What Does To Cheat at Something Mean?

Cheat at Something Meaning

Definition: To break the rules to gain an advantage or increase one’s chances of winning, especially in games or sport.

The phrase to cheat at something means to use dishonest means to give oneself an advantage or a greater chance of winning. People commonly use this phrase in reference to gaming and sports, where the incentive to cheat is high.

Although it has a very similar meaning to the phrase cheat on something, this phrase is used in a slightly different context.

Origin of To Cheat at Something

Meaning of cheating at somethingThis phrase has a slightly different meaning to the very similar phrase to cheat on something. When this phrase uses the preposition at, it usually refers to a game or sport. Native English speakers rarely say, “He cheated on poker.” Instead, they say, “He cheated at poker.”

However, to cheat on something has virtually the same meaning as to cheat at something.

If a student cheats on a test, the student has broken the rules in an attempt to secure a better grade. Native English speakers would not normally say, “He cheated at the test.” They would be more likely to say, “He cheated on the test.”

The reason for the difference in use is unclear.

Examples of To Cheat at Something

Define cheating at a gameAn example conversation between a young boy and his mom illustrates the correct use of this phrase.

Barry: Mom! Jerry cheated at checkers, and I lost the game!

Mom: Jerry, you shouldn’t cheat at checkers. Cheating takes all the fun out of the game.

More Examples

  • Mrs. Leslie threatens to reveal the contents of a letter Thayer has written to Lady Helen, and to pacify Mrs. Leslie, Thayer consents to cheat at cards with the hope of winning a high stake. – NY Times
  • Oscar de la Hoya says he saw Donald Trump cheat at golf – on his own course. – The Washington Post


The English phrase to cheat at something means to break the rules to give oneself an advantage. It is a common phrase in the context of sports and gaming. It has a similar meaning to the phrase to cheat on something.