Confusing words

Confusing words: G

gamut, gambit, ambit

  • Gamut refers to the full range or scope of something.
  • Ambit means the scope, extent, or bounds of something.

The words are fairly interchangeable. In most contexts you could use either correctly.

Sometimes people get mixed up and say “gambit” when they mean gamut or ambit. This is incorrect. The word gambit is most commonly used to describe an an act or remark calculated to gain an advantage, especially at the outset of a situation. Its more specific meaning is a move within the initial moves of a chess game in which a player sacrifices a pawn or other low-value piece to gain an advantage. You probably don’t need to say “opening gambit” because a gambit is by definition an opening or early move.

And don’t confuse any of the foregoing with gamete, which is something in reproductive biology.

You can read about the difference between gamut, gambit and ambit and a whole lot more, in the Clifford & Co editorial style guide.