Lottery is a method of raising money for some public charitable purpose in which a large number of tickets are sold and a drawing is held for certain prizes. It is a form of gambling and some governments outlaw it, while others endorse it or organize state or national lotteries. Unlike most forms of gambling, in which payment of some kind of consideration is required for a chance to win, modern lotteries do not require any consideration to be paid for the chance to win.

The word is believed to have come from a Middle Dutch noun, loter, meaning “lot”, from the Old French noun loterie, from Latin lotia (“selection by lots”). It was used in the early 17th century as an alternative to taxes as a way to raise funds for public projects, such as roads and canals. In colonial America, private lotteries were popular and were often advertised in the newspapers. Lotteries also were used to finance colleges, including Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale, Columbia, and the University of Pennsylvania. In the 1770s the Continental Congress voted to hold a lottery to fund the American Revolution.

A lottery is a game in which numbers are drawn at random for a prize, with the odds of winning being very low. The game is played in most states and the District of Columbia and involves buying a ticket or multiple tickets to enter a draw. The winner is the person whose numbers match those drawn. The largest jackpots are in the multi-state games such as Powerball and Mega Millions.