Non-Japanese Loanwords used in English Go Discussions?

Well, it wasn’t my intent to ask that broad of a question. I thought it would be clear, without requiring pedantry, that I meant specifically the loanwords initially introduced into English for discussing the game of go.

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I think it’s just good fun, at least that was my intent with the first reply.

You were asking about terms " used by English speakers to discuss go", and I thought kibitz was the perfect match for that definition :slight_smile:

Interesting words are concepts that you can only translate in a text of words, and which players find enough meaningful (and repetitive) for the game.
In Chinese for what I know most, the characters associated to these are specific to weiqi, a Chinese reader who don’t play weiqi will not understand them and I estimate these characters to be like around a few hundreds.
Now it would be interesting to see the ones existing or not in each of the 3 countries. And the ones which could be of some fundamental understanding of the game. The ones the history made obsolete and the new ones…

Let’s see one example: there are two words in Chinese for “depriving/giving” a life base mostly used in the beginning of the game, as this may be a fundamental in the opening ( like to play them before big moves). I know them, but is there identical concepts in korean/Japanese? Is this an obsolete concept? Is it too narrow idea to become part of the go terms?

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I agree. :slight_smile:
I am italian, but mostly play online on OGS where usually I can communicate to other people in english.
Also sites (sensei, the interactive way to go, blogs) and youtube channels (dwyrin, haylee, etc.) that I use or follow are in english, so I learned more about Go from english language than from italian.

So now I usually say “enclosure” because I don’t have a good italian term to translate it. Same for my friends at the go club.
Obviously we also use many japanese terms as english speakers do.

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Actually, in Chinese, Yan Jing (眼睛) is used in modern time while Mu (目) was used to mean eye in ancient time (now it’s typically used in other words and with extended meanings). Some references:目


I’m german and like my italian and czech colleagues, I have basically learned go “in english”, i.e. I have learned it from english sources. So, while there seem to be a few german words (like “treppe”, literally “stairs”, for a ladder), I don’t use them. The go-section in my brain is basically completely english. This made explaining concept to newcommers somewhat hard to explain at times.

(This is and enclosure ah…a…uh… Einschließung?)


It’s called Eckabschluß — at least in the translation of “The Second Book of Go”.
Another fine creation is Klemmzug for pincer; accurate but unwieldy.

I think in english about Go too (including the ladder which really should be a stair).
But i like the japanese loanwords a lot.


Yeah in Czech we call them stairs as well. And it has been bugging me for ages, why on Earth do you people call it “ladder”? :smiley: it’s CLEARLY stairs! :smiley: is there some reason? some obscure translation from Chinese words or something? Does anyone know?


Yes, I remember Klemmzug (“clamping move”), now that you mention it (I have a german translation of Lesssons in the Fundamentals of Go). My problem with it is, how to I call a clamp? If anything, I would call a pincer “zange”, just like the military term pincer attack - Zangenangriff. And clamp - klemme, or klemmzug.

And I think thoughts like these are the reason why sticking to english is the best solution :wink:


It’s interesting to also hear about go terminology in languages other than English, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean.

I wonder about this as well. I just spent a few minutes plugging the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean terms (from into Google translate. None of these terms seem to have anything to do with (literal) ladders or stairs.

Interestingly, one of the Chinese terms listed for ladder is 扭羊头, which Google translate says means “twisting sheep head”.


Fun question, i’ve pondered this myself too xD
Maybe it’s called a ladder, because running a ladder kinda looks the same as climbing a ladder, like one limb at the time?


Sure, the analogy makes sense, but doesn’t “stairs” seem like a much better one, given the visual similarity?

It’s better to picture a step ladder rather than a ladder with rungs.


Yep, those terms are much better, but i don’t really like the translation of that book anyway (not that i know the original).
Which ones are the terms in the german “Lessons…”?

The other day i played a loose ladder which — in retrospect — shouldn’t have worked; it felt like trying to twist off a sheeps head. :smiley:

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That’s a great point. I had not considered that, but now that you say it, I can see how that might have been the inspiration to whoever coined the term “ladder”.

It’s really interesting how language works to create broadly defined concepts that we nonetheless try to boil down to prototypical examples. It’s hard to say exactly what a “ladder” should look like, since the category is so broad, but we likely all have our own mental picture of the typical ladder.

I think the Pictionary game help illustrates what I mean. Like, if I had to draw the word “ladder”, I would probably doodle something like this:

And if I had to draw “stairs”, I would make something like this:

But, now seeing your point, if I were forced to convey specifically “step ladder” with a picture, I guess I would have to do something like this:

It’s still not a perfect visual analogy, but thinking about it does moves my mental picture of a “ladder” closer to a “twisting sheep head”.


Just for the fun of it, don’t quote me.

The other two chinese terms of ladder are about the same. They mean a march or long trip.

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It has to be ladder between ladder and stair, because ladder traditionally is made of wood, the same as the go board. :joy:

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Maybe ladder captures better the idea of hazard associated with the position :slight_smile:

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What I also find interesting is for which words Japanese vs. English is more common.

Japanese only:
joseki (vs. “established sequence with locally even result”… understandably)
hane (vs. “reach-around”, seems to be the only “type of move” that has no English name)
tesuji (vs. “finesse” or “best local move”)
dame (vs. “neutral point”)
atari (vs. “to reduce a group’s liberties to one” or “one move away from being captured”)
ponnuki (vs. “to capture one stone” or “the shape resulting from a one-stone capture”)
aji (vs. “uncertainty left in a local position”)
tengen (vs. “the intersection at the center of the board”)
seki (vs. “mutual life”)
komi (vs. “white’s compensation”)
ko (I’m not even gonna try… any takers?)

Japanese only, but rarely used regardless
sabaki (vs. “flexible play inside opponent’s area”)
tewari (vs. “evaluation by means of transposition”)
aji-keshi (vs. “removing uncertainty from an opponent’s position too early”)
hane-tsugi (vs. “connecting reach-around on the first or second line”, although “hane-connect” is sometimes used)

More common in Japanese than English:
kosumi (vs. “diagonal”)
semeai (vs. “capturing race”)
moyo (vs. “framework”)
sente (vs. “forcing” or “initiative” or “preserving initiative”)
gote (vs. “losing initiative”, although sometimes people just say “losing sente” or “not sente” instead)
tsumego (vs. “life and death”)
byo-yomi (vs. “overtime”)
suji (vs. “flow of stones” - in my experience, suji > flow of stones > haengma, but all seem to be rather rarely used)

Slightly more common in English than Japanese:
small knight (vs. keima)
large knight (vs. ogeima)
endgame (vs. yose)
enclosure (vs. shimari)
approach (vs. kakari)
lack/shortage of liberties (vs. dame-zumari)
opening (vs. fuseki)

Much more common in English than Japanese:
kick (vs. kosumi-tsuke)
extend/push (vs. nobi)
tiger’s mouth/hanging connection (vs. kake-tsugi)
net (vs. geta)
liberty (vs. dame, which is only used in the sense of “neutral point”)

English only
shoulder hit (vs. kata-tsuki)
attach (vs. tsuke)
pincer (vs. hasami)
clamp (vs hasami-tsuke)
wedge (vs. wari-komi)
cross-cut (vs. kirichigai)
jump (vs. ikken-tobi)
elephant eye/jump (vs. hazama-tobi or chikiri-tobi)
connect-and-die (vs. oi-otoshi)
eye (vs. me)
eye shape (vs. gankei)
base (vs. konkyo)
ladder (vs. shicho)
extension (vs. biraki)

You guys got more? :slight_smile: Or disagree with any entries?


Added a couple…