Bowling Terminology – A Comprehensive List

Bowling is an incredibly complex game that has evolved quite a lot over the last few centuries. Within this period, many phrases, slang, and technical jargon have made their way into the sport of bowling, and every professional should know about these terms.

This must be making you wonder, what is the glossary of bowling, 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 talk about bowling terms and slang words and their impact on the 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 Slangs?

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 very vast, and covering the entire glossary can be almost impossible, but our goal is to make sure we cover as much ground for you and other beginners in bowling as we can. So, you need to be confident and have a learning mindset when it comes to 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? Well, knowing how to bowl without knowing any bowling terms is not a great practice. Here are all the benefits you will get by learning about bowling terms while learning to play.

Increase Bowling Knowledge

By learning different bowling terms and slang words, you will be increasing your knowledge of the sport, which is never a bad thing. You can even forward your knowledge to other people if you learn about these things while learning the ropes themselves.

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

If you want to become a professional in bowling ultimately, you’re going to have to know bowling terms as well as utilize them in your game as you play. All these reasons and more make knowing bowling terms so important.

Bowling Terms

It is time we take a look at some words, terms, and slang that you’re going to want to learn to become better at bowling with words and hanging out with the professionals. Let us take a look at them.

900 Series

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

ABC

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 are pointing towards the pins. These arrows are known as the aiming arrows, which help the bowler take the proper aim.

Approach Area

The approach area is the area 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.

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 is moving down the bowling lane and about to hit the pins at the end.

Axis Tilt

The angle between the Axis rotation and the horizontal plane is known as the axis tilt. It is caused by the bowler, which represents the angle of axis rotation 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.

Backswing

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

Balance Hole

All bowling balls are made 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.

Beer Frame

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

Breakpoint

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

Brooklyn

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

Carry

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.

Cherry

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.

Centerline

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 line is imaginary and helps you grasp the bowling ball better when throwing it towards 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.

Coverstock

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. As of now, there are urethane, plastic, resin, and particle coverstocks, all with their specific pros and cons.

Deadwood

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

Differential

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.

Frame

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.

Foul

Like in every other game, if you commit a foul in bowling, you will lose your turn. There are different kinds of fouls. The most common is over-stepping the foul line. This line is exactly in front of the approach area, so watch your step.
Read more here: What Constitutes a Foul in Bowling?

Gutter

On either side of the bowling lane, there 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.

Handicap

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.
Here you can read more: Handicap in Bowling Explained.

Headpin

We know that the 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.

House Ball

If we talk about bowling jargon, a house ball is a bowling ball that 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.

Kingpin

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.

Loft

Loft in bowling means releasing the bowling ball higher up than usual. If you are lofting a bowling ball, you have better chances 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.

Open Frame

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

PAP – NAP

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

Par

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

PBA

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

Pin Scatter

The meaning of the phrase pin scatter in the game of bowling is quite literal. Once you hit the bowling pins at the end of the lane, the effect you see occurring 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.

Pocket

The Pocket is an empty 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 pocket or the 2-3 pocket.

PWBA

The Professional Women’s Bowling Association is a governing body that organizes many of the 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.

Shadow Bowling

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

Skid/Flip

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

Sleeper

A pin in the bowling pin set that cannot be directly seen from the approach is hidden behind another pin 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.

Spare

A spare is a bowling term where you knock all the remaining pins down in the second shot of a 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?

Tweener

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

USBC

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.

WIBC

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.

YABA

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.

Bowling Strike Names

First of all, 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 the 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.

Double

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

Turkey

Turkey, in bowling terms, is not a big flightless bird. If you can score three strikes consecutively then, you’ve scored a turkey. This would require you to score a strike on the first shot of the frame along with the second shot and the third shot that you are going to take, and the total score of the frame 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, if you end up scoring five strikes in consecutive order, it is called a five-bagger (sometimes called Brat, Yahtzee or Olympic Rings). For this, 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 is used to describe 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 lead to your overall game score being 300, which is 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 think of taking part 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 of all are either the 2-7 or the 3-10 splits. 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, you have two pins standing in the last couple of rows on the opposite ends. 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 very much 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 pins, and 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 there is one more pin 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 slate.com.

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 are standing. 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

Conclusion

Bowling is an art that is learned through knowledge and practice. None of these factors can be avoided if you are thinking of becoming a professional bowler. That is why I have talked about the significant 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.


Check out: Best selling Bowling Equipment

Check out the latest posts

Do you need gift ideas for bowlers?
Check out this article: 10 Bowler's Gift Ideas