortunes.
  9. a control, test, or inspection that ascertains performance or prevents error: They ran a check on the dependability of the automobile.
  10. a pattern formed of squares, as on a checkerboard.
  11. one of the squares in such a pattern.
  12. a fabric having a check pattern.
  13. Chess. the exposure of the king to direct attack: The king was in check.
  14. Ice Hockey. any of several maneuvers designed to obstruct or impede the forward progress of an opponent.Compare board check, body check, cross-check(def 5), hook check, poke check, sweep check.
  15. a counter used in card games, as the chip in poker.
  16. a small crack: There were several checks in the paint.
  17. an egg, designated for market, having a slightly cracked shell and an intact inner membrane.
  18. Masonry. a rabbet-shaped cutting on the edge of a stone, by which it is fitted to another stone.
  19. Hunting.
    1. the losing of the scent by a dog or pack.
    2. (in fox hunting) a period in a hunt, following the losing of the scent by the hounds, during which the field rests quietly while the hounds cast to regain the scent.


  1. serving to check, control, verify, etc.: a check system.
  2. ornamented with a checkered pattern; checkered: a check border.


  1. Chess. (used as a call to warn one’s opponent that his or her king is exposed to direct attack, having just one move in which to escape or parry.)
  2. Informal. all right! agreed!

Verb Phrases

  1. check in, to register, as at a hotel; indicate one’s arrival or presence at a place, function, etc., usually by signing an appropriate form: We checked in at the reception desk.
  2. check on/up on, to investigate, scrutinize, or inspect: Don’t forget to check on his work. We have to check up on him.
  3. check out,
    1. to vacate and pay for one’s quarters at a hotel.
    2. to verify or become verified; examine or investigate.
    3. to fulfill requirements, as by passing a test: The engine checked out and we proceeded on our way.
    4. to itemize, total the cost of, and collect payment for (a purchase): The supermarket cashier was exhausted from checking out groceries all day long.
    5. to have the cost added up and pay for merchandise.
    6. to borrow (an item) by having it listed as one’s temporary responsibility: The adding machine was checked out in your name.
    7. depart quickly or abruptly; leave in a hurry.
    8. die.
  4. check over, to examine or investigate, especially thoroughly.
  1. check the helm, Nautical. to alter the helm of a turning vessel to keep the bow from swinging too far or too rapidly.
  2. in check, under restraint: He held his anger in check.

noun South Midland and Southern U.S.

  1. Often checks. the game of checkers.
  2. any of the playing pieces used in this game.


  1. to pause or cause to pause, esp abruptly
  2. (tr) to restrain or controlto check one’s tears
  3. (tr) to slow the growth or progress of; retard
  4. (tr) to rebuke or rebuff
  5. (when intr, often foll by on or up on) to examine, investigate, or make an inquiry into (facts, a product, etc) for accuracy, quality, or progress, esp rapidly or informally
  6. (tr) mainly US and Canadian to mark off so as to indicate approval, correctness, or preferenceUsual Brit word: tick
  7. (intr often foll by with) mainly US and Canadian to correspond or agreethis report checks with the other
  8. (tr) mainly US, Canadian and NZ to leave in or accept (clothing or property) for temporary custody
  9. chess to place (an opponent’s king) in check
  10. (tr) to mark with a pattern of squares or crossed lines
  11. to crack or cause to crack
  12. agriculture short for checkrow
  13. (tr) ice hockey to impede (an opponent)
  14. (intr) hunting (of hounds) to pause in the pursuit of quarry while relocating a lost scent
  15. (intr foll by at) falconry to change from one quarry to another while in flight
  16. (intr) to decline the option of opening the betting in a round of poker
  17. check the helm nautical to swing back the helm of a vessel to prevent it from turning too quickly or too far


  1. a break in progress; stoppage
  2. a restraint or rebuff
    1. a person or thing that restrains, halts, etc
    2. (as modifier)a check line
    1. a control, esp a rapid or informal one, designed to ensure accuracy, progress, etc
    2. (as modifier)a check list
  3. a means or standard to ensure against fraud or error
  4. the US word for tick 1
  5. the US spelling of cheque
  6. mainly US the bill in a restaurant
  7. mainly US and Canadian a ticket or tag used to identify clothing or property deposited for custody
  8. a pattern of squares or crossed lines
  9. a single square in such a pattern
    1. fabric with a pattern of squares or crossed lines
    2. (as modifier)a check suit
  10. chess the state or position of a king under direct attack, from which it must be moved or protected by another piece
  11. a small crack, as one in veneer or one that occurs in timber during seasoning
  12. part of the action of a piano that arrests the backward motion of a hammer after it has struck a string and holds it until the key is released
  13. a chip or counter used in some card and gambling games
  14. hunting a pause by the hounds in the pursuit of their quarry owing to loss of its scent
  15. angling a ratchet fitted to a fishing reel to check the free running of the line
  16. ice hockey the act of impeding an opponent with one’s body or stick
  17. in check under control or restraint


  1. chess a call made to an opponent indicating that his king is in check
  2. mainly US and Canadian an expression of agreement

c.1300, “a call in chess noting one’s move has placed his opponent’s king (or another major piece) in immediate peril,” from Old French eschequier “a check at chess” (also “chess board, chess set”), from eschec “the game of chess; chessboard; check; checkmate,” from Vulgar Latin *scaccus, from Arabic shah, from Persian shah “king,” the principal piece in a chess game (see shah; also cf. checkmate (n.)). Also c.1300 in a generalized sense, “harmful incident or event.”

When the king is in check that player’s choices are severely limited. Hence, “sudden stoppage” (early 14c.), and by c.1700 to “a token of ownership used to check against, and prevent, loss or theft” (surviving in hat check) and “a check against forgery or alteration,” which gave the modern financial use of “bank check, money draft” (first recorded 1798 and often spelled cheque), probably influenced by exchequer. Checking account is attested from 1897, American English. Blank check in the figurative sense attested by 1849. Checks and balances is from 1782, perhaps originally suggesting machinery.


late 15c., in chess, “to attack the king; to put (the opponent’s king) in check;” earlier (late 14c.), “to stop, arrest; block, barricade;” see check (n.).

A player in chess limits his opponent’s ability to move when he places his opponent’s king in check. All the other senses seem to have developed from the chess sense: “To arrest, stop;” then “to hold in restraint” (1620s); and finally “to hold up or control” (an assertion, a person, etc.) by comparison with some authority or record, 1690s.

Hence, to check off (1839); to check up (1889); to check in or out (in a hotel, of a library book, etc., by 1918). To check out (something) “to look at, investigate” is from 1959. Related: Checked; checking.


“mark like a chessboard, incise with a pattern of squares or checks,” late 14c. (implied in checked), from check (n.1). Related: Checking.


“pattern of squares, cross-like pattern,” c.1400, short for checker (n.1).

In addition to the idioms beginning with check

  • check in
  • check into
  • check off
  • check on
  • check out
  • check over
  • checks and balances
  • check up

also see:

  • blank check
  • claim check
  • in check
  • pick up (the check)
  • rain check
  • reality check
  • rubber check
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