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Chess piece - Black pawn.jpg


Middle English pown, from Anglo-French peoun, paun, from Medieval Latin pedon-, pedo, peon foot soldier, pedestrian from Latin ped-, pes foot

Though the name origin of most chess pieces is obvious, the pawn's etymology is fairly obscure. Since chess became prevalent in mainstream society, many new uses have derived from the word. "Pawn" is often taken to mean "one who is easily manipulated" or "one who is sacrificed for a larger purpose". Because the pawn is the weakest piece, it is often used metaphorically to indicate unimportance or outright disposability, for example, "He's only a pawn in their game."


  • 1: one of the chessmen of least value having the power to move only forward ordinarily one square at a time, to capture only diagonally forward, and to be promoted to any piece except a king upon reaching the eighth rank
  • 2: one that can be used to further the purposes of another


The pawn (♙♟) is the most numerous and (in most circumstances) weakest piece in the game of chess, representing infantry, or more particularly armed peasants or pikemen. Each player begins the game with eight pawns, one on each square of the rank immediately beyond the main pieces. (In algebraic notation, the white pawns start on a2, b2, c2, ..., h2, while black pawns start on a7, b7, c7, ..., h7.)

Pawns are differentiated by the files on which they currently stand. For example, one speaks of "White's f-pawn" or "Black's b-pawn", or less commonly (using descriptive notation), "White's king's bishop pawn" or "Black's queen's knight pawn". It is also common to refer to a rook pawn, meaning any pawn on the a- or h-file, a knight pawn (on the b- or g-file), a bishop pawn (on the c- or f-file), a queen pawn (on the d-file), a king pawn (on the e-file), and a central pawn (on either the d- or e-file).

Because pawns differ greatly from the other pieces, the use of the word pieces in chess literature usually excludes pawns, though this distinction between "pieces" and "pawns" is not found in the official rules.[1]