Check out our complete list of bowling terms.
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(Go) off the sheet: To end a game with many consecutive strikes. ("He can go off the sheet for a 259 game." See "Strike out"; comes from long ago when bowling was scored on paper.) Also "Go to the wall."
(to bowl a) Stewart: A Perfect game of 12 strikes continuously.
/: Symbol for a spare.
300 game: A perfect game of 12 strikes in a row.
300 game jinx: It is customary when someone starts a game with a string of strikes not to mention the possibility of scoring 300, which would "jinx" the player.
5 Bagger (Yahtzee and Dropping the Nickel): A 5 bagger is five strikes in a row. Other nicknames for it is Yahtzee and Dropping the Nickel.
ABC: American Bowling Congress; official rule-making body for ten pin bowling for its members in the US, Canada, Puerto Rico and US military bases worldwide; founded in 1895 and headquartered in Greendale, Wisconsin, 5301 S. 76th Street 53129.
Absentee: See Blind
Action: Motion of the pins caused by the bowler's technique; generally, the combination of accuracy, rotation (also see), and other factors, causing pin motion which is horizontal, rather than vertical, since a horizontally spinning pin covers more of the lane.
Address: Bowler’s starting position.
All the way: Finishing a game with nothing but strikes.
Alley: playing surface, made of maple, pine or urethane boards; urethane lanes are becoming more popular than wood
American Bowling Congress (ABC): The world's largest sports organization and the official rule-making body of tenpin bowling.
Anchor: In league play, this is the person bowling last on the team. This is usually the best bowler on the team, and/or the bowler considered to be the coolest under pressure.
Angle: The direction in which the ball travels when going into the 1-3 pocket, 1-2 for left hand bowlers.
Apple: 1) Bowling ball; 2) bowler who fails to come through in a clutch situation. (choke)
Approach: The space before the foul line, approximately 15 feet. Can also refer to the steps the bowler takes before delivering the ball over the foul line.
Armswing: The arc of the bowling arm and hand from the first move toward the line until the delivery of the ball over the line.
Arrows: Aiming points embedded in the lane. These seven arrows (usually red or black, but may be other colors) are used for targeting. (darts)
Automatic foul detector: Light beam at the foul line which sounds an alarm if the bowler's foot crosses it. Penalty for doing so is loss of pins for that ball; the bowler shoots at a new rack of ten pins (which counts as a spare if all are knocked down). (foul, foul line)
Automatic Pinsetter: First used in the 1940s, the original editions took note of the pins left, swept the entire area, and reset the pins for the spare. This invention is credited for the great bowling boom of the 1950s; the inventor received $1 million from AMF.
Average: This is a method for a bowler to compare their skill against other bowlers. The average is computed by adding the total score from multiple games, then dividing by the number of games bowled.
Baby ball: To throw too delicate or release too carefully.
Baby ball, Baby the ball: Too delicate, not enough emphasis on delivering the ball with authority; released too carefully. Baby split
BABY SPLIT: This is a split that occurs when the 2 & 7 pins or the 3 & 10 pins only remain after the bowlers first throw. This is considered to be the easiest splits to pick up.
Baby split with company: The 2-7-8 or 3-9-10.
Back end: The last 15–20 feet of the lane, where the ball is supposed to develop the most friction (due to lack of oil) and hook into the pocket.
Back ends: The last 6 feet of the lane.
Backup: A ball that falls to the right for right-hand bowlers and left for left-hand bowlers.
Backup alley: A lane that holds or tends to stop a ball from rolling to the right (or left for left-handers).
Back-Up Ball: A ball thrown by a right-handed bowler that hooks left-to-right instead of right-to-left. If thrown by a left-hander, a back-up ball breaks right-to-left.
Bagger: Always preceded by a number from three to eleven, denoting a string of consecutive strikes. (e.g., "six-bagger")
Balance Hole: Balance holes are added to balls with to much side weight. If a ball has to much side weight it will hook much more. So a balance hole is added to even it out.
Balk: To interfere or cause another bowler to stop or not complete in their normal actions.
Ball rack: the rack used to store house balls or where the ball return rests balls before a turn.
Ball return: Track between the lanes the ball rolls on when being returned to the rack.
Ball track: Area on lane where most balls are rolled.
Balsa: A powerless hit on the headpin.
Barmaid: A pin hidden behind another pin; 1-5, 2-8, 3-9. (bicycle, double wood, oneinthedark, sleeper, tandem)
Bed: The entire area a lane is set into, from the approach to the pit, including the channels.
BED POSTS: This is a split that occurs when the 7 pin and the 10 pin only remain, also known as the 7-10 split.
Bedposts: The 7–10 split, considered one of the most difficult to convert. Also known as the fence posts or goal posts.
Beer frame: In team play, the only bowler on the team not to strike in a given frame must buy a beer for his teammates. Many teams will consider a split conversion as "Strike" for a Beer Frame. Also known ascoke frame when people not of drinking age are involved.
Belly the ball: Increase the width of a hook from an inside starting piont.
Bench work: Conversation or actions meant to upset an opponent.
Bender: Hook or curve shot that comes close to the channel before breaking into the pocket.
Berlin Wall: See "Blended condition"
Bevel: Rounding of thumb/finger holes after drilling to smooth their edges.
BFO: Beer Frame Opportunity
Bicycle: Pin hidden behind another pin. (barmaid, double wood, oneinthedark, sleeper, tandem)
Big ball: A working hook that enables a bowler to carry strikes on less-than-perfect pocket hits.
Big ears: The 4-6-7-10 split. (big four, double pinochle, golden gate)
Big fill: Nine or ten pins on a spare, or double on a strike.
Big five: Spare of three on one side and two on the other.
Big Four: A very hard split to convert, this leaves pins 4–6–7–10. If a BTBA member converts it in a BTBA Sanctioned League he can be awarded a badge. Formerly, USBC members were awarded a patch for converting this split in league play.
Blended condition: Oil pattern resulting from lanes with a slight depression in the middle; proprietors compensate by "accidentally" over-oiling, resulting in a "regular blended block." If the contrast from the oily center to the dry sides is very great, it's called a "Berlin Wall." A blocked condition around one arrow (usually the second arrow) is a "tunnel block." When the block narrows toward the pins, it¹s a "funnel block." If you can find the edge of a block, the edge will move toward the center as the oil evaporates. A "reverse block" has more oil on the sides and less in the middle; thus the edge will move outward as the oil evaporates (and can be followed outward).
Blind: Score allowed for an absent member
Blocked Lane: Most bowling associations allow a "crown" of heavier oil on the middle lane boards to handle the heavier ball traffic. On a blocked lane, however, the difference in oil volumes on the middle lane boards versus outer lane boards can be severe enough to present a wider target area for the bowler. A missed shot to the middle of the bowler's target can slide on the heavier oil and not cross over, while a missed shot to the outside catches the drier boards and still hooks into the pocket.
Blocked lanes: A lane maintenance condition in which oil or some sort of lane finish is used to create a track; almost always results in high scoring. [see "Blended condition"]
Blow: A missed spare.
Blow a rack: A solid strike.
Blowout: Downing all the pins but one.
Blow-out-five: Also called "BOF" for short. On a full rack, the ball hits light in the pocket, but still has enough power to stay on-line, hit the 5-pin and have it fly aggressively into the 7-pin or 10-pin, ending up with all ten pins down. Nelson Burton, Jr. would use this term during the ABC broadcasts.
Board: An individual piece of the lane (total of 40 or sometimes 41) which run its length and are numbered from 1 on the right for right-handers and from 1 on the left for left-handers.
Body English: Contortion of arms, legs and trunk in an attempt to steer the ball after it has left the hand.
Bonus: In match play, pins awarded for winning the game, usually 30 or 50.
Bowling establishment: A facility where bowling is played. Other names include bowling house, and the more common bowling alley.
Bowling Proprietors Association of America (BPAA): Trade organization of the people who own bowling centers; publishes Bowling Digest magazine.
Bowling shoes: Special shoes for bowlers have a sticky, rubbery sole on the non-sliding foot to act as a brake and a slicker, harder sole on the other foot to allow sliding on the last step.
Box: A single frame. .
Break: A lucky shot.
Break of the boards: Area approximately twenty feet from the foul line there the maple boards meet the pines boards. Hard maple boards are used between the foul line and the break of the boards to withstand the impact of bowling balls. (dovetails, piano keys, splice)
Bridge: Distance separating finger holes (as opposed to span, the distance between the thumb hole and middle finger hole).
Brooklyn: A throw that results from the ball hitting the opposite "pocket" from the bowler's normal handedness, i.e., a right-handed bowler rolls the ball but it crosses over and hits the 1 and 2 pins first, or a left-handed bowler crosses over to hit the 1–3. This may also be referred to as Jersey in the New York City area, or Windsor in the Metro Detroit area.
Broom ball: A ball that hits the 1-3 pocket in such a way that the pins scatter as though they were swept with a broom.
Bucket: Four-pin diamond on the sides or the center of the lane.
Burner: When a pin stands on an apparent perfect strike hit. (rap, tap, touch)
Burning: A previous group has thrown a block of games, and their balls have pushed the oil further down the lane, creating more friction on the front, and less friction on the back. This makes for more an irregular oil condition for the next group. In match play, a defensive move is to play the same line as his opponent, basically burning up the line and forcing the opponent to move his line.
Buzzard: Three open frames in a row.
Call the numbers: Pins left standing are always announced in numerical sequence (1267, not 1276).
Carry: A condition where a good shot (or even a less-than-perfect shot) rolled into the pocket results in a strike.
Carry-down: A condition where oil from the front of the lane is transferred farther down the lane than desired, usually due to excessive ball traffic in the same area of the lane. This condition can cause the ball to "slide" in the area of the lane the bowler would desire it to hook, as well as making pins slide without falling.
Channel: Located on either side of the lane to catch an errant throw. A ball that lands in the channel scores zero (0) points for that roll, even if the ball bounces out and knocks down pins. This is the official term used in the rules of bowling, whereas gutter is more widely used by bowlers.
Charge: Term used by pros to described a sensational spurt of high scoring.
Charts: Records kept by bowlers to remind them of which shot to play on a given lane.
Cheesy Cakes: Lanes on which strikes are relatively easy. May also be referred to as a "cake shot".
Cherry: Chopping the front pin of a spare leave while a pin behind and/or to the left or right remains standing. (chop)
Cherry Pick: See Chop (Derived from picking a "Cherry" from a "Branch".)
Chicken sandwich: A strike followed by 3 spares and another strike. (Derived from the term "turkey sandwich".)
Chicken wing: When a bowler’s elbow gets away from his body during a swing.
Choke: Failure to accomplish objective.
Chop: An open frame where the front pin of a combination consisting of two or more adjacent pins is struck in the middle and neither the ball nor front pin takes out any other pins of the spare. (Example
Christmas tree: The 3-7-10 or 2-7-10.
Cincinnati: The 8-10 split.
Classified: Leagues or tournaments with average limitations.
Clean Game: A single game of bowling where the player has a mark (spare or strike) in all ten frames.
Clothesline: The 1-2-4-7 or 1-3-6-10.
Clover: Four strikes in a row, a reference to the 4-leaf clover.
Clutch: A pressure situation.
Cock and Balls: When the bowler leaves the 1–5–8–9.
Come up: Hook in the pocket caused by a spin on the axis.
Conversion: Another word for a spare, often preceded by the number(s) of the pins left before shooting the spare. (Example
Count: The number of pins knocked down on a given shot, particularly after a mark in the prior frame.
Counting marks: In team competition, it is common to total the number of marks per frame as the frame is completed. A spare or strike is one mark; a double is two marks, a turkey is three. See also "take off a mark."
Cracked thumb: Actual cracks that appear on the calluses of a bowler¹s thumb.
Cranker: A bowler known for rolling the ball with extreme revolutions, making it hook more.
Crawler: A strike made by missing the head pin.
Creeper: Slow ball.
Crooked arm: Hook ball bowler who tends to bend his elbow.
Cross: Going to the left side for a right-hander and vice-versa for a lefty. (Brooklyn)
Crow hopper: Loose, claw-like grip on ball at release point.
Curtain: missing in a final frame when a spare would have won.
Curve: Ball that breaks from right to left.
Cushion: Padding at rear of pit to absorb shock of ball and pins.
Cutter: A hook that slices the pins down.
D.O.A.: "Dead on arrival"; a ball with no action or power on it often resulting in a split.
Darts: The "arrows" located between 12 and 16 feet beyond the foul line; used for targeting. The ABC requires that each dart beno more than 11/4" in width, 6" in length, and must be equidistant from each other.
Dead apple, dead ball: Ball that fades or deflects badly when it hits the pins; very ineffective.
Dead wood: A pin that lies on either the lane surface or in the channel, and is out of reach of the pin sweeping mechanism. The rules of ten-pin bowling require all dead wood to be removed before the next ball is thrown.
Deflection: The ball when it comes into contact with pins and then angles away to the right or left.
Delivery: Preparation, Release and Follow-through.
Deuce: A 200 average.
Dime store: The 5-10 split (5-7 is the "Kresge"). (Woolworth)
Dinner bucket: Four-pin diamond on sides or center of lane (2-4-5-8, 3-5-6-9, or 1-2-3-5). (bucket)
Dirk: When a bowler releases his ball in such a way that it lands far down the lane; nearly to the marks. (See "Loft".)
Dive: A ball that hooks at the last second.
Division boards: Where the pine and maple meet on a lane; see also "break of the boards."
Dodo: A bowling ball over the legal weight or out of legal balance.
Dots: Dots on the approach are used to set the bowler's feet at the start of the approach. Dots on the lane can be used to put the ball down on/toward or to swing thorough a visualized line between the dots and the arrows.
Double: Two strikes in a row during a single bowling game.
Double pinochle: The 4-6-7-10 split. (big ears, big four, golden gate)
Double wood: One of the three spare leaves that feature a pin directly behind another
Dovetails: Area of lane where maple and pine boards join. (break of the boards, piano keys, splice)
Drive: Another name for alley or lane. Also the revolving action of a ball as it contacts the pins.
Dry, dry lanes: Lanes with very little oil applied to them.
Dummy: Score allowed for an absent member, usually the average minus ten or a set score (for example, 140 for men and 120 for women); considered a penalty. (blind)
Dummy score: In league play, a dummy score is used in place of a team member who is absent. The actual score used is based on the league's rules, although most leagues calculate the dummy score based on the absent bowler's league average, minus a few pins so that the use of a dummy score is not abused. Also known as "absentee score" or "blind".
Dump the ball: Releasing the ball without bending of the knee.
Dutch 200: A game where the scoring consists of alternating strikes and spares, which will result in a score of exactly 200.
DUTCH GAME: Also known as Dutch 200, is when a bowling game scores exactly 200 with alternating strikes and spares throughout the whole game.
Early foundation: A strike in the eighth frame; see also "foundation."
Emblem: The logo on a bowling ball, usually signifying the heaviest part of the ball.
Emergency Service (UK): Knocking down 9 pins in three successive frames—as in "999", the UK emergency telephone number.
Ends: Last 5-6 feet of the lane where the pins stand. Correct term is "back ends."
Error: A miss. (blow, miss, open)
Faith, Hope, Charity: The 2-7-10 or 3-7-10 split. (Christmas tree)
Fast: In different sections of the country the meaning is the opposite. In one area (A) it means a lane that allows a ball to hook easily, while in another area (B) it means a lane that holds down the hook.
Fast Eight: This usually by going high in the pocket and leaving the 4-9 for right-handers and the 6-8 for lefties.
Fence posts: A 7-10 split.
Field goal: Ball rolled between two pins of a wide split.
Fill: Pins knocked down following a spare or following two strikes which are added to the ten or twenty pins, respectively, when scoring.
Fill Ball: The bonus ball earned for getting a spare or two strikes in the tenth frame. So named because it "fills" the last box on the scoresheet for that game.
Fill ball; fill frame: Final 10th-frame shot which adds ten or less pins.
Finger grips: Inserts which can be placed into the finger and/or thumb holes to allow the bowler to both hang onto the ball better and impart spin at delivery.
Fingertip: Type of bowling ball grip where the fingers are far enough from the thumb that they can only be inserted into the ball as deep as the first joint. Allows a great amount of spin to be imparted to the ball because of the large span between thumb and fingers, but requires a strong wrist and much practice to master.
Fit split: A split where it is possible for the ball to hit both pins.
Five-bagger: Five strikes in a row.
Flat 10: Leaving just the 10 pin after the first shot, while the 6 pin lies in the gutter instead of flying around the 10 pin (Ringing 10). For a left-hander, the equivalent is the "Flat 7".
Flat alley: A lane that despite perfect levelness doesn't run or hold with respect to the action of the ball.
Flat arc: The curved path of a ball in process of delivery when it is too low to the approach or off to either side and so not part of a perfect circle.
Flat ball: unproductive ball
FLO: Any pre-game ritual that is religiously practiced before bowling, such as eating in the same restaurant or wearing the same socks.
Floater: A ball that goes where the lane lets it; the ball is released badly with no particular lift or turn.
Flush: A strike that places all ten pins into the pit. A flush strike is technically perfect.
Flying elbow: See "chicken wing."
Follow-through: The motion after release. Should
Forward pitch: Finger or thumb hole angled toward center of ball.
Foul: A shot where the bowler's foot crosses the "foul line" at the end of the approach (and start of the lane), which often results in a light and/or buzzer being triggered. A foul also occurs when any part of the bowler's body touches the lane beyond the foul line, whether or not the foul light or buzzer is triggered. A foul counts zero for the ball roll in which it occurs, regardless of how many pins are knocked down. Crossing the foul line only results in a foul if the bowler releases the ball. In "lowest-score-wins" fun-games, a foul results in a strike.
Foul line: The mark that determines the beginning of the lane.
Foundation: A strike in the ninth frame.
Foundation frame: The 9th frame. The 9th frame is thought to be the frame the 10th frame is built on, allowing the maximum scoring reward if one were to fill the 10th frame with three strikes.
Four-bagger: Four strikes in a row.
Four-step line: Usually a row of dots closest to the foul line; the dots further back are for five-step deliveries.
Frame: A single turn for a bowler, constituting one or two rolls, depending on pinfall.
Front (#): Getting strikes in a given number of frames, starting with frame 1. For example, a bowler striking in frames 1 thru 6 is said to have "the front 6".
Frozen rope: A ball rolled with excessive speed almost straight into the pocket.
Fry Frame: In team play, the only bowler on the team not to pick up a spare in a given frame must buy French fries or an appetizer platter for his teammates. Variant of the beer frame.
Fudge: Decrease revolutions on the ball; a weak shot producing a weak ball, done on purpose to cut down the hook.
Full hit: A ball striking near the center of the head pin on a strike attempt or the middle of any pin you may be aiming at.
Full Murray: A bowler leaving the 5–7–10.
Full roller: A ball that rolls over its full circumference.
Funnel block: See "Blended condition."
Garbage hit: A hit that doesn't enter the pocket but results in a strike anyway.
Getting the wood: 1) A better than average score; 2) making sure you take one pin down (or as many pins as is easily possible) on an almost impossible split.
Glung Glung Glung: Sound of the pins falling (usually a strike or 9 pin drop).
Go Bland: The start of a new game.
Goal posts: The 7-10 split. (bedposts, fence posts, mule ears, snake eyes)
Golden gate: The 4-6-7-10 split. (big ears, big four, double pinochle)
Goll Roll: Sound of the ball rolling.
Grab: The friction between the lane and the ball.
Grandma¹s teeth: An array of pins left standing.
Grandma's Teeth: The 4–7–9–10 or 6–7–8–10 split.
Grasshopper: An effective ball, particularly on light pocket hits.
Graveyards: Low score lanes.
Greek church: The 4–6–7–8–10 or 4–6–7–9–10 split. Also known as the "Big Five" or "cathedral".
Groove: Ball track or indentation in lane. Also applied to bowler who is performing well and has his approach and armswing almost mechanically perfect.
Gutter: Synonymous with channel.
Gutter ball: A ball that goes into the gutter. .
Gutter shot: Technique developed by pros of rolling ball from extreme edge of lane, usually the first inch.
Half hit: Between a full and light hit.
Ham Bone: Four strikes in a row.
Hambone: Officially, in junior bowling, it is the name of an award given by the United States Bowling Congress when the bowler rolls two strikes in a row during a single bowling game. Unofficially, it is a term made up by ESPN announcer Rob Stone to mean four strikes in a row in a single game. Not a bowler himself, he wondered why there was no name for four strikes in a row when there's one for three (turkey), and he coined the term without knowing that it meant something else or that there were several other terms for four strikes. Despite the conflict, the phrase caught on with many PBA fans and even some bowlers.
Handicap: A system to help a bowler of lesser skill to be competitive with higher skilled bowlers in league or tournament play. A bowler's average will be used to compute a number to be added to the actual score of a game.
Hard way: 1) Rolling 200 by alternating strikes and spares (Dutch 200), 2) Making the 2-7 or 3-10 by deflecting the front pin into the back, rather than hitting both pins with the ball.
Harkrider: The type of delivery in which the bowler seems to bounce his ball at the foul line upon release, as in dribbling a basketball.
Head pin: The 1-pin. In a full setup, this is ideally the first pin that the ball will hit.
Heads: The heads are usually the strongest part of the lane. They are strong because it has to absorb the impact to the ball hitting the lane. The head is located in the front part of the lane.
Heavy or High shot: A shot that hits more of the head pin than desired, often resulting in a split.
Hedgehog: Four strikes in a row during a single bowling game.
High: A high shot is when your ball misses the pocket and goes straight through the head pin.
High board: Due to atmospheric conditions, a board in a lane may expand or contract a tiny bit, but enough to change the course of a ball rolling in that area. Most boards contract, leaving a low area or a low board, but it is still (mis)termed a high board.
High flush: A strike where the ball covers more of the 1-pin (a high shot) than it should, but still strikes, and places all ten pins into the pit (a flush.)
High hit: 1) Ball contacting a pin near its center, 2) A first ball that hits the center of the head pin.
Higher: More to the left or right.
Hold, holding alley: A lane that resists the hooking action of a ball.
Hole: 1) The 1-3 pocket, 1-2 for lefties; 2) another name for "split" (railroad), 3) an open
Home alley: Favorite lane for individuals or a team.
Honey: A good ball.
Hook: Rolling the ball with enough side-spin to make the ball curve as it rolls toward the pins.
Hook alley: A lane on which the ball will hook easily.
Hot: When a bowler or team starts lining up strikes.
House: Bowling center.
House ball: Bowling balls provided by the alley.
Ice and Rug: The typical oil pattern on a bowling lane. The first 40–45 feet of the lane are oiled, providing the "ice" upon which the ball is supposed to spin and skid. The last 15–20 feet are the "rug" where the ball generates friction and hooks.
In there: A good pocket hit. Jack Manders
Inside: A starting point near the center of the lane.
Jam: Force the ball high inside the pocket.
Jersey, Jersey side: To the left of the headpin (for right-handers, and vice versa for lefties).
Kegler: A bowler.
Kick off: Smooth, effective ball delivery.
Kickbacks: Vertical division between lanes at the pit end. On many hits the pins bounce from the kickback knocking additional pins down. (sideboards)
Kickoff: Smooth ball delivery.
Kill the ball: Take the spin or action off the ball by not lifting or spinning at the release so that it runs straight and maximizes accuracy.
Kindling wood: Light pins.
King Pin: Is the five pin. It is usually left by going light in the pocket or your ball deflecting. There are many nicknames for the five pin.
Kingpin: The headpin or the number 5 pin.
Kitty: Money from team members for misses, and other set fines.
Kresge: Whereas the 5-10 split is called the Woolworth or Dime Store, the 5-7 is often called the Kresge.
Label: Refers to the labeling on the bowling pins. Labels could include the logo of the manufacturer, as well as the certification label by the USBC. Commentators reference the label on the pin when, after the ball passes the pins, the pin is hit just enough for it to stay upright and spin on its base, but does not fall.
Lane: Playing surface. Wooden or urethane deck 62'10-3/4" long and 42 inches wide with ten pins spaced one foot apart 60 feet from the foul line. Pins are on and gutters are at the side, not part of, the lane. Does not include the "approach."
Late 10: When the 10 pin hesitates and is the last to go down on a strike.
Leadoff man: First manto bowl in a team game.
League: An organized group of bowlers, divided up into teams, who play on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis.
Leave: Those pins not knocked down on the first ball.
Left lateral pitch, or left side pitch: Finger or thumb hole angled away from palm of hand.
Leverage: Power generated by the sliding and lifting motion of the legs.
Lift: The upward motion of the ball imparted by the fingers at the point of release.
Light: Not full on the target pin; too much on the Jersey side.
Light seven: A hit too light on either side of the head pin.
Light wood: Bowling pins that weight between three pounds and three pounds-two ounces. Three-pound six-ounce pins are required for ABC competition, but light pins produce higher scores (and, from a proprietor¹s viewpoint, shorter games).
Light shot: A shot that rolls into the pocket, but is closer to the 3-pin (or 2-pin for a left-hander) than the head pin. So called because it does not have enough (i.e. is light on) hook, or only "lightly" hits the head pin.
Lilly: The 5-7-10 split.
Lily: A nickname for the 5–7–10 split. (See "Full Murray".) Also known as a "sour apple".
Line: The path that a bowling ball takes down the lane. Also, one game of bowling, as it takes up one "line" on a scoresheet.
Line ball: Straight shot at pocket on and over second arrow, breaks at back into pocket. For relatively straight ball players without huge hook. See also "swing shot" and "point shot."
Llama: Four (4) strikes in a row during a single game. (Five
Loafing: Not lifting or turning the ball properly, with the result that the ball lags and doesn¹t reach the target, usually rolling off to the right.
Loft: The time and distance that a thrown bowling ball travels in the air before contacting the lane surface. While lofting is sometimes necessary for high-rev players to delay the hook if hooking across the whole lane, excessive loft (e.g., beyond the arrow marks on the lane) is often frowned upon by the bowling community and bowling alley employees because of the potential damage to the lanes—especially lanes that are still made of wood.
Lofting: Throwing the ball onto the lane rather than rolling it.
Logs: Very heavy pins, used for practice.
Looper: An extra-wide hook ball.
Loose hit: A light pocket hit.
Lose count: To miss count of pins that could be knocked down. Caused by the way score is kept; a bowler on a strike leaving four on the first ball and two on the second "loses count" of the remaining four pins since the total of the next two balls is added when on a strike.
Love tap: A light hit on the pocket, causing the (for a right-hander) 6-pin to go into the right channel, pop up, and tap on the 10-pin, knocking the 10-pin down. If the 6-pin stays in the channel and the 10-pin is left standing, it is called a flat 10.
Low: Light or thin hit on the headpin ("low in the pocket"), as opposed to a high hit.
Makeable split: Any split which does not have the two pins closest to the foul line parallel with each other.
Maples: Pins. Mark
Mark: A spare or a strike.
Match play: A portion of a tournament where bowlers are pitted against each other.
Medal play: Strictly total pin scores (in other words, series, not per game or with handicap).
Meg: When the ball hits just one pin at the far left or right side of the lane (7/10)
Messenger: A pin that goes across the width of the pin deck and knocks down another pin or pins, resulting in a strike. Also known as a birddog, scout, shrapnel, or rogue pin.
Miss: A missed spare.
Mister Average: Name given to an absent bowler (whose average is used). It's Mrs. Average if the bowler is a lady.
Mixer: A hit that causes the pins to bounce around or "mix". Hook balls may mix pins under a light hit where pins bounce off the side wall, called a "wall shot". For spinners, this may occur on a brooklyn hit where the ball deflects and pushes the pins.
Moat: A nickname for the gutter.
Mother-in-law: 1) The 7 pin; 2) the back pin in a sleeper situation.
Move in: To start from the center of the approach.
Move out: To start from a corner position on the approach.
Mule ears: The 7-10 split. (bedposts, fence posts, goal posts, snake eyes)
Murphy: Baby split (2-7, 3-10).
Nadler: A strike where the 1 pin is the last to fall.
NBC: National Bowling Council.
No Tap: No tap is a form of bowling usually used in some tournaments. It makes it a lot easier. What happens in no tap is every 9 count is counted as a strike.
Nose hit: To hit the pins dead center.
Nothing ball: Ineffective ball.
Oil: The conditioner used in the front two-thirds of the lane, which allows the ball with side-spin to roll the necessary distance down the lane before it starts to generate friction and hook.
On the nose: To hit to the headpin dead center.
Oneinthedark: Rear pin in the 1-5, 2-8 or 3-9 spare. (barmaid, bicycle, double wood, motherinlaw, sleeper, tandem)
Open: A frame that doesn¹t have a strike or spare. (blow, error, miss)
Open bowling: Nonleague plays for fun or practice opposite league nights.
Open Frame: Any frame in which a strike or spare was not made.
Out and in: A wide hook rolled from the center of the lane toward the gutter; the ball hooks back to the pocket, going out, then in.
Out of bounds: Area on the lanes where a ball won't make it to the pocket.
Outside: Corner position of playing lanes.
Over: In professional bowling, 200 per game is considered "par." The number of pins above 200 is the number of pins "over", or in the black.
Over-turn: To apply too much spin to the ball.
Pack: A full count of ten.
Par: A game score of 200.
Part of the building: Expression referring to the 7, 8 or 10 pin when it stands after what seems to be a perfect hit (part of the house).
Perfect game: A game consisting of 12 strikes (the maximum possible) with no spares or open frames, resulting in a score of 300.
Perfect strike: When the ball hits only the 1, 3, 5 and 9 pins (RH). The 1 pin hits the 2 which hits the 4 which hits the 7 (Strike Line). The 3 pin hits the 6 which hits the 10 (Carry Line). The 5 pin hits the 8.
Piano keys: See "break of the boards."
Pick: To knock down only the front pin from a spare leave. (cherry, chop)
Picket fence: The 1-2-4-7 or 1-3-6-10 spares. (rail)
Pie, Pie alley: A lane that is easy to score on.
Pin action: Phase used when describing pins that hit one another and fall. It is used more frequently when describing a not-so-perfect shot, where the pins will hit one another in an irregular fashion.
Pin bowling: Using the entire rack of pins as a target. Before arrows, and before the break of the boards was noticeable, it was difficult to sight far down the lane since all the boards looked very similar.
Pin deck: Area 60' from the foul line.
Pinching the ball: To grip the ball too hard.
Pindicator: Lighted display board above the pins showing which ones are standing.
Pine: Softer wood used beyond division boards; takes over where the maple "heads" end.
Pins: The ten "targets" at the far end of the lane that a bowler attempts to knock down by rolling a ball at them.
Pit: Space at end of lane where ball and pins end up.
Pitch: Angle in which holes in bowling ball are drilled.
Platform: The parts of the lane from the very back of the ball return area up to the foul line.
Plugged ball: Balls which do not fit a player¹s hand can be re-drilled after being plugged. The PBA does not allow plugged balls.
Pocket: The ideal place for the ball to hit the pins in order to maximize strike potential. The pocket for a right-hander is between the 1 and 3 pins (1 and 2 pins for a left-hander).
Point Shot: Starting from the first arrow and throwing over first arrow.
Point the ball: To aim more directly at the pocket, high and tight.
Poison ivy: The 3-6-10. Poodle
Position rounds: Parts of a league schedule which call for teams.
Pot Game: A form of gambling where each bowler puts an agreed amount into a communal pool. The bowler with the highest score for the game will win the pot.
Powder puff, puff ball: Slow ball that fails to carry the pins.
Power stroker: A bowler who combines the high hooking power of a cranker with the smooth delivery and timing of a stroker. Power Stroking is a form of "tweening", meaning the form lies somewhere in between cranking and stroking.
Powerhouse: A strong ball that strikes.
Pre-bowl: Certified bowling conducted outside the normal league day/time schedule. This is to allow bowlers who know ahead of time they'll be somewhere else at the time league play is conducted. A pre-bowl is scheduled ahead of time, usually with the league secretary. Many leagues require a league official to be present to observe a pre-bowl, whereas other leagues do not require a league official present as long as scoring is kept automatically and a bowling center representative can print out the scores. Pre-bowled scores can receive any USBC honor award (such as a 300 game), but only under the condition that the games are bowled in direct opposition with their opponent. ("Unopposed" pre-bowled games are ineligible for honor awards.)
Preparation: Of your hand, the ball and other equipment; checking the lane for oil, dirt and a full rack of pins, etc.
Professional Bowlers Association (PBA): Determines requirements for membership, entry fees for local and national PBA tournaments, and monitors player conduct.
Puddle: A gutter ball.
Pumpkin: Ball thrown without spin that hits soft.
Punch out: To end a game from any point with all strikes.
Pushaway: Movement of the ball and starting foot together which begins the "approach."
Quick eight: A good pocket hit which leaves the 4-7 for right-handers, 6-10 for lefties.
Rail: The rail references one of two sides of the outside facing pins in a rack – either the 1–2–4–7 or the 1–3–6–10 pins. Spinners will "ride the rail" by starting with the ball (for a right-handed bowler) hitting the 1-pin on the right side, and then continue to move through the 3, 6 and 10 pins.
Railroad: A wide open split.
Range finders: Two sets of markers embedded in the surface of the lane. One is a set of ten dots seven feet beyond the foul line. The other is nine feet farther down the lane in a triangular arrangement of seven arrows. Both are used to help establish a target line.
Rap: When a single pin remains on a good hit.
Rat club: A team that shoots low scores for one game.
Reading the lanes: Discovering whether a lane hooks or holds, and where the best place is to roll the ball to score high.
Release: The hand motion as ball is rolled onto a lane.
Re-Rack: A bowler will ask for a re-rack when they do not like the way the pins are set up.
Reset: Resetting the pins.
Return: The track which balls roll from pit to the rack.
Reverse: An emphatic backup.
Reverse block: See "Blended condition."
Reverse pitch: Finger or thumb hole angled away from the center of the ball.
Revolutions: The number of turns a ball takes when rolling from release to pins.
Ride The Lightning: When a bowler must throw the ball close to the gutter in order to hit one or more pins on the edge.
Right lateral pitch, or right side pitch: Finger or thumb hole angled toward palm of hand.
Ringing 10: The situation where the result appears to be a strike, but a pin (usually the 6) flies around the 10 pin without knocking it over, leaving a pin-count of 9. For a left-hander, the equivalent is the "Ringing 7".
Ringing ten-burner: A shot to the pocket which appears to be fine but leaves the 10-pin.
Roll-out: Term describing the roll of a bowling ball. For a right-hander, the ball usually hooks from right to left, and continues this type of roll until it hits the pins. In the case of a roll-out, the ball stops hooking, and flattens out at the end just before hitting the pins. This is usually caused by the bowler not putting enough lift and rotation on the ball, or there was less friction near the pins.
Rotation: The spin to the ball at the moment of delivery.
Rug jerker: A 5-pin that is swept out to the right on a strike ball as if someone had jerked the rug out from under it.
Run, running late: A lane on which the ball hooks easily.
Runway: Starting area.
Sacrificial lamb: Term used in scratch team play where a less skilled bowler is deliberately made to oppose a very skilled bowler. This will usually happen when even a teams best bowler is unlikely to win points off the opposing teams best bowler, and thus a less skilled player is made to oppose them in the hopes that the remaining players are able to get all their point through better matchups. For example, Team A might have averages of 135, 152, 167 and 172. Team B might have averages of 153, 164, 177 and 209. Whilst the 172 average bowler in Team A is most likely to win against the 209 average bowler in Team B, it would still be very unlikely. Hence using the 135 average bowler as a sacrificial lamb and trying to win the remainder of the points is a better tactic.
Sanctioned: Competition in accordance with American Bowling Congress and Women¹s International Bowling Congress rules.
Sandbagger: A bowler who intentionally bowls poorly early in a season compared to his actual skill level, in order to record a low average in the books, thereby producing a higher handicap to be used later. The bowler will then use the higher handicap, and return to his actual bowling ability in order to win money in handicap-based jackpots and tournaments. The practice is considered illegal, although it is extremely difficult to prove.
Sandbagging: Where you ball bad early on to gain a low average and gain a higher handicap.
Sandwich game: A 200 game scored by alternating strikes and spares. (Dutch 200)
Sassy Susan: When a channeled ball exits at the last second and knocks over a pin. Originated in Ashwaubenon, WI when Susan Wolkowski's ball popped out of the channel for a game winning mark.
Scenic route: The path taken by a sharp curve ball.
Scratch: Without benefit of handicap; actual score.
Semi-fingertip: A ball drilling that allows the ball to rest on the pads between the second and third joints of the third and fourth fingers. More powerful than a conventional grip, less powerful than a full fingertip grip, it is generally not recommended.
Semi-roller: A ball that rolls on a track just outside the thumb-hole. Also called a semi-spinner. This type of ball is considered the most powerful and has displaced the full-roller in professional bowling.
Separation: The distance you allow between your standing position and where you want the ball to go.
Series: A set of full bowling games, usually three, in league play.
Shadow ball: A ball rolled in practice without any pins set.
Shadow bowling: Bowling without pins. Shadow bowling is done during practice, or during warm-up before a competition. Eliminating re-racking of the pins speeds up the rotation of bowlers on a lane. It also helps the bowler place more focus on his bowling technique than the resulting pin carry.
Short pin: A pin rolling on the alley bed which just fails to reach and hit a standing pin.
Shotgun: Rolling a ball from the hip.
Shotgun shot: Rolling the ball from the hip.
Shut-out: In match play, a situation in which it becomes mathematically impossible for a bowler to match or exceed an opponent's score, even should (s)he throw all strikes and the opponent throw all gutterballs for the remainder of the game.
Sidearming; sidewheeling: Allowing the arm to draw away from its proper position during back and forward swing.
Sideboards: Vertical division between lanes at the pit end. (kickbacks)
SIX PACK: This is what bowlers call it when you get 6 consecutive strikes.
Sixpack: Six strikes in a row.
Sleeper: A hidden pin left behind another pin after the first ball roll. These are the 8-pin behind the 2-pin, the 9-pin behind the 3-pin and the 5-pin behind the headpin. This is also occasionally referred to as a "ninja pin", because the pin is hidden from sight, similar to the stealthy form of combat utilized by ninjas in fiction.
Slick: Land condition highly polished; tends to hold back hook. Not the same as oily.
Slide: The last step of delivery.
Slot grip: A grip on the bowling ball where the area between the third and fourth fingers is drilled away, resulting in one large finger hole.
Slot, slot alley: Lane on which strikes come easy caused by a track worn into the lane.
Small ball: Type of ball that doesn¹t mix the pins; must hit pocket perfectly for strikes.
Snake eyes: The 7-10 split. (bedposts, fence posts, goal posts, mule ears)
Snow plow: A ball that clears all the pins.
Soft alley; soft lane: A lane on which strikes come easy.
Solid (or Stone) 8: Leaving the 8-pin on an apparent good flush pocket hit. Left-handed equivalent is the solid 9. This is caused by ball driving the 5-pin straight back out of the rack missing the 8 or 9 pin.
Sombrero: Term used in many bowling alleys to signify attaining four strikes in a row.
Sour apple: 1) Weak ball which leaves the 5-7, 5-10 or 5-7-10 split; 2) specifically, the 5-7-10 split.
Span: The distance from the finger holes to the thumb hole
Spare: All ten pins down on two ball rolls of a frame.
Spare leave: Pins standing after the first ball is rolled.
Sparrow: Three spares in a row. Also known as "Chicken" (Derived from the term "turkey" for three strikes in a row.)
Spiller: A light-hit strike.
Splasher: A strike where the pins are knocked down quickly.
Splice: An area of lane where maple and pine boards join.
Split: A spare leave where the head pin is knocked down and at least two non-adjacent pins are standing. (Example
Spot bowling: Target on lane at which the bowler can aim.
Squeeze: The action of the second and third fingers against the thumb, much like snapping the fingers, as they deliver the ball.
Steal: To get more pins than you deserve on a strike.
Steener: When a bowler's ball misses the head pin but through pin action still gets a strike. The last few pins usually fall like toppled dominoes. May also be referred to as a "backwash" or "backdoor strike".
Steener (variant): The same as a STEENER but occurring when only the head pin is left standing.
Stick: Another term for "pin", referring to count or the pin number. Examples
Stiff, stiff alley: A lane with a tendency to hold a hook ball back.
Straight Ball: A straight ball is when a bowler throws the bowling ball straight down the lane.
Strap the ball: Get maximum lift.
Strike: All ten pins down on the first roll. This is the aim of all bowlers at the start of each frame.
Strike out: To roll three strikes in the 10th frame of a game (the maximum possible). Also used to denote a longer string of strikes to end a game. ("He struck out after that open in the 5th frame.") Also referred to as "going sheet" or "punching out".
Strike split: The 8-10 for right-handers and the 7-9 for lefties; ball looks good but splits.
String: Three or more strikes in a row.
Stroke: The arm and hand motion during delivery over the foul line.
Stroker: A bowler known for smooth timing and delivery with relatively low amount of hook on the ball.
Sweeper: 1) A wide-breaking hook which carries a strike as though the pins were pushed with a broom; 2) a night of league bowling, previously designated, where bowling fees go toward high-scoring individuals or teams for that night.
Sweepstakes: A bowling tournament.
Swing shot: Marshall Holman¹s favorite. Starts at third arrow, goes to second and back to pocket; for bowlers with lots of hook. See "line ball" and "point shot."
Swiss cheese ball: A ball used in pro shops to establish a bowler's finger size and span for drilling.
Take off a mark: When counting marks (see counting marks), removing or not adding a mark because a bowler scored five or less on a spare or double.
Tandem: Two pins one behind the other.
Tap: A "true" tap is said to occur when a good shot hits the pocket properly and results in a standing 8 pin for a right-hander, or 9 pin for a left-hander (see above "Solid 8"). Many average bowlers tend to believe a tap occurs any time they leave a single pin (partially because it is how a "9 pin no-tap" game is played). This is not true, as all other single pins left are the result of poor pocket contact (high/light) or a bad angle of entry to the pocket. The most common is the 10-pin for right-handers (a 7-pin for lefties). This often occurs when the ball is played on too flat an angle. A rarer leave is the solid 9 for right-handed bowlers, or solid 8 for left-handed bowlers. This occurs when the ball hits with excessive angle and force, and either does not deflect or deflects in the direction it is hooking, missing the 8 or 9 pin.
Team captain: A lead team member responsible for all members being present, arranging a substitute, and determining team lineup.
Telephone poles: Heavy pins. "The fire's out"
The Approach: The approach is the area that you stand to prepare for your throw. This is simply the flooring that you stand on while you are throwing the ball.
Thin hit: A pocket hit when the ball barely touches the headpin.
THREE HUNDRED GAME: A perfect bowling game, 12 strikes in a single bowling game.
Three quarter bucket: Three of the four pins of the bucket.
Three quarters: Spot where bowlers place ball upon delivery, midway between right corner and center of lane and three-fourths of the width of the lane from the left corner (vice versa for lefties). A popular starting point.
Throwing rocks: Racking up strikes with multiple speed balls.
Tickler: When the 6-pin gently topples the 10-pin.
Tiger Beer frame: Similar to the a real “Beer Frame” described above only the strikes are not all in one frame but across two such as the 4th and 5th bowler strike in the 4th frame and the 1st and 3rd strike in the 5th thus hanging the 2nd bowler. (Derived from a Tiger Grand Slam)
Timmy: Nickname for the 7 pin. TIM, acronym for Tenpin in the Mirror, has evolved into "Timmy". Right-handed bowlers who hook the ball too much and knock down only the 7 pin are known to exclaim "Timmy!"
Topping the ball: At ball release, fingers go over top of ball instead of behind or to the side; ball has little power or action at the pins. Caused by keeping the thumb in the ball too long.
Touch: Pin standing on a good hit. (burner, rap, tap)
Track: The pattern of oil left on a bowling ball after a shot. This indicates what parts of the ball have contacted the lane on its path.
Track flare: The migration of the ball track from the bowler's initial axis (the axis upon release) to the final axis (the axis at the moment of impact with the pins). Track flare is used to expose fresh, dry ball surface to the lane surface. While on oil, this means little to the performance of the ball, but when the ball crosses from the oil to the dry, the dry ball surface bonds with the dry lane surface to increase friction which causes earlier hook and greater overall reaction.
Triple: Three strikes in a row. (turkey)
Tripped 4: When the 2 pin takes out the 4 pin.
Tumbler: A strike where the pins appear to fall individually.
Tunnel block: See "Blended condition."
Turkey: Three strikes in a row during a single bowling game.
Turkey Sandwich: When a bowler gets a spare and then a turkey and then another spare.
Turn: Motion of the hand and wrist toward pocket area at point of ball release.
Tweener: A tweener is less aggressive as a cranker. They have less hook and less revs. They will usually play around the third arrow to second arrow.
Umbrella ball: A high hit on the nose resulting in a strike.
Under: Professional bowling score below 200.
Uneven Frames: Marking (a spare or strike) in every other frame.
Up the hill: Refers to coaxing a ball over a high board into the pocket.
Venting: Drilling a small hole into a bowling ball to relieve suction on the thumb hole.
Wall Shot: A light pocket hit that results in a strike with pins "mixing", often flying off the side walls to take care of standing pins.
Washout: A spare left where at least two non-adjacent pins are still standing, but the head pin is also standing. Many bowlers consider this a split, but the official rules of bowling state that the head pin must be down for a roll to be marked as a split.
Water in the ball: A weak ball, one that leaves an 8-10, 5-7 or 5-10.
Web: Distance between the finger holes, usually one-quarter to three-eights of an inch. (bridge)
Weight Block: Weight Blocks are located in the middle of most bowling balls. They add more weight to a bowling ball.
WIBC: Women's International Bowling Congress.
Winding them in: Refers to big-hook-ball bowlers who get their hooks around the pocket consistently.
Wombat: Getting a spare after throwing a gutter ball on the first throw. Derived from coming from 'Down Under'.
Wood: 1) In handicapping, the number of pins given; 2) in scoring, the number of pins knocked down; 3) general reference to a pin or pins.
Wooden bottles: Pins. Woolworth
Working ball: A ball with enough action to mix the pins on an off-pocket hit and have them scramble each other for a strike. The same ball will break up splits when it hits the nose.
Wrap around: A tap of the 10-pin when the 6-pin appears to "wrap around" it, missing it.
Wrist master: One of the many accessories worn by bowlers to help keep a firm wrist during backswing.
X: Symbol for strike.
XI: A hand signal given at a pivotal moment during a game to encourage team mates to strike much in the same way rally caps are employed in Baseball.
Yank shot: When a bowler hangs onto the ball too long.
Yank the shot: When a bowler hangs onto the ball too long and pulls it across his body.
Young American Bowling Alliance (YABA): The YABA is the governing body providing recognition, sanctioning, playing rules and supervision to help preserve the amateur status of its members. The YABA is a non-profit volunteer-based organization for young bowlers.
Zero in: Find the right strike spot on a lane.