The word zugzwang means a move in chess which forces your opponent to make a detrimental move; a move causing all of your opponent's options to be moves which will worsen their situation. Although it is definitely an English word, appearing in most English dictionaries, when I have tried to find out the origin of the word the only information I have found is that it is a German word meaning "compulsion to move".

Does anyone know how this word entered the English vernacular?

  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because a small amount of research would have provided the answer. Commented Mar 26, 2020 at 7:40
  • There are plenty of words 'borrowed' into one language from another. Commented Mar 26, 2020 at 8:59

1 Answer 1


Apparently it entered the English language from publications on “chess game” around the 1930s. From which its usage spread to to other game and sports.

Usage notes: Zugzwang typically refers to a situation in which a player is forced to make a disadvantageous move though he or she would prefer not to make a move.

(Wiktionary )

The earliest known use of the term zugzwang in English was on page 166 of the February 1905 issue of Lasker's Chess Magazine.The term did not become common in English-language chess sources until the 1930s, after the publication of the English translation of Nimzowitsch's My System in 1929.


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