Non-Japanese Loanwords used in English Go Discussions?

It appears that the vast majority of loanwords that are commonly used by English speakers to discuss go are borrowed from Japanese.

It seems hard to come up with any well known go-related loanwords from languages other than Japanese. The only examples that I can think of are weiqi (Chinese), baduk (Korean), and haengma (Korean). However, maybe haengma is not even that commonly used.

Are there any other examples?


There are more words for sure which may come from Chinese, Korean or even Japanese. Now it’s more about how useful or inspiring the players of other countries will feel about them.

Kibitz is a very popular go-related activity, the term is of German origin. I could also mention blitz.

I have heard the term Mu (point of territory), Chinese equivalent of the Japanese Moku.

I was wondering about “tiger’s mouth”. I don’t recall seeing it in traditional Japanese books, so it might have been borrowed from another language.


Kibitz is Yiddish, so like German-Hebrew, in origin.

Tiger’s mouth is originally from Chinese (虎口). According to this entry in a Japanese go-vocabulary dictionary the shape is known in Japanese as 猫の顔, i.e. cat’s face. Interestingly enough a tiger’s mouth with a small knight instead of a diagonal is called a dog’s face (犬の顔) and with the large knight it’s called the horse’s face (馬の顔).

I wish they had a shape search on that site…


As for words featured in sensei’s list of go terms used in English, I could only discover bang neki and mahn bang (apart from the ones mentioned above).

Perhaps Korean and Chinese terms get translated more often, since (in my opinion) Korean and, in particular, Chinese pronunciation is way harder than Japanese for an average English speaker. Most of Japanese consonants and vowels are quite similar to ones used in English, while Korean has all kinds of subtle differences in consonants, and Chinese has tonal vowels.


“Kibitz” is applied to a wide variety of games in the U.S., especially card games, and has been for a very long time (I would guess at least pre-WWII).


Is it that Japanese words are more easily borrowed? The Chinese origin phrases seem to be translated into English (elephant jump/eye, tigers mouth…). Is “golden chicken standing on leg” a thing anywhere other than senseis? My kids love that one!


It’s simpler than that: it’s just about whom we got the game and the books from. Just like fencing and cooking borrow from French, or tennis uses English.
In the 70s, China had other concerns than world expansion. Japan made the first move.


Sidenote: As czech I noticed we use borrowed words from english often too. “push” and “Squeeze” are quite popular.


Interesting. Why?

Completely agree. Now I am not so interested in how a kind of betting is named in Korea, if we started to list all kind of words it’s going to be a very long list.
Haengma did stay as a specific concept highlighted by Koreans, and there are maybe still a few other ones like that in Chinese or Korean. In Japanese the players did already chose the words going to be used from the ones a bit less attractive (popular isn’t maybe always a proof of it’s value ofc)

1 Like

I think it is because any czech equivalent I can think of sounds kinnda awkward and most of us participate in international community in some way and read books and other study material in english anyway so those terms come natural.


I see. Sounds good as I am always a bit afraid of “fashion” use

Mu is actually a Chinese translation of Moku. It also means eye in Chinese.

Could you provide a reference? Everywhere I check, Moku is associated with count, not just eyes.

Oh, when I say mu=eye, it is just in chinese language, not as a go term. :smile:

As far as I know, Chinese for eye (outside weiqi) is Yan Jing.

true also.

Thank you everyone for contributing to this discussion.

I was curious about this since other discussions have recently brought up how much Japanese culture has influenced the introduction of go outside of Japan, Korea, China. That caused me to realize how much go terminology in English are just loanwords from Japanese, while there being relatively very few loanwords from other languages.

However, I had not thought about what English terms/phrases that would be directly translated from another particular language. Establishing the direct etymology can be tricky. For example, the corresponding Chinese and Japanese phrases for the nose tesuji both use their respective word for nose, it seems.

I wonder about the etymology for “rabbity six”. In Chinese and Japanese, it seems that the corresponding phrases are literally “flower six”. In Chinese, it also seems to be called “grape six”. I’m not sure what the Korean phrase means if translated literally.

I also just found these pages on Sensei’s Library:

1 Like

“Review” comes from french word “revue”
“Group” comes from a latin word “cruppo”
“Run” comes from old norse word “rinna”
“Two” comes from proto-germanic word “twai”

And so on… Most words used in any english discussion are loanwords, and vast majority of them are non-japanese.