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Pronounced /ˈskækɪk/Help with pronunciation

The death of Bobby Fischer in January 2008 brought chess into the headlines, but not this adjective pertaining to chess, which remains as rare as it ever has been.

The main claim to fame of scacchic is that it’s the shortest word in English that contains four letter cs (the longest is floccinaucinihilipilification). The record is held by pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis with six cs.

It, scacchic that is, seems to have been coined in 1860 by a man named Fiske from the Italian word for chess, scacchi. He wrote in his Chess Tales: “Stern old fellows were these scacchic sages! They considered the laws of chess as inviolable as those of the Medes and Persians.”

It’s almost never seen anywhere, except as an occasional obscure reference or witticism in chess magazines. One rare appearance was in 1968, when it briefly became part of the title of the Central California Chess Association’s journal, The Scacchic Voice. Another is in a black comedy about the Cold War, written by the Emeritus Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Murdoch University, Western Australia:

I played with the utmost care and concentration, weighing every scacchic move. She made her moves instantaneously, as though not even thinking about them, then resumed her contemplation of the sunlit river. Her knights and an unfrocked bishop decimated my wretched pawns.

Fool’s Mate, by J D Frodsham, 2014.

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Copyright © Michael Quinion, 1996–. All rights reserved.

Page created 02 Feb 2008; Last updated 09 Mar 2015