Bowling Terminology – A Comprehensive List

Bowling is an incredibly complex game that has evolved significantly over the last few centuries. Many phrases, slang, and technical jargon have made their way into bowling within this period, and every professional should know about these terms.

This must make you wonder, what is the bowling glossary, and why should I learn it? If that is the case, you are in the right place because that is precisely what I am here to tell you.

Bowling jargon is the phrases, terms, and words used in everyday bowling activities by professionals who know and understand the game well. Every professional should learn about these terms.

In this article, I will discuss bowling and slang terms and their impact on knowledge and playing experience. I will briefly explain all the terms associated with bowling in general. So, without wasting any further time, let us get started.

Bowling Terminology - A Comprehensive List of bowling terms, slang, phrases and jargon.

What are Bowling Terms and slang?

Like every other sport, bowling also has its technical terms and slang words associated with it. These words come into use in every day plays or high-intensity tournaments. Let us take the simple example of a spare. A spare is a bowling term. It means to knock down all the pins in the set on the second throw of a frame. Spare might have other general meanings, but this is what it means as a bowling term.

Bowling terms are vast, and covering the entire glossary can be almost impossible. Still, we aim to cover as much ground for you and other beginner bowling as possible. So, you need to be confident and have a learning mindset regarding bowling jargon. Please make sure you are open to learning all of it.

Importance of Knowing Bowling Terminology

You might be thinking, why do I need to learn bowling terms? Should I not just know how to play the game itself? Knowing how to bowl without knowing any bowling terms is not great practice. Here are all the benefits you will get by learning about bowling terms while learning to play.

Increase Bowling Knowledge

Learning different bowling terms and slang words will increase your knowledge of the sport, which is never bad. You can even forward your knowledge to others if you learn about these things while learning the ropes yourself.

Practice New Techniques

As you learn about different new terms and words, you’ll also understand their meanings and perhaps try to practice those techniques and phrases, which will lead to your game becoming better as well.

Become a Professional in Bowling

To become a professional in bowling, you must know and utilize bowling terms in your game as you play. All these reasons and more make knowing bowling terms so important.

Bowling Terms

It is time we look at some words, terms, and slang that you’ll want to learn to improve at bowling with words and to hang out with professionals. Let us take a look at them.

900 Series

A 900 series is when a bowler can play three perfect games. Since the maximum score in one game is 300, the maximum score in three consecutive games is 900.

Read more here: What is a 900 Series in Bowling?


The ABC, also known as the American Bowling Congress, was founded in 1895 and was one of the first bowling governing bodies in the world, with primarily male members. It was converted to USBC. See more on USBC below.

Aiming Arrows

A little distance across the foul line, we have a set of marks on the bowling lane surface where arrows point toward the pins. These arrows are the aiming arrows, which help the bowler take the proper aim.

Read more here: What is Aiming Arrows in Bowling?

Approach Area

The approach area is before the foul line, where the bowler is meant to make the approach and throw the ball from. This area is about 15 feet in length which are long enough for any bowler.

Read more here: What is the Approach Area In Bowling?

Axis Rotation

Axis Rotation is the phrase that refers to the side rotation of your bowling ball. It means how much your bowling ball rotates to the side as it moves down the bowling lane and is about to hit the pins at the end.

Read more here: What is Axis Rotation?

Axis Tilt

The angle between the Axis rotation and the horizontal plane is known as the axis tilt. It is caused by the bowler, representing the axis rotation angle above a horizontal line in the middle of the bowling ball. This term refers to the vertical alignment of the hand at the release point.

Read more here: What is Axis Tilt?


The bowling ball does not roll toward the pins at the end of the bowling lane. To ensure your bowling ball has enough force and speed, you need to swing it back before you release it forward. This swing towards the back for generating force is known as the backswing.

Read more here: What is Backswing in Bowling?

Balance Hole

All bowling balls are made of the same sizes. The difference arrives in their weight. To make heavier bowling balls legal in terms of the static weight standards of the USBC, balance holes are made on the bowling ball, which is not meant for gripping purposes.

Read more here: What is a Balance Hole in a Bowling Ball?

Beer Frame

Popularly, the fifth frame of a game of bowling, where the worst playing individual would get beers for all the other players, is known as the beer frame. The lowest score is considered the worst.

Read more here: What is a Beer Frame in Bowling?


The Breakpoint is the area of the bowling lane where the bowling ball is the furthest away from the bowling pins before it moves toward the headpin. The Breakpoint has to do a lot with the oil conditions of the lane.

Read more here: What is the Breakpoint in Bowling?


A Brooklyn shot is when the bowling ball crosses over to the other side of the headpin from which it was thrown. For example, a Brooklyn strike would mean your bowling ball hit the 1-2 pocket instead of the 2-3 one if you are a right-hander.

Read more here: What is a Brooklyn in Bowling?


The process by which the pins are knocked down due to the direct impact of the coming bowling ball is known as carry or pin carry. It is one of the common words used in bowling.

Read more here: What Does Carry Mean in Bowling?


Cherry in bowling is when you have two pins standing in the set, with one in front of the other, and you take the first one out by deflecting it in front of the back pin and missing it.

Read more here: What is a Cherry in Bowling?


On a bowling ball, the vertical line between the two fingers and the thumb within the finger holes of the bowling ball is referred to as the Centerline. This imaginary line helps you grasp the bowling ball better when throwing it toward the pins.

Clean Game

A game where there are no open frames at all is known as a clean game. This would mean that in each frame, either the players scored a strike or a spare. None of the frames were left with any pins standing.

Read more here: What is a Clean Game in Bowling?


In bowling lingo, the coverstock is the outer layer of the bowling ball. This layer can be made up of several different kinds of material. There are urethane, plastic, resin, and particle coverstocks, all with their specific pros and cons.

Read more here: What is Coverstock on a Bowling Ball?


Usually, pins are cleared out when they are knocked in bowling. However, in some bowling variants, knocked pins are useful for the bowler. These knocked-down pins are called deadwood in bowling lingo.

Read more here: What is Deadwood in Bowling?


Bowling Ball Differential is the measure of its track flare potential. With a low differential, a bowling ball is more stable, while on the other hand, a bowling ball is less stable with a higher differential.

Read more here: What are RG and Differential in a Bowling Ball?


I believe we talked about this before. A frame is a section of a bowling game where a person takes two shots with the bowling ball. There are ten frames in a game of bowling, and the maximum score in a frame is 30, whereas the maximum score in a game is 300.

Read more here: What is a Frame in Bowling?


Like in every other game, you will lose your turn if you commit a bowling foul. There are different kinds of fouls. The most common is overstepping the foul line. This line is in front of the approach area, so watch your step.

Read more here: What Constitutes a Foul in Bowling?


On either side of the bowling lane are two gutters where the bowling ball shouldn’t go; otherwise, it would be a foul. A former name for today’s gutters in bowling was Channel.

Read more here: What is a Gutter Ball in Bowling?


A handicap is a score adjustment mechanism used to adjust the score of newbie bowlers according to the average of the professional bowlers in a tournament.

Read more here: Handicap in Bowling Explained.


We know that bowling pins are set in a particular triangular form. Well, the first pin in the first row is the starting point of this set. That is why, in bowling language, this pin is called the headpin.

Read more here: What is a Headpin in Bowling?

House Ball

Regarding bowling jargon, a house ball is a ball you can find at your local bowling center. This bowling ball is a generic one, usually with a plastic coverstock, and it does not have a specific finger hole size either, which makes it useful for all.

Read more here: What is a House Ball in Bowling

killer shot

If you successfully knock down the headpin (see above for an explanation if needed) but leaves behind two or more pins that are not adjacent to each other, it is called a “killer shot.”


The Kingpin is the name of the number 5 pin in a set of 10 bowling pins. This pin is referred to as the Kingpin because it is in the center and the cushion of all the other pins in the set of bowling pins.

Read more here: What is the Kingpin in Bowling?


Loft in bowling means releasing the bowling ball higher up than usual. If you are lofting a bowling ball, you have a better chance of being more accurate since the bowling ball will fall and get affected by the oil pattern and lane conditions slightly less than a typical shot.

Read more here: How to Throw a Loft in Bowling?

Open Frame

A frame where neither a strike nor a spare takes place is known as an open frame. This means one or more pins still stand in that frame after two shots.

Read more here: What is a Frame in Bowling?


Two-axis lines create a perceptive line through your bowling ball. One is the PAP, or the Positive Axis Point, where your ball rolls down, and the other is the NAP, or the Negative Axis Point.

Read more here: What is Axis Tilt and Axis Rotation In Bowling?


Par, also known as average, scores 200 in bowling. It is a score that is quite common in ten-pin bowling games.

Read more here: What is a Good Score in Bowling?


The Professional Bowler’s Association is the main bowling-sanctioning body in the United States. It has nearly 3000 members nationwide. It is headquartered in the Chicago Region of Illinois, US.

Read more here: PBA – Professional Bowlers Association

Pin Scatter

The meaning of the phrase pin scatter in bowling is quite literal. Once you hit the bowling pins at the end of the lane, the effect you see when the pins push away due to the knock is known as the pin scatter. It is quite useful in knocking other pins down at times.


The Pocket is a space between two adjacent pins. Throwing a bowling ball in a pocket can increase the chances of getting a strike due to better pin action. For example, the 1-2 or 2-3 pockets.

Read more here: What is the Pocket in Bowling?


The Professional Women’s Bowling Association is a governing body that organizes many yearly tournaments and leagues for the top players of the women’s division of ten-pin bowling. This organization has been in place for quite a long time, from about 1960.

Read more here: PWBA – Professional Women’s Bowling Association

Shadow Bowling

Shadow Bowling is a practice activity where bowlers take turns throwing the bowling ball without any pins at the end of the lane. Bowlers use this technique to increase their accuracy and eliminate the time to reset the bowling pin set at the end of the lane.

Read more here: What is Shadow Bowling?


If a bowling ball does not roll down while moving toward the headpin, it is said to be skidding on the surface. However, if it rolls down from one side to another, it is said to be flipping in bowling lingo.

Read more here: How to Throw a Skid Flip Bowling Ball?


A pin in the bowling pin set that cannot be directly seen from the approach is hidden behind another pin and is called a sleeper. For example, the eight-pin behind the two-pin is a sleeper. The nine-pin behind the three-pin is also a sleeper.

Slide Step

Slide step is an approach in bowling where you bend your throwing knee and slide towards the approach line, and step to break your slide just at the right time. This allows you to move in a linear motion and get the right shot into the right trajectory.

Read more here: How to slide when bowling.


A spare is a bowling term where you knock down all the remaining pins in the second frame. This only works if your first shot was not a strike. By scoring a spare, your frame will get awarded ten points plus the score of the next shot.

More to read here: What is a spare in bowling?


A person who delivers the bowling ball in an indistinguishable fashion between stroking and cranking is known as a tweener. This is a more advanced bowling term.

Read more here: What is a Tweener in Bowling?


The American Bowling Congress was converted into the USBC or the United States Bowling Congress in the early 2000s to provide bowling a new platform for growth. The number of members of the USBC is around 1.4 million at this point.

Read more here: USBC – United States Bowling Congress.


Since the American Bowling Congress was a male-dominated organization, the WIBC, more commonly known as the Women’s International Bowling Congress, was a governing organization for the sport of the women’s bowling division founded in 1916. There were 1.2 million members at that time.


In the 1980s, the Young American Bowling Alliance, or the YABA, was founded, primarily designed to include bowling enthusiasts and professionals under the age of 22. There were around 400,000 members of the YABA at the time of its creation.

Read more here: YABA – Young American Bowling Alliance.

Bowling Strike Names

First, let’s talk about the most crucial part of a bowling game – a strike. What is a strike; Basically, there are two shots in each frame and 10 frames in a single game for each player.

If a player can knock all ten pins in the first shot of the frame, it is known as a strike, and the score of that particular frame is 10, added to the score of the next two shots.

But that is just one of the bowling terms. There are multiple strikes and different names for each of them. To give you knowledge about these strikes and their bowling jargon, let us look at them.


The double strike well is just like it sounds. If you can consecutively do it two strikes in a row, you’ve made a double strike. This means you hit the first strike, then made another strike on the second shot out of the second and third shots to be included in the current frame’s score. Doubles are common among professional bowlers.


Turkey, in bowling terms, is not a big flightless bird. If you can score three strikes consecutively, you’ve scored a turkey. This would require you to score a strike on the first shot of the frame along with the second and third shot you will take, and the total frame score would become 30, which is the maximum.
Here you can read more in detail: What is a turkey in bowling?

Four-Bagger and Five-Bagger

Now we are getting to the complex number of strikes. If you can score four strikes in a row, the term for that is four-bagger (sometimes called a “Hambone”). Similarly, scoring five strikes in consecutive order is named a five-bagger (sometimes called Brat, Yahtzee, or Olympic Rings). You would have to score a strike on all the first five shots you take in your turn.

Six Pack

Then comes the six-pack. Well, we’re halfway to a perfect game. This slang word in bowling describes six strikes in a row. It is a challenging feat to accomplish. If we talk about how it comes to work, you will have to score strike after strike in six consecutive shots starting with the first shot of the frame. Also sometimes referred to as Wild or Double Turkey.

Seven-Bagger to Eleven-Bagger

After that, we only have a strike-fest. If you score seven strikes in a row, you have made a Seven-bagger (Ham-Turkey, from Hambone+Turkey). Eight strikes would lead you to an Eight-bagger (or Little Big Pete). Nine would bring up the number to Nine-bagger (Golden Turkey) and ten (Bo Derek), along with 11 with getting you a Ten-Bagger (Bo Derek) and an Eleven-Bagger (One Day From Retirement).

Perfect Game

Finally, the rarest and most impossible of feats to accomplish is a perfect game. You must have heard about it somehow. If you can throw strikes on every shot you play throughout the game, you would’ve scored a perfect match. This would increase your overall game score to 300, the maximum you can get in a single game of ten-pin bowling. Even professionals are not able to get perfect games that easily.
Here you can read more in-depth: Perfect Bowling Score.

Bowling Strike Names - InfoGraphic
Bowling Strike Names – InfoGraphic

Bowling Split Names

Another important bowling term you need to know about is a bowling split. Splits are not as popular as strikes for apparent reasons, but knowing what they are can be handy if you consider participating in a professional tournament.

A split is when the headpin and other pins are knocked down in the first shot of a frame; however, two or more pins on non-adjacent sides are still standing.

In this case, if the bowler can get a spare, it is called a killer shot. There are several different types of bowling splits with other non-adjacent pins standing. Let us look at some of them.

Baby Split (2-7 or 3-10 Split)

Bowling Split Name - Baby Split (2-7 or 3-10)

The easiest splits are the 2-7 or 3-10. These splits are known as Baby Splits in bowling terms. Simply because the 2nd pin is right in front of the 7th pin, and the 3rd pin is right in front of the 10th pin, throwing the ball at the right angle will get you the killer shot you desire.
That is why this split is named as it is.

Big four (4-6-7-10 split)

Bowling Split Name - Big four (4-6-7-10)

Another incredibly hard-to-knock split is the 4-6-7-10 split. In this split situation, two pins stand on opposite ends in the last couple of rows. Going for one side can put the other in jeopardy. That is why making a swinging shot that increases pin action is what you need to do to knock all the pins down.
This split in bowling lingo is known as the Big Four.

Christmas Tree (2-7-10 or 3-7-10 split)

Bowling Split Name - Christmas Tree (2-7-10 or 3-7-10)

This split is called the Christmas Tree. It is like the Baby split, except it is on steroids. The opposite pin on the last row is standing as well. You need to go for the baby split. Perhaps the pin action will knock down the opposite endpin.
So, this shot is primarily dependent on luck.

Cincinnati (7-9 or 8-10 Split)

Bowling Split Name - Cincinnati (7-9 or 8-10)

The 7-9 or 8-10 splits are like mini-versions of the 7-10 split. They are also challenging to score. In bowling lingo, these splits are called Cincinnati splits. The throw needs to have a significant amount of bowling pin action.
Only then can you get a better chance at getting a killer shot?

Goalposts / Bedposts (7-10 Split)

Bowling Split Name - Goalposts - Bedposts (7-10)

The most difficult to knock down is the 7-10 split. To get a killer shot in this situation, you will have to get severe pin action because the 7 and 10 pins are on the opposite ends of the last row of the bowling set. In bowling terms, this split is known as the goalposts or the bedposts.
It is considered an actual work of art if you can get this split knocked down.

Greek church (4–6–7–8–10 or 4–6–7–9–10 Split)

Bowling Split Name - Greek church (4–6–7–8–10 or 4–6–7–9–10)

This split is almost the same as the Big Four, except one more pin is included (either the 8 or 9 pin).
Statistical, the 4–6–7–9–10 split is the most difficult shot in professional bowling, with a spare rate of just 0.3%, according to

Woolworth (5-7 Split)

Bowling Split Name - Woolworth (5-7)

A reasonably common split is the Woolworth split, where the 5 and 7 or 5 and 10 pins stand. This split is also easier to score. The five-pin is directly in the middle, while the 7 or 10 pins are on opposite sides. So, the right throw can get both the pins out and give you a killer shot.

Here you can read more about spares: What does a spare do in bowling?

Bowling Split Names - InfoGraphic
Bowling Split Names – InfoGraphic


Bowling is an art that is learned through knowledge and practice. None of these factors can be avoided if you consider becoming a professional bowler. That is why I have discussed the effective bowling terms used in the sport. I hope you learned a lot from this article and that you will use this knowledge and put it to good use. Have a great bowling experience and a great day ahead of you.

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