Today we’re looking at the words for chess and related things in Celtic languages.
According to legend, the ancient Irish game of fidchell was invented by Lugh (god of light and inspiration) in the 9th century. It played an important role in the celebrations at the Festival of Lughnasa (in August), and was played by kings, druids, warriors – more details. See also: https://totallyirishgifts.com/fidchell-the-ancient-celtic-chess-game/.
The old Welsh game of gwyddbwyll is mentioned in medieval Welsh literature, however there are no surviving examples of the game.
Chess is thought to have originated in India in the 6th century AD, and was brought to Britian by the Normans in the 12th century.
|Old Irish (Goídelc)||fidchell [ˈfɪðʲçɛlː] = an old Irish board game similar to chess|
|Irish (Gaeilge)||ficheall [ˈfʲɪhəl̪ˠ / ˈfʲɪhəl̪ˠ / ˈfʲɪçəl̪ˠ] = chess, chessboard
flcheallacht = chess-playing
flcheallaí = chess-player
clár fichille = chessboard
fear fichille = chessman
fíann/forieann fichille = set of chessmen
|Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig)||fidhcheall = Celtic chess|
|Manx (Gaelg)||feeal = chess
feealee = chess player
fer feeal, babban feeal = chess piece
claare feeal = chessboard
|Proto-Brythonic||*gwɨðbuɨll = a board-game similar to chess|
|Middle Welsh (Kymraec)||gvytbuill, gvydbvll, gvydbvyll = one of the twenty-four feats of skill or prowess performed in Wales in medieval times; a board-game similar to chess|
|Welsh (Cymraeg)||gwyddbwyll [ˈɡwɨ̞ðbʊɨ̯ɬ] / ˈɡʊi̯ðbʊi̯ɬ] = chess; knowledge, learning, science; reason, sense, discretion
gwyddbwyllwr = chess player, chess piece, chess man
|Cornish (Kernewek)||gwydhbol = chess|
|Old Breton||guidpoill, guidpull = chess|
|Breton (Brezhoneg)||gwezboell = (Celtic) chess
gwezboellet = chequered
Etymology from the Proto-Celtic *widukʷēslā [source], *widu (wood), from the Proto-Indo-European *h₁widʰ(h₁)-u-s [source]; and *kʷēslā (mind, sense, wisdom, intelligence, meaning), from the Proto-Indo-European *kʷeyt- (to notice) [source].
The English word wood also comes from the PIE root *h₁widʰ(h₁)-u-s, via the Middle English wode (wood), the Old English widu, wudu (wood) the Proto-West-Germanic *widu (forest, tree, wood), and the Proto-Germanic *widuz (wood) [source].
See also the post about Trees, Wood(s) & Forests
In Welsh, chess is also sies or ses, which were borrowed from the Middle English ches(se) (chess, chess set, chessboard, chess pieces) [source].
|Middle Irish (Gaoidhealg)||táiplis, táibhleis = tables, backgammon, backgammon-board|
|Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig)||tàileasg [taːl̪ˠəsg] = chess, backgammon, draughts / checkers|
|Manx (Gaelg)||tawlish = draughts / checkers
tawlish beg = draughts / checkers
tawlish mooar = backgammon
|Welsh (Cymraeg)||tawlfwrdd, towlfwrdd, tolfwrdd = a board game similar to chess, game-board; chess; chessboard, draughtboard|
Etymology: from the Old Norse tafl (chess-like game, chess, backgammon), from the Latin tabula (tablet; board, plank) [source].
Words marked with a * are reconstructions.
Sources: Wiktionary, Am Faclair Beag, Online Manx Dictionary, Teanglann.ie, eDIL – Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language, In Dúil Bélrai English – Old Irish glossary, Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, Gerlyver Kernewek, Gerlyvyr Cernewec, Dictionaire Favereau, TermOfis, Le dictionnaire diachronique du breton, Geriafurch, English – ProtoCeltic WordList (PDF), Etymological Dictionary Of Proto Celtic