[countable] A gambling game or method of raising money in which tickets with numbers are sold and prizes are awarded in a drawing. Often state-sponsored and operated as a monopoly to generate revenue for public purposes. Also used to describe anything whose outcome appears to depend on chance: They considered life to be a lottery.

The word is thought to be from Middle Dutch loterije, a calque on Middle French loterie and a diminutive of Old English hlote, the action of drawing lots for ownership or other rights. It has been used to raise funds for towns, wars, colleges, and public-works projects in Europe since the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In the United States, a lottery was first introduced in 1612 to support the Jamestown settlement. Today state governments operate the majority of lotteries, which generate billions in revenue each year and are used for everything from school construction to college scholarships.

While lottery winners are euphoric in the short term, their financial security can vanish rapidly without careful planning and disciplined investment strategies. Winners can choose to receive their winnings in a lump sum or annuity payments. A lump sum allows winners to immediately invest their money in a wide range of assets, but it is important for them to consider long-term financial needs and to seek the advice of a qualified professional. The choice of a lump sum or annuity payment may affect taxation and investment options.