Etymology
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stake (n.2)

"that which is placed at hazard as a wager, the sum of money or other valuable consideration which is deposited as a pledge or wager to be lost or won according to the issue of a contest or contingency," 1530s, perhaps from stake (v.2), which is attested a few years earlier, but both the noun and verb are of uncertain origin. Perhaps literally "that which is fixed or put up," either from a particular use of stake (n.1) "stake, pole," or from the notion of "a post on which a gambling wager was placed" (but OED points out there is "no evidence of the existence of such a custom"). Weekley suggests "there is a tinge of the burning or baiting metaphor" in this usage.

Meaning "the prize in a contest of strength, skill, speed, etc." is by 1620s; plural stakes, "sum of money to be won in a (horse) race," is recorded by 1690s (compare sweepstakes). Meaning "an interest, something to gain or lose" is by 1580s; hence have a stake in "have an interest in the turn of events, have something to gain or lose" (1784). The phrase at stake "state of being laid or pledged as a wager; state of being at hazard or in peril" is from c. 1600.

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at- 

assimilated form of ad- "to, toward, before" before stems beginning in -t-; see ad-. In Old French and Middle English regularly reduced to a-, later restored.

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burning (adj.)

Middle English brenning, from Old English, "scorching, hot;" mid-14c. in figurative sense of "powerful, strong, ardent;" present-participle adjective from burn (v.)). The meaning "causing excitement" is by 1865 and is the sense in burning question (1865), which matches French question brûlante, German brennende Frage. Burning bush is from Exodus iii.2. It was adopted as an emblem by Scottish Presbyterian churches in memory of the 17c. persecutions. Burning-glass is attested from 1560s.

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stake (v.2)

"to risk, wager, put at hazard or risk upon a future contingency," 1520s, perhaps from the notion of "place a gambling wager on a post" or generally "put up something to be won or lost at a wager" (see stake (n.2)), though Weekley suggests "there is a tinge of the burning or baiting metaphor" in this usage. Related: Staked; staking.

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stake (n.1)

"pointed stick or post; stick of wood sharpened at one end for driving into the ground, used as part of a fence, as a boundary-mark, as a post to tether an animal to, or as a support for something (a vine, a tent, etc.)," Old English staca "pin, stake," from Proto-Germanic *stakon (source also of Old Norse stiaki "a stake, pole, candlestick,"Old Frisian stake, Middle Dutch stake, Dutch staak "a stake, post," Middle Low German stake "a stake, post, pillory, prison"), from PIE root *steg- (1) "pole, stick." The Germanic word was borrowed in Romanic (Spanish and Portuguese estaca "a stake," Old French estaque, estache, Italian stacca "a hook"), and was borrowed back as attach.

Meaning "post to which a person condemned to death by burning is bound" is from c. 1200, also "post to which a bear to be baited is tied" (late 14c.). Meaning "vertical bar fixed in a socket or in staples on the edge of the bed of a platform railway-car or of a vehicle to secure the load from rolling off, or, when a loose substance, as gravel, etc., is carried, to hold in place boards which retain the load," is by 1875; hence stake-body as a type of truck (1903).

Pull up stakes was used c. 1400 as "abandon a position" (the allusion is to pulling up the stakes of a tent); the modern American English figurative expression in the sense of "move one's habitation" is by 1703.

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stake (v.1)

early 13c., staken, "fasten to a stake, tether," from stake (n.1). Also "to impale" (c. 1400). From c. 1400 as "support (a vine, etc.) with stakes, provide with stakes or poles."

From early 14c. as "divide or lay off and mark (land) with stakes or posts," now usually with out (mid-15c.) or off . Hence, stake a claim "make and register a land claim" (1857, American English), often in a figurative sense (by 1876). Meaning "to maintain surveillance (of a place) to detect criminal activity" (usually stake out) is recorded by 1942, American English, probably from the earlier sense of "mark off territory." Related: Staked; staking.

Compare Middle Dutch, Middle Low German staken, also from the nouns, and Old French estachier, Spanish estacar, from their respective nouns, which were borrowed from Germanic. Old English had stacung "piercing of an effigy by a pin or stake" (in witchcraft); staccan "pierce with a stake, spit."

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at (prep.)

Old English æt, from Proto-Germanic *at (source also of Old Norse, Gothic at, Old Frisian et, Old High German az), from PIE root *ad- "to, near, at." Lost in German and Dutch, which use their equivalent of to; in Scandinavian, however, to has been lost and at fills its place.

At is used to denote relations of so many kinds, and some of these so remote from its primary local sense, that a classification of its uses is very difficult. [OED]

In choosing between at church, in church, etc. at is properly distinguished from in or on by involving some practical connection; a worshipper is at church; a tourist is in the church. In 19c. it was used for points of the compass as regions of a country (at the South) where later tendency was to use in.

The colloquial use of at after where (as in where it's at) is noted in Bartlett (1859). At last is recorded from late 13c.; adverbial phrase at least was in use by 1775. At in Middle English was used freely with prepositions (as in at after, which is in Shakespeare), but this has faded with the exception of at about.

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book-burning (n.)

"mass destruction by fire of published material deemed obscene, corrupting, etc.," 1850, from book (n.) + verbal noun from burn (v.). As an adjective, it is attested from 1726 (in John Toland, who was a victim of it).

What an irreparable destruction of History, what a deplorable extinction of arts and inventions, what an unspeakable detriment to Learning, what a dishonor upon human understanding, has the cowardly proceeding of the ignorant or rather of the interested against unarm'd monuments at all times occasion'd! And yet this Book-burning and Letter-murdring humor, tho far from being commanded by Christ, has prevail'd in Christianity from the beginning .... [John Toland, "The History of the Druids," 1726]
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stake-out (n.)

"act of surveillance (of a place) to detect criminal activity or find a wanted person," by 1942, American English, from the verbal phrase (1942), from stake (v.2) + out (adv.).

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stake-holder (n.)

also stakeholder, 1708, "one with whom bets are deposited when a wager is made," from stake (n.2) + agent noun from hold (v.). Originally one with whom bets are deposited when a wager is made. By 1965 as "one who has something to gain or lose" (in a business, etc.), "one who has an interest in" (something).

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