A "meeple" is a little wooden (or plastic) pawn used in modern day board gaming to represent a player. It originated in the wonderful tile-placement game Carcassonne. "Meeple" is believed to be a combination of the words "my" and "people."
Since then, meeples have been used in countless other board games and have become the unofficial symbol of modern day board gaming. Today, meeples are not only used to represent people (players), but animals, creatures, monsters, and much, much more.
As of August 2015 "meeple" has been added to the Oxford Dictionaries too!