Glossary of bowling

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

This is a Glossary of bowling terms, jargon and slang.

Pin-related jargon[edit]

The following pin diagrams illustrate the terms given to certain pin arrangements, left after the first ball of given frame. All terms assume a right-handed bowler. Same terms apply to the reverse.

Dinner bucket
Bucket if missing 8-pin
Double wood left
or Sleeper #1
Double wood right
or Sleeper #2
7 8 9 10
4 5 6
2 3
7 8 9 10
4 5 6
2 3
7 8 9 10
4 5 6
2 3
Baby split Christmas tree #1 Christmas tree #2
7 8 9 10
4 5 6
2 3
7 8 9 10
4 5 6
2 3
7 8 9 10
4 5 6
2 3
Big Four Greek Church (Big Five) Goal (or Bed) posts
7 8 9 10
4 5 6
2 3
7 8 9 10
4 5 6
2 3
7 8 9 10
4 5 6
2 3
Dime store #1 Dime store #2 Lily
7 8 9 10
4 5 6
2 3
7 8 9 10
4 5 6
2 3
7 8 9 10
4 5 6
2 3
Washout #1 Washout #2 Modern Washout (Super Washout)
7 8 9 10
4 5 6
2 3
7 8 9 10
4 5 6
2 3
7 8 9 10
4 5 6
2 3

Other bowling terms and jargon[edit]

As with many sports, bowling has many terms and jargon that may not be well known to the casual player or TV viewer. The candlepin sport of New England and the Canadian Maritimes has its own list of terms.

  • 180: A pinsetter malfunction where the sweep bar is stuck at the back of the lane (180 meaning halfway through a pinsetter cycle). Improperly, the term is often used to denote a malfunction where the pin sweep is stuck at the front of the pin deck and the machine is unable to lower the next cycle of pins (properly called a 270 malfunction).
  • 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.
  • Andy Varipapa 300: 12 strikes in a row bowled over a span of two games. Named after the professional bowler Andy Varipapa.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Bagger: Always preceded by a number from three to eleven, denoting a string of consecutive strikes. (e.g., "six-bagger")
  • 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 as cola frame when people not of drinking age are involved.
  • BFO: Beer Frame Opportunity: This is when three of the first four bowlers of a five-man team have struck before the anchor man's turn such that if he strikes it will be a beer frame. If all four have struck then the anchor must strike to prevent the Beer Frame, therefore also BFO.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Bowling establishment: A facility where bowling is played. Other names include bowling house, and the more common bowling alley.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Bumpers: Barriers set up along a lane to block the gutters, so that bowling balls thrown by the participant (usually for beginners or young children) will stay on the lane.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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".)
  • 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: The ball striking the middle of the 2-pin in a 2–4–7 combination, and leaving the 4–7 pins, is considered a chop.) A modern version of the chop involves picking only the middle pin out of any of the following combinations: for left-handers: 1-2-4, 2-4-7; and for righties: 1-3-6, 3-6-10.
  • 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.
  • Cheesy Cakes: Lanes on which strikes are relatively easy. May also be referred to as a "cake shot".
  • Clean Game: A single game of bowling where the player has a mark (spare or strike) in all ten frames.
  • Clover: Four strikes in a row, a reference to the 4-leaf clover.
  • Cock and Balls: When the bowler leaves the 1–5–8–9.
  • Conversion: Another word for a spare, often preceded by the number(s) of the pins left before shooting the spare. (Example: "3–6–10 conversion".)
  • Count: The number of pins knocked down on a given shot, particularly after a mark in the prior frame.
  • Cranker: A bowler known for rolling the ball with extreme revolutions, making it hook more.
  • 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.
  • Deck jam: A pinsetter malfunction where the pinsetter is stuck and pins fall out of the pinsetter.
  • Dirk: When a bowler releases his ball in such a way that it lands far down the lane; nearly to the marks. (See "Loft".)
  • Double: Two strikes in a row during a single bowling game.
  • Double wood: One of the three spare leaves that feature a pin directly behind another: the 2–8, the 3–9 or the less-common 1–5. (See "Sleeper".)
  • 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".
  • Dutch 200: A game where the scoring consists of alternating strikes and spares, which will result in a score of exactly 200.
  • Emergency Service (UK): Knocking down 9 pins in three successive frames—as in "999", the UK emergency telephone number.
  • Field Goal:When a ball is shot directly into the pit (right between the goalposts) during a 7-10 split.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • FLO: Any pre-game ritual that is religiously practiced before bowling, such as eating in the same restaurant or wearing the same socks.
  • Flush: A strike that places all ten pins into the pit. A flush strike is technically perfect.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • Full Murray: A bowler leaving the 5–7–10.
  • Go Bland: The start of a new game.
  • (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."
  • Grandma's Teeth: The 4–7–9–10 or 6–7–8–10 split.
  • Greek church: The 4–6–7–8–10 or 4–6–7–9–10 split. Also known as the "Big Five" or "cathedral".
  • Gutter: Synonymous with channel.
  • 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 casual 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Hook: Rolling the ball with enough side-spin to make the ball curve as it rolls toward the pins.
  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Llama: Four (4) strikes in a row during a single game. (Five: Super Llama, Six: Mega Llama, Seven: Ultra Llama, Eight, Double Llama, Nine: Dalai Llama, Ten: Bahama Llama (Originated in Cleveland, Ohio)
  • Loft: The time and distance that a thrown bowling ball travels in the air before contacting the lane surface. While lofting is sometimes used by 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.
  • 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.
  • Mark: A spare or a strike.
  • 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 bird dog, scout, shrapnel, or rogue pin.
  • Middle Finger: When the ball hits a full rack and the 5 pin remains standing.
  • 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".
  • Nadler: A strike where the 1 pin is the last to fall.
  • 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.
  • Open Frame: Any frame in which a strike or spare was not made.
  • Out of Range: When a pin is moved off its proper spot, usually when it has wobbled. Pinsetters are required to spot the pin where it has moved off (therefore, string pinsetters are not allowed for competitive play). However, if beyond a certain range, the pinsetter may accidentally knock over the pin (which must be re-spot in its proper spot by a technician) or be unable to pick it up and sweep out deadwood (which will need to be cleared manually).
  • Paralyzer: A pin which appears to be knocked down only to stand up again or otherwise skids some distance while standing.
  • 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.
  • Pins: The ten "targets" at the far end of the lane that a bowler attempts to knock down by rolling a ball at them.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • 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. Also known as "picket fence".
  • 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.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Sandbagger: A bowler who intentionally bowls poorly early in a season compared to his actual skill level, in order to record a low initial average, 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 and/or give his team a better chance to win games. The practice is considered illegal, although it is extremely difficult to prove.
  • Series: A set of full bowling games, usually three, in league play.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. Also known as "double wood" or "in the dark".
  • Sombrero: Term used in many bowling alleys to signify attaining four strikes in a row.
  • 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 or deflected headpin driving the 5-pin straight back out of the rack missing the 8 or 9 pin.
  • Spare: All ten pins down on two ball rolls of a frame.
  • Sparrow: Three spares in a row. Also known as "Chicken" (Derived from the term "turkey" for three strikes in a row.)
  • Split: A spare leave where the head pin is knocked down and at least two non-adjacent pins are standing. (Example: the 8 and 10 pins left by themselves would be considered non-adjacent. The 6 and 10 pins are adjacent, and thus not considered a split.) Common jargon for certain splits include: "baby split" (most commonly 2–7 or 3–10), "big four" (4–6–7–10), "Greek church" (4–6–7–8–10 or 4–6–7–9–10) and "fit-in" or "steam fitter" split (most commonly 4–5 or 5–6).
  • Stick: Another term for "pin", referring to count or the pin number. Examples: "Our team is down 20 sticks" or "I left the 10-stick three times that game."
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • (to bowl a) Stewart: A Perfect game of 12 strikes continuously.
  • Stroker: A bowler known for smooth timing and delivery with relatively low amount of hook on the ball.
  • 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.
  • 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!"
  • 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.[1]
  • Turkey: Three strikes in a row during a single bowling game.[2]
  • 3 ball auto: Scoring three non-consecutive strikes in a single game.
  • Turkey Sandwich: When a bowler gets a spare and then a turkey and then another spare.
  • Uneven Frames: Marking (a spare or strike) in every other frame.
  • 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. Like Brooklyn strikes, wall shots are often the result of poor accuracy and depends on luck.
  • 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.
  • Wombat: Getting a spare after throwing a gutter ball on the first throw. Derived from coming from 'Down Under'.
  • 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.


  1. ^ "Glossary | Storm Products, Inc — The Bowler's Company". Retrieved 2016-01-24. 
  2. ^ Customer Service Hours (2014-05-22). "Bowling Glossary / BowlersParadise". Retrieved 2016-01-24.