1590s, "the mutual pledging of things of value to be won or lost based on some future event," appearing simultaneously with the verb, originally in the argot of petty criminals, a word of unknown origin. Perhaps a shortening of abet or else from obsolete beet "to make good" (related to better). The original notion is perhaps "to improve" a contest by wagering on it, or to encourage a contestant. Or perhaps the word is from the "bait" sense in abet. Meaning "that which is wagered" is from 1796.
1590s, "pledge as a forfeit to another who makes a similar pledge in return," originally in the argot of petty criminals, a word of unknown origin; see bet (n.), which appeared about the same time. Intransitive sense of "lay a wager" is from c. 1600. Used since mid-19c. in various American English slang assertions (bet your life, 1848; bet your boots, 1856; you bet "be assured," 1857, identified in Century Dictionary as "originally California slang").
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