According to Merriam-Webster, the word queen can be used as a verb with the meaning "to become a queen in chess". I am wondering if the work rook can be used in the same way: Is it grammatically correct to use the work rook in chess to mean "to become a rook in chess"?

For example:

White has rooked his pawn to prevent stalemate.

Is this sentence grammatically correct?

  • 3
    Remember that a sentence can be both grammatically correct and nonsensical. If there is a problem with using rooked like that it's not the grammar. (I wouldn't go as far as saying your sentence is nonsensical though, I think it makes sense in context.)
    – nnnnnn
    Sep 22, 2021 at 5:48
  • Are you really asking whether the sentence is grammatical? Chomsky's famous sentence "Colourless green ideas sleep furiously" is grammatical, as is yours. If you're really asking whether rook exists (or can be understood) as a verb, then do edit the post to ask that question. (Yes, it's in the title; but the body of the question asks something different.)
    – Andrew Leach
    Sep 22, 2021 at 7:28
  • 1
    At least one problem presents itself: "rook" has a different meaning already as a transitive verb (to cheat or swindle), so this novel usage will be struggling against the established meaning. Sep 22, 2021 at 11:38
  • You can use the verb, but people will look at you strangely and, maybe, laugh.
    – Greybeard
    Sep 22, 2021 at 12:52
  • You can verb any noun so long as it's clear to your readers what you're talking about. But me no buts, as Shakespeare said. But "rooking a pawn" would certainly come over as a novelty. Sep 22, 2021 at 14:37

1 Answer 1


Your sentence is grammatically sound, but isn't idiomatic and doesn't convey the meaning you intend.

Since a queen is the most powerful piece in chess, the typical case is to promote your pawn to a queen, or to queen your pawn. Much less often, it can be advantageous to promote the pawn to a piece other than a queen.

promote (v.)

Exchange (a pawn) for a more powerful piece of the same colour, typically a queen, when it reaches the opponent's end of the board Lexico

underpromotion (n.)

The promotion of a pawn to bishop, knight, or rook in chess m-w

This happens more frequently in chess problems which feature underpromotion as a theme. (Since it's uncommon in actual games, it's often overlooked in a problem.)

The verb here is to underpromote (a pawn) (to a rook, bishop, or knight). However, you would usually say "It's better to promote to a rook in this case", rather than underpromote. The verb underpromote would be used in cases like the webpage below: "When is it better to underpromote," where it refers to underpromotion in general.

Although the verb to underpromote is used in the chess world, I don't see it in the few dictionaries I've checked. I've need heard or seen rook, bishop, or knight used as a verb for pawn promotion and they sound quite odd, perhaps also because to rook and to knight have other meanings outside of chess.

To rook is "to defraud by cheating or swindling" m-w. I could understand White has rooked his pawn to prevent stalemate to mean that White cheated by surreptitiously removing a pawn from the board to prevent a stalemate.

Don't get rooked by scams

Unfortunately, con artists target senior citizens. S. Polgar and Douglas Goldstein; Rich as a King: How the Wisdom of Chess Can Make You a King

Another difficulty: prices. In recent years, Paris has earned the reputation of being Europe's most expensive city. Ergo, everybody is convinced that you get rooked in France no matter where you go. But that just isn't so. Skiing, Oct. 1967, p.127

Some reasons why you would want to underpromote:

A knight gives check, checkmate, or forks more than one piece upon promotion where a queen would not.

Promoting to a queen would stalemate your opponent (giving them no moves and thereby tying a game you could otherwise win).

Other, more technical cases are discussed in the links below.

See also:

"A Guide to Underpromotion in Chess"

"When is it Better to Underpromote?"

"Promotion (chess)" at Wiki has underpromotion statistics

  • 6
    What meaning does it convey, if not the intended one? It's a way of saying things I've never come across before but in context, for me, the "...to prevent stalemate" makes it pretty clear what they mean. Incidentally, when I first read the title I assumed the question would be about using "rook" as a verb instead of "castle" (ie the usual meaning of "castle" as a verb in chess), and that potential confusion makes the idiom more likely to be misunderstood than for example using "bishop" as a verb in the same way.
    – Rupe
    Sep 22, 2021 at 11:55
  • @Rupe I've added an unintended interpretation. However, a grammatical sentence can simply not convey its intended meaning without conveying some other clear meaning.
    – DjinTonic
    Sep 22, 2021 at 12:31
  • Good analysis, although it's also true that to queen has meaning outside of chess, just as to rook and to knight do (though usually it's part of a phrasal verb like "queen around" or "queen it up"). But this is far outweighed by the fact that promotion to queen is the most common pawn promotion. Sep 22, 2021 at 13:00
  • 2
    While "knighted" does have a meaning outside chess, it's exactly the same as the intended chess meaning (made into a knight), so that would probably be understood more easily than "rooked". Sep 22, 2021 at 13:46
  • True, although I don't think a modern queen expects those whom she knights to do battle for her in a game or battle :-) It's simply the rarity of underpromotion that explains why the nouns for these pieces haven't come to be used as verbs.
    – DjinTonic
    Sep 22, 2021 at 13:58

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.