Basic Bowling Slang Terms – Pick Your Favorite Now!

Bowling Slang Terms are something that all bowlers can relate too. The seasoned bowlers are constantly saying these strange words about another persons bowling. Maybe you have heard some of them and most likely had no idea what they were talking about.

Maybe you just heard one and you are searching to find out what it means. Well, you came to the right place. I am going to list all the bowling slang that I have heard over the years, and explain what it means. Let’s get started.

Some Basic Bowling Slang Terms

What is bowling?

I think a good place to start is with the basics of the game of bowling. In ten pin bowling, the object of the game is to knock down all the pins, by rolling a ball down a lane or alley.

A strike is declared when all the pins are knocked down with one throw. A spare is counted when all the remaining pins are knocked down.

What are the ten segments in bowling called?

Frames are the 10 segments in bowling. Each bowler has two shots to knock all the pins down, except in the 10th frame.

If you get a strike in the 10th frame, you get 2 more bonus throws to knock down as many pins as you can. If you knock all the pins down with two shots for a spare, you get a bonus shot. But if you throw twice, and still have pins standing, your turn is over.

You only get 2 more shots if you get a strike or 1 more for a spare in the 10th frame.

Open Frame – A frame where you did not knock down all ten pins. You left some pins standing after two shots.

How many pins are used in bowling?

There are ten pins standing on the alley that you have to knock down.

What are the bowling pins made of?

Bowling Pins are made of smaller pieces of maple wood glued together. Then, the pins are shaped and covered with either nylon or a coating made by Dupont called Surlyn.

Maple is used because it is one of the only woods that can take the constant pounding and punishment. And in addition to making the pins more durable, using small pieces glued together allows for the weight of the pins to be kept more consistent.

What is the Proper Name for the bowling pins?

The bowling pins are historically know as skittles or kegels. This includes all the pins used in all the different bowling games including, ten-pins, five-pins, duckpins, and candlepins.

What is the slang term for pins

Wood – This is a basic slang term referring to the pins. If you are getting a lot of strikes and scoring well, you are stacking wood. If you are getting a lot of splits, you are splitting wood.

Dead Wood – Pins that are still on the lane or in the gutter after being knocked down.

Double Wood – A pin hidden behind another pin; 1-5, 2-8, 3-9. Also called a “Barmaid” and a “Bicycle

How much does a bowling pin weigh?

In bowling, the bowling pins must have a minimum weight of 3 lbs and 6 ounces and a maximum weight of 3 lbs and 10 ounces.

Head Pin – The 1st pin closest to the bowler, that stands alone with all the other pins behind it.

Pin Rack – The pinsetter rack that resets the pins after each throw.

Pin Deck – The area where the pins sit on the alley.

Ten Pin – The pin in the back position of the pin rack on the right side of the alley next to the gutter.

Related: The Dreaded Ten Pin

Seven Pin – The pin in the back position of the pin rack on the left side of the alley next to the gutter. Also known as the “Mother-In Law

5 Pin – The pin directly behind the head pin, in the center of the pin rack. Known as the “Kingpin” because it has pins all the way around it.

When you leave the 5 pin standing alone and all the other have been knocked down, it is also means “no sex” for you tonight. That is one reason it is commonly said “nobody misses the 5 pin”.

Check out are bowling pins made of to learn more about bowling pins.

More Basic Bowling Slang terms

What is the approach in bowling?

The Approach – The area behind the foul line where you line up and use a 3 step, 4 step or 5 step delivery to throw the ball down the lane. The steps you use can also be referred to as the 3, 4, or 5 step approach.

Alley – Refers to the bowling establishment, or to the lane surface.

Anchor – The last man to bowl on the team, usually the best bowler. Also called the “hammer”

Arrows – Markings on the lane surface used for targeting the bowling line to get the ball to the 1-2 or 3-4 pocket.

Baby Split – A split with very little space between the two pins. Usually referring to the 2-7 or the 3-10 splits.

Baby Split With Company – 3 pin split. It’s the Baby Split with one additional pin. 3-9-10 or 2-7-8.

Baby The Ball – Throw the ball too easy. sometimes needed on very oily conditions to give the ball more time to hook,

Backends – The last 20 feet of the bowling lane. Bowlers like to refer to strong hooking balls as having a lot of backend. This means the ball hooks strong and hard as it get close to the pins.

Backup Ball – A ball that turns or hooks in the opposite direction. Left to right for right handers and right to left for left handers.

Bad Rack – Usually a pin is place slightly in the wrong place. Bowlers who spot it, can rerack the pins.

Bagger – Consecutive strikes in a row, usually starts with 3 or more. 3 Bagger,4bagger, 5 bagger, ect.

Ball Return – The channel that returns your ball to the Ball Rack located between the lanes, where all the balls remain till your next shot.

Other Bowling Slang Terms For consecutive Strikes

2 strikes in a row – A Double
3 strikes in a row – 3 Bagger, also called a “Turkey
4 strikes in a row – 4 bagger, also called a “Hambone
6 Strikes in a row – 6 bagger, the front 6 or a “Wild Turkey
7 Strikes in a row – 7 bagger, or the “Front 7” and “String of 7
8 Strikes in a row – 8 bagger, or the “First 8” and “String of 8
9 Strikes in a row – 9 bagger, or the “Front 9” and “Golden Turkey
10 Strikes in a row – 10 bagger, or the “First 10” and “String of 10
11 Strikes in a row – 11 bagger, or The “First 11” and “String of 11
12 Strikes in a row – A Perfect Game! – “300 Game

Why is 3 strikes in a row called a turkey?

In The 1700-1800’S typical prizes for Bowling Competition were baskets of food, and often it contained a Turkey.

Ball Track – Also called the “Line”. The path that the ball needs to travel to get to the pocket for a strike. It can also refer to the line on the ball where it is contacting the alley, leaving a track mark on the bowling ball.

Barmaid – A pin hidden behind another pin; 1-5, 2-8, 3-9. Also called Double Wood.

Bedposts – The 7-10 split. Also called “Fence Posts” and “Snake Eyes

Beer Frame – When all the bowlers strike in one frame, or if one doesn’t on the team, he buys the drinks! It can also be the 5th frame designated as the beer frame. Again, the person who doesn’t strike buys the beer. It cam also be the person with the lowest score in the 5th frame.

What was the original “beer frame”

The 5th frame was originally always the Beer Frame. Any bowler that didn’t strike, or the lowest score bought a round of beers for the team.

Big Four – The two outside pins remaining on both sides of the lane. The 4-6-7-10 is also called “Grandma’s Teeth“, “Double Pinochle“, “Big Ears“, “Mule Ears” and the “Golden Gate

Blind – The absent score for an absent player. Also know as a “Plug

Blind Team – A team without any bowlers and all Plug or blind scores used to even up a league with an uneven amount of teams.

Blocked Lanes – Refers to an oil condition that is made easy to score by the oil blocking or holding the ball into a target line to the pocket.

Why is 4 strikes in a row called a Hambone?

Again , it goes back to the food awards. But, ESPN commentator Rob Stone is credited with calling 4 strikes in a row a “Hambone”.

Blowout – Leaving one pin and getting a nine count on your first shot.

Brooklyn – A strike with the ball entry point on the opposite side of the head pin. A Brooklyn strike for a right hander is the ball hitting on the 1-2 pocket side, instead of the normal 1-3 pocket hit.

Bucket – Four pins, normally offset from center, that form a bucket (actually a diamond shape)

Carry – Usually refers to the amount of pins your ball is knocking down, or “Pin Carry”

Carry Down – Refers to the oil that is being moved further down the lane and affecting the ball hook. “Oil Carry Down”

Cherry – With two pins left on the bowling deck, missing one and leaving the other one standing. Also know as a “Chop

What is a game with all strikes and spares without any misses?

A “Clean Game

Dutch 200 – Alternating strikes and spares to end up with a 200 score. Also called the “Hard Way”

Foul – The most common foul is stepping over or past the foul line. This is where you get an “F” on your score. When you commit a foul, your score is erased, the pins are reset and you have one more shot. If you knock down all the pins, it does not count as a strike. You will be given a spare because you already threw one ball. Be careful, don’t foul!!

Gutter – The area on each side of the lane that your ball falls into when your ball falls off the side of the lane. It is also called “The Grey Area” or “The Ditch”. Sometimes bowlers will say, “you threw that one out the window” when a bowler throws a Gutterball.

House Ball – The ball found on the ball racks to use when you don’t have your own ball. They are drilled with a standard drilling and are generally plastic balls in different weights.

Mark – Any frame that ends with a strike or spare.

Par – Another name for the 200 game.

Picket Fence – Leaving either a 1-2-4-7 or 1-3-6-10 formation after your first ball.

What Are No-Tap Tournaments?

Leaving one pin is also know as a “Tap”. Thus, 9 pin tournaments where you only need 9 to count as a Strike, are called “No Tap” tournaments.

Pocket – This is the area on either side of the head pin that gives you the best chance to knock down all the pins. this is what you are trying to hit with your first ball. 1-2 pins for left handers and 1-3 pins for right handers.

Poison Ivy – Another name for the 3-6-10 split.

Pumpkin – A ball that delivers a weak hit and gets lousy pin carry.

Sandbagger – A player that deliberately bowls badly to keep his handicap low for leagues or tournament scores.

Tap – Leaving one pin on what appears to be a good Strike Ball.

Thin Hit – Also called a “Light Hit“. When the ball hits the head pin lightly. It is too light into the pocket.

Wash Out – Splits that have the head pin still standing. 1-2-4-10 or 1-2-10 for righthanders, and the 1-3-6-7 or the 3-6-7 for lefthanders.

Wire It – Finish with 3 Strikes in the 10th frame. Also called “Off the Sheet

These are some Bowling Slang terms In league bowling

I have tried to include the most popular terms I have heard used in the Bowling alleys and at Bowling tournaments. The list is not complete, and there are more terms out there.

If you found some funny and it brought a smile, then I have accomplished what I had hoped for. Maybe you learned something new, and that’s a good thing too.

Thank you for reading my post. If you have any questions, please leave them below. I will answer ASAP


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12 thoughts on “Basic Bowling Slang Terms – Pick Your Favorite Now!”

  1. Great Bowling articles! Thanks for sharing this informative article, I am also writing on Bowling but the way you explain is very nice. I also want to write informative article for your site please if you allow me to write for you.

    Thanks again for sharing this information.

    • Hi William,
      It appears you are translating your English or you are not very proficient in English. I noticed grammar errors in this comment request and on your website. Unfortunately, I would have to correct your articles after you wrote them. Thank you for the offer, but I must decline.

  2. It’s like learning another language!! I never realized there were so many terms, and then some, in bowling. I found it interesting that the pins can range in weight. Do people have an advantage if the pins are positioned in different places according to their weight? Why wouldn’t they all be the same weight? It seems to me like this would be more like a “handicap” if you know where they are placed. However, I guess the machine that swoops them up randomly places them on the lane.

    Thanks so much for this post. It was quite entertaining and informative.


    • Hi Nina,
      Yes, it is! The pins have a range because wood is a natural product and will vary in weight somewhat, But the difference is very small. it would be impractical to place them according to weight. The pin setter just sends the pins into a basket and they fall into chutes where each pin is located in the rack. They are pretty much just mixed around and fall into the chutes randomly. So, you don’t know where the pins are each time. But, as I said the difference is so small, it really doesn’t make a difference.
      Thank you for such a good question, and please stop back soon!

  3. Haha, you made here some explanation, thanks for that Chas. I think some slang names are pretty funny (didn’t know you use wood also in bowling, thought just in snooker), but it is definitely handy to know those terms. At least some of them. I think almost everyone played or will play a bowling game, and it is useful to know what the other is talking about. During my last game, some 2 months ago, I didn’t know even some of the basic rules! Also, thanks to your blog post, I will be much more “cool” when with my friends having a throw. Cheers

    • Hi Julius,
      Glad you liked the bowling terms. Some of them are pretty funny. Yea, it helps when you know what they are talking about! I need to get a complete basic rules page here because some are starting new everyday, and don’t know them.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment, please stop back soon.

  4. Great informative bowling article. I didn’t know that the needles were made of maple wood and that maple wood can take the most hits. And I also didn’t know about the prize in the basket and the food you also get the turkey 🙂 very informative and I’m sure many will find answers to various questions they have about bowling in this article. Thank you for this interesting article and I wish you good health. 🙂

    • Hi Zvezdan,
      I suppose you are referring to the pins when you say “needles”? Yes, maple was also used for the lanes before they had the synthetic lanes that they have now. The synthetic lanes are basically a mat that lays right on top of the old maple lanes. The prize in the basket was a turkey, so now the refer to three strikes in a row as a “Turkey” Maybe in years passed, you got a turkey for three strikes?
      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment, and please stop back soon.

  5. Hi Chas, Thanks for sharing. I was aware of some of the crazy names associated with bowling but wow so many and you have done an excellent job here of listing these. I think here in the UK bowling is not so big I think more people play Petanque or bowls which is quite different you basically have 3 balls I think it is and have to try and bowl them as close as you can to this small little ball. We do have bowling alleys but not as big a sport as in the USA I don’t think.

    • Hi Alex,
      It is a popular sport here in the US, as you can tell by all they bowling terms. I have never heard of your game Petanque, I think is sounds similar to Curling in the Olympics’
      Thanks for taking the time to comment, please stop back soon.

  6. Hi Chas,

    so many times I have gone bowling, but never have I had any idea about all the slang terminology in bowling, so I obviously found this super interesting. When someone mentions a “Turkey” in future – at least I would not look at them as if they gone completely bonkers 🙂

    • Hi Schalk,
      I am glad you found my page helpful. The new monitors here in the USA will display some of the terms like “Turkey” when someone gets 3 strikes in a row.
      It all just adds to the fun of a night out bowling with friends and family. Add a few beer frames and A good time will be had by all.
      Thanks for leaving a comment and please stop back soon.


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