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I went through the Wiktionary as well as Webster's dictionary, and I still couldn't find what definition of at is being used in:

The great debts we pay for a desperate chance at that dream.

Source: This Youtube video.

EDIT: The second definition from Webster's dictionary doesn't really help in the context above, aiming a "chance" at a "dream" seems rather ambiguous to me.

  • At the very least, we should know which dictionaries you've already tried. Even better, you might explain why none of those definitions seemed to fit this usage. – J.R. Aug 6 '19 at 17:04
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    We usually speak of having a chance of [doing something] (NOUN = a possibility, an opportunity), but in your exact context chance has more the sense of a VERB attempt, go, stab, shot (to realise that dream, to make it happen). All those synonymous verbs take at rather than of, which I guess is why your cited writer chose that preposition. It's not great phrasing though, imho. Whatever - the relevant "definition" for at there would be the same as, for example, Let me have a try at answering the question (identifying the target, aim of an action). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Aug 6 '19 at 17:05
  • @ColinFine: Agreed in principle. But isn't it really a fairly standard usage of at alluding to (metaphorical) "location, direction, target" of an "action"? Or maybe a chance / opportunity to perform the relevant goal-oriented action (which in context is assumed to be almost synonymous with achieving the goal). – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Aug 6 '19 at 17:13
  • @ColinFine Webster's Third has the following definition of chance (noun, sense 2): "a circumstantial situation affording the possibility of effectuating some objective : opportunity", with sub-definition b.: "an opening for a try, venture, or grasp", under which there's an example: 10 years after his death historians will get a chance at his personal file. Would that satisfice? I doubt this is anything other than that, just without the verb get or have, which might well have been present in the original. At worst, it's FumbleFingers' at in the metaphorical sense of "toward". – userr2684291 Aug 6 '19 at 18:44
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I'll start by analyzing the phrase:

a chance at that dream

Per the answer to this other question, the phrase a chance at [X] means an opportunity to achieve [X]. This fits with one of the definitions of chance: "a situation favoring some purpose; opportunity".1 Dream in this context means "a strongly desired goal or purpose".2

So "a chance at that dream" translates to "an opportunity to achieve that goal".

Now let's look at that definition of at from Merriam-Webster that you weren't sure about:

(Entry 1 of 6) 2. —used as a function word to indicate the goal of an indicated or implied action or motion

(https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/at)

We've already established that dream is a "goal". And while a chance or opportunity is not itself an action, it encourages a course of action or makes it possible; in other words, it implies an action. So the at in your example phrase is "used as a function word to indicate the goal of an...implied action".

In short, the definition fits.


1 https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/chance, entry 1, definition 2

2 https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dream, definition 4a

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