English Go Terms / Discussion

Sub-page of EnglishGoTerms

See also: Liberty / Discussion

Using Japanese terminology raises the barrier of entry to the world of Weiqi. The terms are confusing, and hard to remember for a non-Japanese speaker. It makes much more sense as players in an English speaking country, to use English terms. In response to people's point regarding the lack of conciseness of certain English words versus Japanese, if one thinks long enough it's easy to see the point is moot. Turn-at-the-end-of-stone is unecessarily wordy, one could just say turning-stone.

Aside from the confusion aspect for non-Japanese players, there is also the cultural aspect. The game originated from China, and spread from there to Korea and Japan. Today, there are professional associations in all the aforementioned nations (amongst others). So what is it about Japan that makes it so special, that we must use Japanese terms, when one can easily come up with corresponding English terms?

I think that we should not use English terms in Go when there are so many good Japanese terms out there. Why say 'ladder' when we can say 'shicho', why say 'net' when we can say 'geta'.

Even worse, why say 'turn at the end of stones' when 'hane' is so much easier?

-- Morten Pahle, 13.11.00

I'll tell you why... because if I am in a discussion with someone tomorrow with someone and I want to convey the idea behind 'ladder' there's no way I'm going to be able to remember that Japanese word. Yet I still need to communicate the idea. Ladder makes sense to me, intuitively... but non-english words don't... that is until I learn them... which involves an additional cost. -- Matthew Simpson

Hu: Whatever happens, I hope that the other-language terms are not removed as aliases at least. I like being able to answer a question in KGS about, say, "hane", with "http://senseis.xmp.net/?Hane".

Scartol would just like to add:
"Motto" by Langston Hughes

I stay cool, and dig all jive,
That's the way I stay alive.
My motto, as I live and learn, is
Dig and be dug, in return.

While I agree that 'hane' is more convenient than the English phrase you propose, I think that using too many Japanese terms poses too high an entry barrier for aspiring Go students. Why say 'chuban' (which is rarely understood) instead of 'middle game'? There are only very few Japanese Go terms that don't have a nice counterpart in English, e.g. 'miai', 'atari', 'hane', 'aji'.

-- Arno Hollosi

Maybe the use of non-English terms may confuse the English-speaking beginner. However, I think that, sooner or later (and normally when you read your first book) the beginner will see the 'foreign' terms anyway - and he will still have to learn to use them.
Then again, not all the English terms are that obvious - you need to explain what a 'ladder' is to a beginner as well, you may as well explain what a 'shicho' is. Also, English is not everyone's first language - using the existing and accepted (Japanese) terms will at least create a common basis for understanding when speaking with other people.

Does anyone know whether other languages have their own versions of Go-terms?
Off the top of my head, I cannot think of a single term that the French have translated, for example.

-- Morten Pahle

(a) I have to agree with Arno on the Japanese vs. English topic. Most of the beginners/weaker players I know are more familiar with the English terms. So let's keep it simple.

(b) In German there are several translations of Japanese terms such as:

  • vorhand = sente
  • nachhand = gote.

I could even tell you that there is a German word for a snapback (=mausefalle), but I just don't know the Japanese term (see (a)). :-)

-- BIG M

Lion's mouth and tiger's mouth  

The two terms that Big M mentions, exist in Dutch as well. As far as I know, they have been 'copied' from the same terms in chess. The term 'muizenval' exists in Dutch too, but I think that 'snap-back' would be familiar to a larger part of the Dutch players. Most other Dutch go terms are either translations from English, or more or less funny terms that are used to enliven a talk rather than to be maximally clear. I do know however a friend of mine who is trying to introduce the terms 'leeuwenbek' ('lion's mouth') and 'tijgerbek' ('tiger's mouth') for the shapes in this diagram, and there is also a rather common term 'sliert' (hard to translate, perhaps 'string' would be best) for a weak, eyeless group in an elongated, wall-like shape. Still, because much of the go literature here is in English, English terms (such as snap-back) are introduced in Dutch go terminology as well as Japanese ones. For a look at what Go terms are typically being used in Dutch, see TermsInDutchGoMagazine.

By the way, the Japanese term for snap-back is 'uttegae'.

-- Andre Engels

(Snap-back is utte gaeshi.)

In my humble opinion, a lot depends on the native language. E.g. at our club we use Lithuanian, Russian and English in conversation due to the various nationalities of our players. I observed that the use of Japanese terms often depends on the language. E.g. we almost never use "geta" because all 3 languages offer a corresponding, easy usable word for it. On the other hand, "opening" is used when we talk in English while we usually stick to "fuseki" in Lithuanian because this language doesn't offer a good counterpart for it. (Of course, there is a word for "opening" but its meaning doesn't exactly suit "fuseki" in our opinion.)

As Arno pointed out, there are Japanese terms which cannot be adequately translated into one's own language (atari, miai, aji...). That's why every Go player comes to learn these necessary terms sooner or later. So why not learn a couple of words additionally to make conversation easier and more convenient? Of course, one shouldn't go too far with this. "Niken takabasami" is not something what one should really know. :)

Also, many of the Go terms are difficult to understand even for Japanese people who don't know Go. Any Japanese beginner has to be explained what "atari", "joseki" and so on mean. So even Japanese often are in the same situation like we "outworlders".

By the way I think that "shicho" would be rarely used in the Go world if people knew the exact Japanese pronunciation and would stick to it. Far too complicated for many westerners.

--Olaf "owl" Martens

I have found a wav file of the pronunciation of shicho on a website ([ext] http://users.ewa.net/omaxwell/go-pron/go-pron.htm). To listen, click [ext] here.


I have since I wrote the above heard two French versions of Japanese terms used.

  1. the infamous 'ladder' was described as "l'escalier" - the staircase. However, (and I was interested to hear this) the teacher also used "Shicho" in the same sentence and kept using "shicho", only repeating "staircase" when one of the beginners asked :-) It seems that a few foreign words just add to the mystical aura of Go, which fits in nicely with the French mindset :-))
  2. French for a 'snap-back' is..... "un snap". :-)

BTW - Olaf reminded me - check out the [ext] site by Odin Maxwell for how to pronounce Japanese-origin go terms by a native Go speaker.

-- MortenPahle

I just realized there is at least one important Dutch go term which I had mentioned yet: The 'bulky five' is called 'bijltje' (which means 'axelet') in Dutch.

-- AndreEngels

You remind me - I've heard the French refer to the bulky five as "le jeep" (as in the American car). It seems that the French prefer to translate into English rather than to their own language :-)

-- MortenPahle

There is a very good word list that translates Japanese go terms into Swedish: [ext] http://www.algonet.se/~palund/glossary/termer.htm

Compared to the wide use of Japanese terms in some English go books, we don't use Japanese terms at every opportunity in Sweden. For example, we say what corresponds to "two-space high pincer", not "niken takabasami", but may use either "hasami", the English word or the Swedish word for "pincer".

-- Arndt Jonasson

DaveSigaty: Another issue can often be seen when large groups of kibitzers are discussing high d* games on IGS. Many Chinese and Korean players are confused by the use of Japanese terms and have to ask what they mean. Naturally they know Go well but have never studied it in either Japanese or in English. I think that in such a situation people have a better chance of understanding the use of 'opening' than they do of 'fuseki'. Therefore I think that keeping the English terms (especially those made up of "every day" words) can make English a more useful international communication tool about Go.

Strange enough, Nobody here has ever mentioned Chinese Go terms though Go was born there thousands of years ago. --Winddrinker

Winddrinker makes an interesting point here. We tend to see the widespread use of English as an exponent of the political and economic supremacy of the anglo-saxon world - at least I do. So we could think it only fair to use original Go terminology as much as possible. But then again, the fact that it has come to us in Japanese, is a manifestation of Japanese political and economical supremacy in the east the past centuries.
So, put aside any political correctness, or the desire to stay close to the original, what should we do? In my opinion, the tremendous development Go has known in Japan, reflected on the deepness of their terminology, outweigh the effort done by English translators, given also the already mentioned fact that the majority of players are not native English speakers. But it remains a matter of taste. As a teacher (beginners only), I mention the Japanese terms little by little, re-explaining them often or per request, as most teachers and writers seem to do.
-- Dieter

As for Chinese terms, I know a number of them because I learnt the game of Go ('WeiQi' in Chinese) in the Chinese medium. It is only much later when I came into English Go literature when I knew some of the English (or is it Japanese in disguise?) terms for Go. I must admit that I don't understand Japanese - so I don't know many of the Japanese terms.

However, the main obstacle in putting Chinese characters on the Internet is that most PCs around the world don't support the Chinese language, including those in my country, which has a dominant Chinese population. I can put Chinese characters on this page if I wanted to, but it would appear as rubbish on most people's browsers.

For interested people, I will put a (random) list of terms in 'HanYu PinYin', i.e. English characters that approximates the pronunciation of the Chinese characters.

 hane - 'ban'
 ko - 'jie'
 ko threat - 'jie cai'
 capturing race, semeai - 'dui sha'
 bamboo joint - 'shuang'
 crane's nest - 'wu gui bu chu tou'
 knight's move - 'xiao fei'
 life and death - 'si huo'
 throw-in - 'pu'

For those who want to find out more, you can try reading the Chinese web pages - but you browser needs to support the displaying of Chinese characters first! To do so, go to any search engine and search for the word 'weiqi'. Good luck!


In general, I like translation, as long as it can be done simply and clearly. "Atsui" means thick, "karui" means light. Fine. But "tsume" means packing, better not translate.

But rendering go terms into English has also caused confusion. "Nozoki" means peek or peep, but somebody did not like the connotation of sex peep shows and peeping Toms, and translated it as "poke". "Mannen" means ten thousand years, but "thousand year ko" has entered English go terminology. A friend of mine who was learning go thought that there was a difference between a thousand year ko and a ten thousand year ko. "Nidan" means two-step. But a nidan bane is sometimes called a double hane, which has led to some confusion. And a one-move approach ko (itte yose ko) is sometimes called a two-step ko, while a two-step ko (nidan ko) is sometimes called something else. There would not be such confusion if the terms had been left untranslated. ;-)

-- Bill Spight

MikeNoGo: It's kind of ridiculous that they changed it to "poke" because of sexual connotations, considering the verb "nozoku" that "nozoki" is based off of is also used to describe what "Peeping Toms" do. So leaving the sexual connotation in is the proper way to translate it.

What's more important, I think - is having a page here translating the basics between all (some) foreign languages. We all notice the degree to which non-Asians have had trouble accessing go materials, at least until recently. I also see how there's a certain lack of communication amongst Asians. This goes deeper than just go, as people separate by culture anyway.

But it's not asking much for each player to understand some basic terms in more than one language. Yes, we can say ladder instead of shicho, lingering taste instead of aji, momentum instead of sente, etc... this is mostly an awful thing, I for one will just say aji, sente, ladder? economy of lip movement is important... :)

It can't be be a requirement to speak every term in Japanese, because then where do you draw the line between go terminology and the Japanese language?

Two points...

  1. In favoring Japanese terms, do we slight the Chinese or Korean? Generally no, because Japan is where everyone goes to study, and make a living.
  2. .Are there differences in thinking that arise from language constructs? Let's say the Chinese don't have a word for a specific sort of concept - like aji. Instead their word means something inbetween one concept and another... Like riper aji vs not ripe aji.

An example: a primary color in Chinese is qing, which refers to a Blue-green, not Blue, not green, but somewhere inbetween. This contradicts modern color thinking, where B+g is a mere tertiary color, arising from mixing a primary B with a secondary, Green (Blue+Yellow). Heck, We dont even call peoples or nations by the names they call themselves! Zhong Guo(China), Deutschland (Germany) Is this more than superficial? [1] Or look at pronunciation, and how the English V is kinda W-like in Russian, how you can have two different kinds of an H sound in Arabic, or in Japanese, how they organise sounds in syllables of consonant-vowel pairs. There are a lot of inbetweens where we often think the absolutes are.

One might surmise that if the basic building blocks of terms (language, concepts) are different from other places, then differences can arise in the thinking process and results, as well. [2]

Kgr?: This probably doesn't belong here but there are very few modern linguists that believe that differences in language cause differences (or at least significant differences) in thinking. To choose a relevant example, languages where the color systems are much more different than chinese relative to english have been studied, and it has been clearly shown that there is no difference in mental representation of color. I can dig up citations if someone actually cares, but my point is that it's probably not true to say anything at all like "chinese people think about go differently because they speak a different language." The hypothesis that the original writer here seems to have picked up on is usually called the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, in its strong form, and is unfortunately one of the most commonly believed linguistic fallacies.

Generally though, I think the cultural differences between Asian versions of go are slight and getting slighter, and Japanese is the Lingua Franca of go. For westerners to reject learning any of these terms on any conscious basis, is dumb. Just as it is equally unnecessary to learn all foreign terms - just for the sake of playing go.

Ben Barrett here did a nice job of making a cross-language dictionary [ext] http://pw2.netcom.com/%7Egogaku/english/sfgoclub/godic.htm but it's obviously incomplete with regard to the Korean and Chinese... but it's not clear to me that all these words have equal translations...

[1]: Interestingly enough, speaking of internationalism, the UN is in the process of unifying geographical names, to streamline things there...)

[2]: A pronounced example is religion, ie, where "Allah" and "God", mean in essence the same thing, but the isolated cultural differences create the modern perceptions of difference.(Ignorance, politicization, and illiteracy don't help) 'God,' 'Allah,' 'Eli,'(Aramaic - Christ's language) are preceded by 'Yahave' - YHVH (Hebrew) to represent "I am that am" - which is another way of saying "he who cannot be named" or: "he (non-gender) who trancends all concepts." Far closer, don't you think, to the Buddhist concept of God, and less like the superhero god concepts like Zeus or Thor. -ref J. Campbell... --Stevertigo

I just now edited English go terms. One of the things I did was link an English term to a Japanese one wherever possible. (In every case the page with the Japanese title is an alias of the English one, so the links still work the same.) I looked through the history after editing the page and saw that people have undone this in the past (see for example version 61). Is there a reason for this? I think might be nice for future editors of the page to see the English and Japanese side by side. -- David

BenjaminTsai: This would be because there is no reason to link to the Japanese term, especially as it's a list of English Terms. Why not link to the Chinese Term? Or Korean? Some English Terms are linked to aliases, but someday someone might decide to create a page separate from the Japanese term.

(moved from messages)

April 15, 2003:

Morten: Just some comments on some of the issues below. Although the majority of the pages on SL are currently (UK?) English, this is not a rule. (There are some pages in German). It was actually one of the things which Arno and myself had in mind in the very beginning of SL - the possibility of multiple languages being used. Noone should feel deterred from contributing something in another language than English.

As is pointed out, the nature of a wiki allows us to use several different terms with the same meaning, be they English, Japanese, Korean, Chinese or even Dutch - we do not need to chose a particular one and stick with it. Careful use of links and aliases will allow this.

The issue of 'Romanisation' is more awkward. I feel that changing the 'accepted' romanisation of a term should be avoided, although adding aliases with alternate spellings is fine. However be careful. If I have understood correctly, the normal english pronounciation of Oogeima is definitely not closer to the alleged correct spelling of Ogeima, for which Ohgeima is closer. Most of these issues should probably be discussed with one of our resident Japanese/Chinese/Korean speakers...

On a more general note, the current favourite form of a term is likely to change over the many years which we hope SL will exist. Setting up 'rules' which may be out of date in some time is counterproductive.

I am not sure whether 'plurality' is a good English word (I am pretty sure it is not a good Korean word :-) - but if it is, I think SL should embrace it.

Personally, I also find it one of the alluring things about Go - things are never as easy as they seem and the meaning of e.g. haengma to any player will change as he develops.

Bill: Well, if you want to make it clear that the first syllable in Ogeima is long, I would suggest Ohgeima, using a different romanization. Most English speakers would mispronounce Oogeima worse than they would Ogeima.
mAsterdam Yesterday, Arno said:

or rename the page. That way the new page still has all the history. I think most would agree that it is now right to rename Ogeima to Oogeima. But the edit page says (under the "Adjust pagetitle" entrybox) You are only allowed to change case, spacing, and [.,'-] characters in the pagetitle.

It would indeed be nice to preserve the history. However if it is not possible to do it easily - or make it easy easily I'll do it the way Charles described. Good Enough (TM) for me.

Charles On the general question see levels of access. On the particular matter, I wouldn't approve of that change. Other people here feel differently, but I prefer English-language terms and would think the right direction would be to 'large knight's move'. The romanisation oogeima is rare - in fact there are no backlinks at all for that spelling here at SL.

mAsterdam Ok. Thanks again.

A few remarks just to let you know what my feelings on this (for some sensitive) issue are. This is an international go site in English. The vocabulary here should - as much as possible - reflect the vocabulary in use by go-players when they talk about go in English. There may be some differences between the vocabulary used by native and non-native speakers. While it seems impossible to serve all uses in all languages - is it hard to serve both native and non-native speakers? I don't think so, and in practice SL does serve both. If some words are different in the different groups - use both, explain.

There is a complication, though. A lot of the terms (sometimes translations, sometimes copies or sound-alikes) originate in other languages: Japanese - we do not say Nihonese -, Chinese, Korean (haengma). Now if there is a problem with subtle differences in meaning it often helps to look where the words came from, the etymology. I have been playing go for just a few months. When I will have years of experience I will know what terms are the most common. As it is now I have to guess. Because I am uncertain about the use of terms in the English speaking go-community I stick as much as possible to the Japanese words (e.g. on Elementary moves) just to be on the safe side. I put in the kana - because I like them and - to make sure that it is possible to backtrace. Sumisu - Smith. I just hope the more experienced people will add to or replace the words I used to improve the text into whatever is common. In short: So Ogeima it is :-)

Charles Fortunately we can acknowledge all terms in use here - not like in a book where one should choose and be consistent. And the wiki way is surely to tolerate various ways in discussions, rather than to try to legislate.

SAS: Note that we can write ôgeima or ōgeima. This is clearly better than using "oo", which many people would pronounce as in "moon", or even as two syllables. (I don't think that ô or ō can be used in article titles. But, as Charles has already said, Large knight's move would be a better title anyway.)

BobMcGuigan: I'm not sure where the practice of ignoring long vowels in romanization came from. I know that Go World magazine has done it for a long time. For words like Oogeima (or whatever romanization you like) it could be argued that the spelling "Ogeima" has become an English word borrowed from Japanese for use in the context of go, as have many other words. Certainly there are many many words borrowed from other languages into English that have lost their original pronunciation. In fact the process of borrowing words is common in almost all languages and usually the pronunciation changes to suit the phonological customs of the destination language. So I advocate using "ogeima" when speaking or writing English, and saying oogeima when you are speaking Japanese. Oba (Ooba in Japanese) has common enough usage to perhaps be accepted as a borrowed word. "Kyuuba" probably doesn't.

Anonymous: Are there any English go terms that have been introduced into the Japanese language?

John F. Ignoring macrons for double (not long) vowels has the sanction of western official standards, especially for names such as Tokyo. It has a long pedigree. Many such practices arose in the days of the old mechanical typewriters which couldn't cope with accents anyway. Maybe we should take a stricter view with modern keyboards, though adding accents is still not straightforward. As to English terms in Japanese go, there are misuses such as riigu (league) meaning a round-robin, toonamento meaning a knockout (of the 16-8-4-2-1 type) rather than a tournament, hande for handicap (and we have swallowed this back into English so that we absurdly talk about the weaker player taking a handicap), and proper uses such as pro, ama, cup (except in title usages such as Yoda NHK Cup). There are composites such as pair go, and nicknames such as drill. From memory, the nadare was briefly called the "streamline" joseki in the 1930s and there was a fad for other western terms before then.There are plenty of others of this type, but I can't think of any for moves on the board just yet.

Charles I come across a few technical terms in katakana that turn out to be pace, balance and so on.

BobMcGuigan: Also in katakana is taimingu or "timing". Of course katakana suggests that a word might be borrowed into Japanese, but it isn't always from English. I've run across some unfamiliar katakana words which I failed to decode after repeated attempts at pronouncing them aloud only to realize that they were French or German originally. One katakana word, marginally go-related, whose origin I've never figured out is paramasu, the name for the phase of the old Kisei Tournament where, in a knockout, the dan champions played each other by increasing rank: 1d vs. 2d, winner against 3d, etc.

John F. Bob, paramasu is a great bete noire. John Power and I have spent hours on it over many years. We have never found it in a dictionary, nor has John P. found anyone at the Ki-in to explain it. I made a little headway a couple of years when I came across a Japanese colleague in the British Embassy in Tokyo whose hobby was reading dictionaries. She managed to find the term in one tome that did not give the derivation but said it came from ten-pin bowling. There is a New Jersey town called Paramus (nb -mus) which I gather is famous for a long road or shopping mall. It is pure speculation on my part, but I wondered whether this road/mall was likened to a bowling alley, or whether there was some event, rather like the notorious UK pub crawl, where people made their way along this road as if progressing along a ladder. James Davies calls it a Paramus ladder, and there is the possibility it may be a trade name of sorts. I forgot to ask James myself but I'm certain John Power did. So it remains a mystery, and several people will be grateful if it can be sorted out. Even an earliest date noted would help as the Japanese press publish enormous yearbooks (e.g. Imidas) which contain lists and definitions of all new words logged the previous year. The right year might point us to the right yearbook.

Bob: Well I doubt I have the resources to resolve the paramasu mystery and any suggestions I could make most likely have been thought of already, but here are some ideas: Has anyone asked the Yomiuri about this? They are the sponsor of the Kisei and maybe they, not the Ki-in, chose the term. As for the yearbooks of new words, I'd look in the ones around the year the Kisei tournament was first announced, which would be at least a year before the first one actually took place. No doubt this has all been tried already. I'll keep it in mind, though.

John F. Yes, John Power's been down this track. There are two problems, an easy and a hard one. The easy one is the meaning and this is what you get told if you ask about it. The hard bit is working out where it came from. It may not be English. As to the Kisei being the source, this is unlikely. As mentioned above it seems to have a tenpin bowling association, but it also was used in shogi. I once thought I'd found a good lead in statistics (a Greek chap had a similar name), and I always look hard at martial arts. John P has tried just as weird a collection! Incidentally, in case it gives someone else a clue, in shogi the usage is slightly different. Rather than using it for a structured part of one tournament, they used it only in the context of any league playoff. So if three players tied, the lowest two in terms of rank played off first, then the winner and the top ranker played to decide the league winner. Also, for those not familiar with Japanese borrowings, r may represent l and su may represent s or th.

Bob Myers: My theory is that paramasu is a combination of para, from the English word parallel, and masu, the Japanese word for box or grid. This is pure speculation. It's based on the idea that the games in the grid with players' names along the top and left are played in parallel. (Note that this describes the shogi usage, where apparently the term originated, more closely than the Kisei-sen usage.)

John F. Interesting idea. It wouldn't convince me for go or shogi, as these never use grids, but it would for tenpin bowling where the scorecard is a series of cells. But I don't know anything about Japanese tenpin so I don't know if they use masu for the cells. The idea of deferring the score in one cell until your following one or two balls if you get a strike or spare, and then cascading through, may have inspired the shogi-go usage. Remember that the one meagre fact we have so far is that a Japanese dictionary did say it came from tenpin.

Francis Vila? I am new to Go and I find it silly to use Japanese terms in the English language. I live in France and over here we spend a lot of effort trying to translate english terms into french, particularly in computers, which is my field. Go seems to me to be the least culture-specific game in the world; much less than chess, with it's kings and queens (originally vizirs, I believe), castles (originally elephants). Why put a barrier making it look like something esoterical and outlandish? Besides, the game was invented in China, and the masters seem to come indiferently from Japan, Corea and China. Also the english language is very good at inventing simple and highly graphic terms to represent abstract concepts. Expressions like "bottoming out", "U turn", "caving in"... to mention only a few, are difficult to translate into other languages.

Binky? Reading this page and the "Liberty discussion page", (which are both fascinating and annoying), it occurs to me that this discussion is more about linguistics than Go.

Go is a language all of its own.

Any two go players can have a good game without words. They can understand by demonstration whether the subject is a “ladder”, “shicho” or "l'escalier". I might not understand the difference between “shichō” and “shikō” if i was told about it, but i hope i would if i saw them on the board.

We only use words when we wish to talk to others about Go. The words we use depend upon the languages of the parties, but in any case, they are jargon. They will be meaningless to someone who does not play Go – whatever the language used.

Go is an international language too. OK, some countries have different rule sets. We should expect quite a few Japanese terms because their rule set is internationally most used and they did so much to develop the game. Sensei’s Library reflects the tyrannies both of the English language and Japanese Go terms!

So the discussion about liberties is useful because we learn that there are different sorts of liberties. If it helps understanding to use a different word for each type of liberty, why not use a ready made foreign word? Then each meaning can have a different definition – put in a glossary and cross-referenced (if the last editor likes it that way).

Unless someone can find a neater way of writing “hane”, “joseki” or “kō aji” in English, let us welcome the Japanese terms.

The English language is good at absorbing new words, and I would welcome further foreign Go terms of art, whether Chinese, Greek, Finnish or Dutch (as long as I can get my mouth round them).

SunPin? When I get an opportunity to introduce the game of Go, the first question I ask is, "do you want me to teach you the terms in English or Japanese?"

I am in southeastern Florida, only a few miles away from the beautiful Morikami Japanese Gardens so there's a very large chance that the person I'm talking to would like the opportunity to learn the Japanese terms.

I can do it either way. Opening, middle, endgame, ladders, nets, enclosures, approaches, cutting, cuts, corner sequences, one space jumps, two space jumps, knights move, large knights move, potential, framework, momentum, compelled to respond, ignoring… All the shapes have accessible English terms… The ONLY thing I wish I had a good English translation is the name of the game.

"Go" is the least horrible of horrible choices. I can get over this obstacle easily but I would really like to see the English world adopt something completely different. Battle? Chaos? Entropy? Equilibrium? I don't know.

That is a discussion there needs to take place. --Chris Uzal

I‘m a Chinese college student major in English that working on my graduation thesis. I got my 5 dan certificate during Elementary school.I’m trying to translate all the terminologies in the game into corresponding English. Could I use the material on your website? And I got a question, currently most of the terminologies are translated into English based on Japanese pronunciation. And those terms have been adopted by English speaking go players. As you may know its translation is totally irrelevant to the traditional meaning and connotation of the game which increasing the difficulties for you to learn. If I translate them into English based on the traditional meaning and connotation of the game, would it be accepted by English speaking go players? You know,the game was originated in China, it's based on a ancient mysterious pattern which reflects the universe, the board it's a vertical view of a pyramid. we call it it 手谈 which means commune with others only by hand thousands of years ago --Hanson

There is no problem referencing Senseis Library as a source. I would suggest that you make your own page initially, and work through various translations there. Once you get to know how the wiki you can start contributing to existing pages. I think it would be a case of making an alias in most cases.

Herman: There is a general movement towards English terms when short and clear alternatives are available to the Japanese term, e.g. enclosure instead of shimari, ladder instead of shicho, etc. This does not apply when there is no obvious English alternative, e.g. ko, miai and hane are short and widely understood, but there is no easy way to replace these with equally short English terms. Using English translations from Chinese, instead of established borrowed words from Japanese, is pointless. 99% of go players are not going to bother to find out what you mean or change their vocabulary, so you will just lose readers.

JohnF I want to echo what Herman says and also point out a major flaw. The oldest Chinese go vocabulary (the famous 32 terms of the Go Class in Thirteen Chapters) is barely used in modern Chinese, and even the vocabulary of the Ming and Qing only surfaces now in historical contexts. Many of the most important words and concepts in modern Chinese go are in fact borrowed from Japanese (e.g. tesuji and thickness). None of this is to deny China's central role in the origin of the game (which, however, is unlikely to go back thousands of years according to modern research). But go today is universal and being nationalistic about it is not a good way forward.

What would be useful is a discussion of those terms in Chinese which are used by today's Chinese players but which have no counterpart in, or an inexact fit with, other languages. But that would require good knowledge also of Japanese and Korean. I'm thinking along the lines of say haengma, in the case of Korean.

unkx80: Hanson, you seem to be perusing the same kind of project I and others undertook at Chinese Go Terms (or the much older mirror at [ext] http://yeefan.sg/weiqi/chinesegoterms/), and I can see where you are coming at. Sometimes I choose to supply a longer English translation instead of a shorter Japanese term (e.g., 点眼 - "placement inside opponent's eye" instead of "nakade").

You can use the list at Chinese Go Terms as a starting point for what you want to do. However, I do agree with both Herman and John in that you have to consider an international audience and use established terms, unless there is a relatively short English term that expresses the meaning exactly. One particular translation I particularly dislike is "golden chicken standing on one leg" - it is a literal translation of the Chinese term 金鸡独立 and probably makes no sense to those without a Chinese background - "double shortage of liberties" is so much better in my opinion.

Anonymous: Regarding the use of English or Japanese terms rather than Chinese or Korean, Go started its big growth in the West after the second world war. At that time there were not professional go organizations in China or Korea. The game was even somewhat supressed in China. Early development of the game started because of Europeans or Americans traveling to Japan and learning there. If they learned the language it was easy to find written material in Japanese from which to learn. Very early students of go include Korschelt (German) and Smith (British). Later, around the 1960's or '70's, visiting Japanese professionals such as Iwamoto made teaching trips to Europe and the US. The first books in a Western language that really offered the possibility of reaching dan level were published in English by Ishi Press, based on teaching by Japanese professionals. It is not surprising that those books (e.g. Basic Techniques and Strategic Concepts) used a lot of Japanese terminology. So the widespread use of Japanese terms and English substitutes outside of the Asian Go countries is largely a matter of history. As far as use of "foreign" terms is concerned, go is not unique. Chess has many of them, from different languages (e.g. zugswang, en passant, fianchetto). Chess originated in south Asia (India) or central Asia (Persia?) but I don't think there are many chess words from those countries in current use.

I have read all of the opinion you have generously offered. Now I got to finish my first version of the thesis. When it's finished, it's my pleasure to have discussions with you and clear the misunderstandings. After my thesis ,of course,I will put my final conclusion into the site and discuss with you. There are a lot of brilliant dictionaries about the game in Chinese, I'm sure if would be a great help if it's translated into English. It's a shame that the Chinese authorities did nothing about this. I'm agree with the opinion of Herman and JohnF. As I research, the outstanding contribution of Oscar Korschelt and some others will be mentioned. It's amazing for Japanese to make such a contribution that widely spread the game. However, there are a lot of history problems.I have to admit that in the 19th century, Japan go level can catch up with China, and in the following one hundred years, China was left far behind. As China was in war and people can not enjoy their game without enough food and shelter. I will remain some of the Japanese go terms in my version. However, As something mention above, the name of game remains a issue. 收官 which currently refers to the ending period of the game, it's from a book called 官子谱guanzipu which refers the proper moves of the game,it was introduced into Japanese later. when it was brought back to China, the meaning has changed and has adopted by Chinese. You know there are a lot of ancient books and record which is brilliant. If the terms were translated into English based on its meaning will surely decrease the barrier of entry to the world of Weiqi. In a way, I'm doing this as for spreading the culture influence of China which will surely amazed all of you.--hanson

[ext] http://yeefan.sg/weiqi/chinesegoterms/ It is a great help. Here is some of my opinion. False eye, I translate it into Deficient eye. As it means the eyes are Insufficient,Inadequate and defective. Heavy refers to a group of inefficient stones which I choose clumsy based on its meaning.As for “bad shape”, I try clumsy shape the same reason as "heavy". As you may know,sometimes a "bad shape" might be a brilliant move. So it's better in this way in the long term.--hanson

JohnF. Hanson: "deficient eye" is just bad English. False eye is not a translation from Japanese - it's pure, native English. We will never give it up. "Clumsy" is just plain wrong - that is not what the Chinese means either. The idea is "burdensome" (i.e. heavy). We cover the idea of bad shape being good by using terms like clear terms like "deliberate bad shape". Your references to the ancient names are dubious. Terms like Zhi Dun's shoutan (already well known here because of the program Handtalk) and Wang Zhonglang's zuoyin are whimsical names, not proper, mainstream names. Guanzi was never adopted into Japanese. They have always used native terms, yose only being the latest one. I can assure you we are all already amazed by Chinese culture, though many of us are also amazed by other cultures, too.

unkx80: Hanson, John has said everything I wanted to say (and even more), but since your message is directed to me, I'll just reiterate a few things.

  • False eye - If there isn't already an established term, then I might buy "defective eye". But "false eye" is already established more than a decade ago and is just as good - think along the lines of "false teeth", "false impression", etc. - it looks like something but it isn't real.
  • Heavy - Literal translation of 重, and basically both have the same meaning. Refers to groups that are too large or burdensome to easily give up, as opposed to "light" or 轻. It is another term that has been established eons ago.
  • Bad shape - Well, if a good move causes bad-looking shape, it is still bad shape. Don't we have 愚形妙手 (excellent move with bad shape) in Chinese as well?

FYI for John - I do not consider 手谈 (shoutan) a whimsical name - just another term for "playing Go". It appears have become mainstream in certain parts of the world. I distinctly remember that this particularly term was taught in my A-level Chinese textbook 15 or 16 years ago.

hanson: Forgive me for not being a native speaker, I‘m a beginner to the English terms.Thanks for illustrating my mistakes. Lots of words we speak now comes from Japanese. Chinese used to use ancient syntax and chosen words until Qing dynasty. I’m not aware of that. [ext] http://www.zhihu.com/question/22638720 here is an interesting page talking about unbelievable creation thousands of years ago,this site is similar to quora. don't know whether you can read Chinese. The game was based on Hetu(河图[ext] http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E6%B2%B3%E5%9C%96%E6%B4%9B%E6%9B%B8). The 1964 edition of encyclopedia Britannica determined the exact time was in 2356 B.C. [ext] http://global.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/236403/go The black and white stones were drawn from Yin and Yang in Hetu.[ext] http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E9%98%B4%E9%98%B3 The origin board consisting of 13 by 13 cross lines represents a four cone with ladder shape of six layers,the same shape as Pyramid of Djoser. The term "Tengen"=天元,(天refers to the sky,元refers to No.1) The square board is based on its universe view which could be considered as a vertical view of a pyramid. (first line is the bottom of the pyramid,second line would be the second floor and so on)Recent researches show that most of the temple in Egypt face toward Sirius which is the brightest star in winter. Sirius has a Binary system as described in pyramid scripture which has been proved in 19th century. The bigger one is the brightest star in winter while the smaller one is too dark to observe which got to be relevant to the black and white in the game. ,and my guessing.The point is there are lots of hidden knowledge inside this game which had been ignored after thousands of years. ,right? ( ) Is there any terms currently difficult to be understood? It seems that Japanese and elder have cover all of them.

Is there any translation for ”挖断,冲断,贴,卡,飞封,老鼠偷油,盖,勒,掖,嵌,后手死 ,先手活,后手活 ,出头,星小目,对角星,无忧角,星无忧角,搜根,后手X目,二五侵分,填目? It seems that a lot of important proverb and infallible rules in the game haven't been translated. It's much easier for children to learn as it is catchy.

unkx80: Here's a very quick partial translation. Do note that you have a number of term + term combinations, so each term can be translated independently.

Hanson: it seems that ”cap“ is borrowed from Basketball? corresponding to ”镇“ which is also translated into shut in or seal in. Cap in basketball is a fierce confrontation,I think it‘s better to described ”扳“ which is ”hane“ in English, you know ”hane“ is a fierce confrontation that could lead to double hane and and so on. English Go players have adopted ”hane“ for ”扳“ and ”cap“ for "镇”?

Oshi-Tsubushi in this page [ext] http://senseis.xmp.net/?OshiTsubushi could it be named as “connect and live”? as comparision to “connect and die

”? 卡,勒 ,掖,嵌 are techniques of similarites but in different situation, I need to find their differences.

卡眼 kǎ yǎn - falsify eye 卡眼 means to disable opponent’s eye,don‘t know its English expression

开花 (開花) kāi huā - ponnuki 大压梁 (dà yā liáng) - Da Ya Liang need to be translated 腾挪 (騰挪) téng nuó - sabaki 脱先 (脫先) tuō xiān - tenuki 先手 xiān shǒu - sente 手筋 shǒu jīn - tesuji 打 dǎ - atari these terms have adopted by you English players,I think it's impossible to change it. However, I think for the sake of following generations of beginners ,it’s better to update them. especially children to learn Go?

English Go Terms / Discussion last edited by on May 11, 2014 - 14:39
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