One or two definitions are given; in any given application, it¹s usually one or the other, not both. Synonyms are given in parenthesis (synonym) after the definition.
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. (stance)
Alley: 1) A group of lanes; 2) bowling establishment; 3) playing surface,usually made of maple and pine boards; urethane lanes may soon outnumber wood lanes.
All the way: Finishing a game from any point with nothing but strikes.
American Bowling Congress (ABC): The world's largest sports organization and the official rule-making body of tenpin bowling.
Anchor: Last man to roll in team competition. Usually the best bowler; i.e., the bowler most likely to get a strike in the "foundation frame" (the ninth frame) and most likely to "strike out." The term originated in 1913 when a bowler (Hans Arfsparger) for the Anchor Brewing team in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, bowled in the fifth position and struck out 94 times in succession.
Angle: The direction the ball travels when going into the 1-3 pocket (1-2 for lefties). Recent studies [see reference at end] have shown an optimum angle of 4-6 degrees; less or more angle tends to leave pins as the width of the pocket decreases.
Apple: 1) Bowling ball; 2) bowler who fails to come through in a clutch situation. (choke)
Approach: 1) Part of the lane from the very back of the ball return area to the foul line. Most approaches are 16' long; they are required by the ABC to be at least 15'. (platform, runway) 2) Start of the bowler¹s motion, ending with the start of the delivery, which is when the ball begins its final swing forward to the release.
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.
Baby ball, Baby the ball: Too delicate, not enough emphasis on delivering the ball with authority; released too carefully. Baby split: The 2-7 or 3-10.
Baby split with company: The 2-7-8 or 3-9-10.
Back ends: Last 5-6 feet of the lane, including the pin deck. (ends)
Backup: A ball that falls away to the right (for right-handers) or left (for left-handers).
Backup alley: A lane that holds or tends to stop a ball from rolling to the right (or left for left-handers).
Balk: 1) An incomplete approach in which the bowler does not deliver the ball; 2) to interfere or cause another bowler to stop his approach or not complete it in his normal fashion.
Ball rack: 1) Where the ball rests before it is rolled and after it returns from the pit; 2) the structure used to store house balls.
Ball return: Track between the lanes the ball travels on when being returned to the bowler.
Ball track: Area on lane where most balls are rolled.
Balsa: A slight, powerless hit on the headpin. (thin hit)
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.
Bedposts: The 7-10 split. (fence posts, goal posts, mule ears, snake eyes)
Beer frame: In team play, when all players strike, the one who doesn¹t must treat (usually liquid refreshments). May also be the low scorer in a designated frame (often the 7th frame).
Belly the ball: Increase the width (number of boards ball crosses from its maximum outside position) of a hook from an inside starting angle.
Bench work: Any type of conversation or actions intended to upset an opponent. (bench jockeying)
Bender: Hooking or curving 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.
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 a double on a strike.
Big five: Spare leave of three on one side and two on the other.
Big four: The 4-6-7-10 split. (big ears, double pinochle, golden gate)
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, usually the average minus ten or a set score (for example, 140 for men and 120 for women); considered a penalty. Many league rules define "Blind" and "Absentee" with different qualifications. (dummy)
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. (error, miss, open)
Blow a rack: A solid strike hit.
Blowout: Downing all the pins but one. (tap)
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.
Box: A single frame.
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.
Bowling Proprietors Association of America (BPAA): Trade organization of the people who own bowling centers; publishes Bowling Digest magazine.
Break: 1) A lucky shot; 2) a stopper after a number of consecutive strikes.
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 first ball to the left of the headpin for right-handers, to the right of it for left-handers. (cross)
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 sides or center of lane (2-4-5-8, 3-5-6-9, or 1-2-3-5). (dinner bucket)
Burner: When a pin stands on an apparent perfect strike hit. (rap, tap, touch)
Buzzard: Three open frames in a row.
Call the numbers: Pins left standing are always announced in numerical sequence (1267, not 1276).
Carry: Ability of the ball to knock down the pins (as in "carry more pins"). CC: A 200 game; stands for "double century."
Channel: Depression approximately 9.5 inches wide to the right and the left of the lane to guide the ball to the pit should it leave the playing surface. (gutter)
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 come easy.
Cherry: Chopping the front pin of a spare leave while a pin behind and/or to the left or right remains standing. (chop)
Chicken wing: When a bowler lets his elbow get away from his body during the swing; generally considered an unacceptable style, but has been used by bowlers with physical problems, notably Don Carter, although he used a bent elbow on the backswing only. (flying elbow)
Choke: 1) Failure to accomplish objective because of nervousness or fright; 2) cutting arm swing short. (apple)
Chop: Chopping the front pin of a spare leave while a pin behind and/or to the left or right remains standing. (cherry)
Christmas tree: The 3-7-10 or 2-7-10.
Cincinnati: The 8-10 split.
Classified: Leagues or tournaments with average limitations.
Clean game: Strike or spare in each frame (i.e., no open frames).
Clothesline: The 1-2-4-7 or 1-3-6-10.
Clutch: Pressure situation.
Come up: Hook into the pocket caused by spin on the axis.
Conversion: "Making" a spare; i.e., knocking down all the pins that remain with a second ball. Usually used only when remarking on the conversion of splits.
Count: Number of pins knocked down on the first ball of each 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: Bowler who uses cranking motion (lift and turn) at the top of the backswing to generate high speed and considerable hooking action.
Crawler: A strike produced by missing the head pin. Usually the 4, 2, and 1 fall slowly onto each other in that order (or 6, 3, 1) in domino fashion.
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: Anchor man missing in final frame when a spare would have won for his team.
Curve: Ball that breaks from right to left (for right-handers) in a huge arc (and vice-versa for lefties).
Cushion: Padding at rear of pit to absorb shock of ball and pins.
Cutter: Sharp-breaking hook which seems to slice the pins down.
Darts: The "arrows" located between 12 and 16 feet beyond the foul line; used for targeting. The ABC requires that each dart be no 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: Pins knocked down but remaining on the lane or in the gutter; must be removed before continuing play.
Deflection: The movement of the ball when it comes into contact with the pins and angles away to one side or the other.
Delivery: Preparation + Release + Follow-through
Deuce: A 200 game or 200 average; see also "par."
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)
Dive: The action of a ball that hooks greatly at the last split second.
Division boards: Where the pine and maple meet on a lane; see also "break of the boards."
D.O.A.: "Dead on arrival"; a ball with no action or power on it often resulting in a split.
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.
Dry, dry lanes: Lanes with very little oil applied to them.
Double: Two strikes in a row; scores twenty plus the number of pins knocked down on the next ball.
Double pinochle: The 4-6-7-10 split. (big ears, big four, golden gate)
Double wood: Two pins when one is directly behind the other; 1-5, 2-8, 3-9. (barmaid, bicycle, double wood, oneinthedark, sleeper, tandem)
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.
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)
Dump the ball: Releasing the ball without bending the knee; may damage the lane.
Dutch 200: A 200 game scored by alternating strikes and spares. (sandwich 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.
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.
Fence posts: The 7-10 split. (bed posts, goal posts, mule ears, snake eyes)
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; 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: Any split where it¹s possible for the ball to hit both pins.
Five-bagger: Five strikes in a row.
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: Ineffective ball; few revolutions, little action.
Floater: A ball that goes where the lane lets it; the ball is released badly with no particular lift or turn.
Flying elbow: See "chicken wing."
Follow-through: Motion after release. Should be toward the pin you're aiming at and may include a second "shadow" swing without the ball.
Forward pitch: Finger or thumb hole angled toward center of ball.
Foul: Touching or going beyond the foul line at delivery.
Foul line: The mark that determines the beginning of the lane, 60' this side of the head pin, where the gutters start. Usually red. Has detector lights ("foul lights") and a buzzer to alert your team and opponents to your clumsiness. Crossing it gets you a count of zero for that ball and, if on the first ball, a shot at a new rack of pins.
Foundation: A strike in the ninth frame; base for three possible strikes in the tenth frame.
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 tenth part of a game of bowling.
Frozen rope: A ball rolled with excessive speed almost straight into the pocket.
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 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.
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)
Grab: Means the friction between the lane and the ball is good, causing a sudden hook.
Grandma¹s teeth: A random array of pins left standing.
Grasshopper: An effective ball, particularly on light pocket hits.
Graveyards: Low-scoring lanes. In a high-scoring center, applied to the lowest scoring pair.
Greek Church: Split leave when three pins remain standing on one side of the lane and two on the other (the pins resemble church steeples).
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: Depression approximately 9.5 inches wide to the right and the left of the lane to guide the ball to the pit should it leave the playing surface. (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: Midway between a full and a light hit.
Handicap: Pins awarded to individuals or teams in an attempt to equalize competition.
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.
Head pin: Front or Number 1 pin of a rack.
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 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 (for right-handers, and vice versa for lefties).
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 or pair of lanes for individual or teams.
Honey: A good ball.
Hook: A ball that breaks to the left for right-handers and to the right for lefties.
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 ball provided by the center.
Inside: A starting point near the center of the lane (as opposed to the outside, near the edge of the lane) usually referring to the point of release.
In there: A good pocket hit. Jack Manders: Rolling through the middle of a 7-10 or any wide split. (field goal)
Jam: Force the ball high into the pocket.
Jersey, Jersey side: To the left of the headpin (for right-handers, and vice versa for lefties).
Kegler: Synonym for bowler.
Kickbacks: Vertical division between lanes at the pit end. On many hits the pins bounce from the kickback knocking additional pins down. (sideboards)
Kick off: Smooth, effective 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.
Kingpin: The headpin or the number 5 pin, varying with local usage.
Kitty: Money collected from team members for misses, low games, and other set fines. Used to defray expenses in tournaments or divided equally at end of season.
Kresge: Whereas the 5-10 split is called the Woolworth or Dime Store, the 5-7 is often called the Kresge.
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 man in a team lineup.
Left lateral pitch, or left side pitch: Finger or thumb hole angled away from palm of hand.
Leave: Those pins not knocked down on the first ball.
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 resulting in the 2-4-5 or 3-5-6.
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).
Lilly: The 5-7-10 split.
Line: 1) The path a bowling ball takes; 2) one game of bowling.
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."
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: Portion of the swing usually associated with how far past the foul line the ball travels before it hits the lane; may be modified to increase or decrease the ball's axis of rotation.
Lofting: Throwing the ball well out onto the lane rather than rolling it.
Logs: Very heavy pins, up to four pounds in weight, used for practice.
Looper: An extra-wide hook ball, usually slow.
Loose hit: A light pocket hit, closer to directly in the 3-pin rather than on the headpin, as opposed to a high 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 tap from a moving pin, usually off the wall/sideboard, which delicately knocks it down.
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: 1) A strike or spare; 2) the point on the lane where the bowler intends to put the ball down or otherwise use as a target.
Match play: Portion of a tournament in which bowlers are pitted individually (one-on-one) against each other (rather than against the field).
Medal play: Strictly total pin scores (in other words, series, not per game or with handicap).
Messenger: A pin that comes rolling across the lane after most or all of the others have fallen.
Miss: A missed spare. (blow, error, open)
Mister Average: Name given to an absent bowler (whose average is used). It's Mrs. Average if the bowler is a lady.
Mixer: Ball with action causing the pins to bounce around.
Moat: Nickname for the gutter
Mother-in-law: 1) The 7 pin; 2) the back pin in a sleeper situation.
Move in: To start from or near the center of the approach.
Move out: To start from or near 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).
Nose hit: A first ball full on the headpin; hitting the pins dead center.
Nothing ball: Ineffective ball.
NBC: National Bowling Council.
Oneinthedark: Rear pin in the 1-5, 2-8 or 3-9 spare. (barmaid, bicycle, double wood, motherinlaw, sleeper, tandem)
On the nose: A head-on hit to the headpin; frequently causes a split.
Open: A frame that doesn¹t have a strike or spare. (blow, error, miss)
Open bowling: Nonleague or nontournament play, for fun or practice.
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 the ball won't make it back to the pocket.
Outside: Corner or near corner position of playing lanes; use is not as extreme as "gutter shot."
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 and not enough finger lift, preventing the ball from having proper action. When the thumb stays in too long, the ball is said to be overturned. The thumb should come out first, allowing the fingers to lift the ball forward and spin it to the side.
Pack: A full count of ten.
Par: 200 game; bowling over or under "par", etc.
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: Twelve strikes in a row with a count of 30 pins per frame resulting in a score of 300.
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)
Piano keys: See "break of the boards."
Pie, Pie alley: A lane that is easy to score on.
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.
Pinching the ball: Gripping the ball too hard.
Pin deck: Area 60' from the foul line where pins stand; usually has dark-colored spots where the pins are aligned.
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.
Pit: Space at end of lane where ball and pins wind up.
Pitch: Angle at which holes in bowling ball are drilled. Reverse pitch is a drilling that heads away from the front of the ball; positive pitch is the opposite.
Platform: Part of the lane from the very back of the ball return area to the foul line. (approach, runway)
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 1-3 for right-handers and 1-2 for lefties.
Point the ball: To aim more directly at the pocket, high and tight.
Point Shot: Start from first arrow and throw over first arrow; ball goes straight at pocket. See also "swing shot" and "point shot."
Poison ivy: The 3-6-10. Poodle: To roll a gutter ball.
Position rounds: Designated parts of a league or tournament schedule which call for teams or players to meet each other based on their standings. First place meets second, third meets fourth, etc.
Pot game: Competition in which two or more bowlers post some sort of stake and high man takes it all.
Powder puff, puff ball: Slow ball that fails to carry the pins.
Powerhouse: A hard, strong ball which strikes.
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. Pull the rug: To have the ball just touch the headpin, at which time the pins appear to dance until the last second when they all seem to collapse at once, resulting in a strike.
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: 1) The 1-2-4-7 or 1-3-6-10 spare; a "little rail" is the rail minus one of the end pins (1, 7, or 10). (picket fence) 2) The outside board of a lane, usually made of harder wood such as maple, which with wear may stand above the inner playing surface and cause balls to track along it rather than go into the channel.
Railroad: A wide open split with both pins on the same line (4-6, 7-9, 8-10, 7-10). (hole)
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 standing on a good hit. (burner, tap, touch)
Rat club: A team shooting horribly 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: Hand motion as ball is put onto lane.
Reset: Resetting the pins when off spot.
Return: The track on which balls roll from pit to ball 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 traveling from the release to the pins.
Ringing ten-burner: A shot to the pocket which appears to be fine but leaves the 10-pin.
Right lateral pitch, or right side pitch: Finger or thumb hole angled toward palm of hand.
Rotation: The spin imparted to the ball at the moment of delivery which results in pin "action"; specifically, motion of the pins which is horizontal, rather than vertical, since a horizontally spinning pin covers more of the lane.
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; ends at foul line, where lane begins. (platform, approach)
Sanctioned: Competition in accordance with American Bowling Congress or Women¹s International Bowling Congress rules.
Sandbagger: Bowler who keeps his average down purposely in order to receive a higher handicap than he deserves.
Sandwich game: A 200 game scored by alternating strikes and spares. (Dutch 200)
Scenic route: Path taken by a big curve ball. Schleifer: Thin-hit strike where pins seem to fall one by one.
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 placed on the lane to hit the target. Set: Ball holding in the pocket.
Shadow ball: A ball rolled in practice without the pins being set, usually for five minutes or just one or two balls before competition play.
Short pin: A pin rolling on the alley bed which just fails to reach and hit a standing pin.
Shotgun shot: Rolling the ball from the hip.
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)
Sixpack: Six strikes in a row.
Sleeper: A pin directly behind another pin; respectively: 8-4, 5-1, 9-3. (barmaid, bicycle, double wood, motherinlaw, oneinthedark, tandem)
Slick: Land condition highly polished; tends to hold back hook. Not the same as oily.
Slide: The last step of the delivery.
Slot, slot alley: Lane on which strikes come easy caused by a track worn into the lane.
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.
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 for a strike.
Soft alley; soft lane: A lane on which strikes come easy.
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: Distance between thumb and finger holes.
Spare: All pins down with two balls.
Spare leave: Refers to pins standing after first ball is rolled.
Spiller: A light-hit strike in which the pins seem to melt away, taking a longer time than other strike hits.
Splasher: A strike where the pins are downed quickly.
Splice: Area of lane where maple and pine boards join. (break of the boards, dovetails, piano keys)
Split: A spare leave in which the headpin is down and the remaining combination of pins have an intermediate pin down immediately ahead of or between them. (hole, railroad)
Spot bowling: Target on lane at which the bowler aims; could be a dot, a board, or an arrow.
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 hit.
Stiff, stiff alley: A lane with a tendency to hold a hook ball back.
Strap the ball: Get maximum lift.
Strike: All ten pins down on the first ball. See also double, turkey, four- and five-bagger, and sixpack. Seven, eight, nine, ten and eleven strikes in a row are called seven-in-a-row, eight-in-a-row, etc.
Strike out: To get all three available strike in the tenth frame or, similarly, finish the game from any point with strikes.
Strike split: The 8-10 for right-handers and the 7-9 for lefties; ball looks good but splits.
String: Three or more consecutive strikes. Also, in some areas, one game of bowling.
Stroke: The arm and hand motion during the act of delivery over the foul line.
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: 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 determine 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. (barmaid, bicycle, double wood, oneinthedark, sleeper)
Tap: When a pin stands on an apparent perfect strike hit. (burner, rap, touch)
Team captain: Team member responsible for all the members being present, arranging for substitutes, and determining the team lineup.
Telephone poles: Heavy pins. "The fire's out": Common expression used when a string of strikes comes to an end.
Thin hit: A pocket hit when the ball barely touches the headpin.
300 game: A perfect game consisting 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.
Three quarter bucket: Three of the four pins of the bucket; three of the 2-4-5-8, 1-2-3-5, or 3-5-6-9.
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: Piling up strikes with a speed ball.
Tickler: When the 6-pin gently topples the 10-pin from the channel resulting in a strike; the 6-pin is the "tickler."
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: 1) Area most used on lane, creating a path to pins; 2) area on a bowling ball where it rolls and picks up minute particles.
Triple: Three strikes in a row. (turkey)
Tripped 4: When the 2 pin takes out the 4 by bouncing off the kickback.
Tumbler: A strike in which the pins appear to fall individually.
Tunnel block: See "Blended condition."
Turkey: Three strikes in a row. (triple)
Turn: Motion of the hand and wrist toward pocket area at point of ball release.
Umbrella ball: A high hit on the nose resulting in a strike.
Under: Professional bowling score below 200.
Up the hill: Refers to coaxing a ball over a high board into the pocket.
Venting: Drilling a small hole (not a finger hole) to relieve suction on the thumb hole.
Washout: The 1-2-10 or 1-2-4-10 for right-handers and the 1-3-7 or 1-3-6-7 for lefties.
Water in the ball: A weak ball, one that leaves an 8-10, 5-7 or 5-10.
WIBC: Women's International Bowling Congress.
Winding them in: Refers to big-hook-ball bowlers who get their hooks around the pocket consistently.
Web: Distance between the finger holes, usually one-quarter to three-eights of an inch. (bridge)
Weight block: The area of the ball which is drilled. Allowable tolerances are three ounces difference between the top and bottom of the ball and not more than one ounce difference between the sides to the right and left of the finger holes or between the sides in front and back of the finger holes. "Negative weight" means there is less top weight than bottom weight; this will cause the ball¹s hook to be delayed until the very last second. Generally, top weight, finger weight, and right side weight produce more hook; bottom weight, thumb weight and left side weight reduce the hook and/or hold back the action of the ball.
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: The 5-10 split (the 5-7 is called the "Kresge"). (dime store)
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 contraptions work by bowlers designed to help keep a firm wrist during the backswing.
X: Symbol for strike.
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.