Chess Around the World

Since being in Europe, I've noticed that we don't all call our chess pieces the same things. I find the differences fascinating. Below is a table of the names of the pieces translated into English. So far, I only know about German and Bulgarian names. If anyone from any other countries/cultures would like to contribute, please add a comment.

American KingQueenRookBishopKnightPawn
German KingLady\*TowerRunnerJumperFarmer
Bulgarian KingQueenCannonOfficerHorseFoot Soldier
Turkish\*\* KingVizierCastleElephantHorsePawn
Spanish\*\* KingQueen/LadyTowerAlfil\*\*\*HorsePeon
French\*\*\*\* KingLadyTowerJesterKnightPawn

\* I suspect that the Germans use "lady" instead of "queen" because in German, "king" (König) and "queen" (Königin) both start with 'k'. "Lady" (Dame) doesn't, which makes game notation easier. The same thing applies to playing cards.

\*\* Thanks, Ahmet!

\*\*\* The spanish word, el alfil, does not appear to have a meaning outside of chess. As Ahmet suggested in his comment, it seems likely it's derived from the Arabic word for "elephant."

\*\*\*\* Thanks, Bruno!

(I just happened across this site, where there's a much more thorough list of chess piece names, but they don't translate them back into English!)

Comments:

Here are the Turkish names and meanings Pawn : Piyon (pawn) Knight : At (Horse) Bishop : Fil (Elephant) Rook: Kale (Castle) Queen: Vezir (Vizier) King: $ah (it is like Shah, cannot right the Turkish character. means King in Persian) check! : $ah! (King!) check mate : $ah mat. castling : Rok

Posted by ahmetaa on August 30, 2005 at 09:52 AM PDT #

with my broken spanish, i will write spanish piece names too.
chess: ajedrez
pawn: el peón (means pawn, or foot soldier i assume)
bishop: el alfil (originated from Arabic name "fil" meaning elephant.)
Knight: el caballo (horse)
rook: la torre (Tower or fortification)
Queen: la Reyna or la dama (meaning is same as german one i think. lady-queen)
king: el Rey (King)

Posted by ahmetaa on August 30, 2005 at 03:00 PM PDT #

Hi there ! What led me here was one of your annotated games on GK, Dan. :-) So I thought I might leave a comment about French pieces names:

King: King (Roi) Queen: Lady (Dame) Bishop: Jester (Fou) Knight: Rider, or Horseman (Cavalier) Rook: Tower (Tour) Pawn: Pawn (Pion)

Just a few comments about these:

French people say "Dame" (Lady) exactly for the same reason as German People: King is Roi, and Queen is Reine, in French, so game notation would be a problem otherwise. Bishop is "Jester", in the historical way: the man whose job was to be a kind of fool for the king's amusement. Regards,

Posted by greenpawn on July 13, 2006 at 06:57 PM PDT #

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