One of the most common terms in board gaming is that of “Meeple”. But what is a Meeple?
The typical colored wooden (and sometimes plastic) character token is a standard of modern board gaming that typically represents the player or the workers of a player.
meeple (plural meeples)
A small person-shaped figure used as a player’s token in a board game.
Blend of ‘my’ and ‘people’. Coined in November of 2000 by Alison Hansel during a game of Carcassonne when she fused “my” and “people” to describe the wooden figures each player uses in that game.”
Digging deeper into the backstory, it appears that the word was first used in a BGG session report posted on January 1st, 2001. From all I can gather, Alison and her friends were just a regular group of people playing a game and the word ended up not only sticking, but cementing itself in the board gaming lexicon as it has even joined the Oxford dictionary as an approved word.
Meeples aren’t all pawns though, just the smaller representations of players in wooden (or plastic) form. For instance, Pandemic’s pieces are pawns whereas Carcassonne’s are Meeples. The term has caught on so well that there are now Animeeples and many games create their own style of Meeple to align with their theme.
Meeple has become a trademark of the board game world and is instantly recognizable by anyone who’s encountered one before. I can’t think of a better ambassador.