Gwyddbwyll, the Welsh for Chess

Chess. The most consistent strategy i have for distracting my mind from how bleak it is out there.

Interestingly, most of the names for chess in the Germanic languages — for example, the Dutch schaak — relate to the terminology of assault and victory, resembling English check: the penultimate threat to the King’s life and the ensuing possibility of defeat.

Welsh etymology, however, feels quite different in connotation:

gwyddbwyll (pronunciation) indicates the presence of several lexical roots:

gwydd (wood)

– but see also gwydd / gwybod: to knowas in the older Welsh form gwyddaf i (I know), in contrast to the modern Welsh dw i’n gwybod;

gwydd, knowledge, is thus also present in words such as gwyddoniaeth (science);

bwyll, the soft mutated form of pwyll, means to do something carefully, prudently, and without rushing.

Therefore, the Welsh word for chess — gwyddbwyllimplies some really lovely nuances:

be patient with this knowledge;

employ the movement of the wood(en pieces) with discretion and care;

do not rush the board.

Similarly, the Old Irish word for Celtic variants of chess — fidchell, the cognate to gwyddbwyll also translates as “wood sense” or “wooden wisdom”.

Wnei di ddysgu fi sut i chwarae gwyddbwyll?

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