While watching The Queen's Gambit my partner asked me: why do they say "checkmate"? But she wanted to know what is the origin of this expression, not its meaning. And I realized I didn't actually know. So, what is the origin of the expression "checkmate" and its etymology?

1 Answer 1


According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, checkmate comes from the Middle English chekmaten, which is derived from the Anglo-French eschec mat. And this came from the Persian shāh māt through the Arabic language.

The Persian word shāh means king. (With a definite article, it becomes as-shāh, the king.)

But I found two different interpretations for māt:

So, as-shāh māt -> checkmate = the king is dead!

  • Also the word “מת” in Hebrew means death. It could be a source... Transliterated, it is “meit”. (Sorry I cannot do the phonetic thing lol)
    – fartgeek
    Commented Nov 4, 2020 at 21:14

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