One of the examples used for the meaning of the word "illuminate" in Cambridge dictionary is:

to explain and show more clearly something that is difficult to understand:
an article which illuminates the issues at stake

I looked up the phrase 'at stake' online and I know it means at risk, but I still can not understand the meaning of the whole phrase 'issues at stake'.


Following explanation is added in order to prevent confusion about the answer I chose.

I had looked up the meaning of 'at stake' and 'stake' in at least three different dictionaries (Cambridge, Vocabulary.com, Oxford). What confused me was that I couldn't understand what does it mean for an issue to be at risk. That made me think maybe 'at stake' is not describing 'issues' but is related to how or where illumination is done. I couldn't find the connection between the meaning of 'issues at risk' and where the phrase 'at risk' comes from.


2 Answers 2


The phrase 'at stake' is idiomatic, which is what makes this hard to understand. The meaning of 'issues at stake' is similar to 'undecided questions' or 'unresolved conflicts'. To 'illuminate the issues at stake' means to explain the various perspectives involved in the questions or conflicts.

The phrase 'at stake' relates to this meaning because one side of the conflict is 'at risk' of losing or some answer to the question is 'at risk' of being considered incorrect.

  • Issues at stake isn't idiomatic. At stake is an idiom, but there is nothing remarkable about its usage together with the word issue.
    – user3395
    Commented Aug 17, 2019 at 13:24

“Stake” comes from card games and gambling, where the “stake” is the prize or the pot.

What has been put in the pot (what is at stake) will be won or lost.


when the police arrest you, your freedom is at stake.

“With Brexit looming, the future of Ireland is at stake”

USA Today / Yahoo News


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