Glossary of bowling
- 180: A pinsetter malfunction in which the sweep bar is stuck at the back of the lane, halfway through a pinsetter cycle.
- 270: A pinsetter malfunction in which the pin sweep is stuck at the front of the pin deck and the setter is unable to lower the next set of pins. In some bowling establishments, this malfunction is incorrectly referred to as 180.
- / (slash): Symbol for spare.
- ABC: American Bowling Congress, the first enduring standards and rules governing organization for ten-pin bowling in the United States, formed in September 1895 and merged in 2005 with other organizations to form the United States Bowling Congress (USBC).
- Abralon (pad): An abrasion technology product used to "sand" ball coverstocks with different grits (degrees of roughness) to control the amount of friction between the coverstock and lane.
- Absentee (score): See blind.
- Action bowling: Bowling contests involving money betting, historically associated with the New York underworld from the 1940s to the 1970s.
- Adjust(ment): A change in technique—especially in alignment, but also in approach, delivery, targeting or ball choice—often made in response to changing lane conditions or to correct undesirable ball motion.
- Align(ment): A choice of location of the feet during setup, location of the sliding foot at time of release, and choice of target (arrow), which collectively determine initial ball trajectory. Alignment is usually expressed in terms of board number and arrow number, for example, "standing at (board) 25, sliding at 20, looking at the second arrow".
- Anchor: In league play, the person bowling last: usually the bowler with the highest average or the best performer under pressure.
- Andy Varipapa 300: 12 consecutive strikes bowled across two games.
- Angle of entry: The angle at which the ball is moving when first impacting a pin (especially the pocket), measured with respect to a line parallel to the lane's boards. A ball that hooks has a larger angle of entry than a ball thrown in a straight line. Distinguish: delivery angle.
- Approach: The part of the delivery that leads up to the release. Approach also denotes the area behind the foul line.
- (The) Arrows: Seven regularly-spaced arrowhead-shaped guides located about 15 feet past the foul line, used as targets for rolling the ball.
- Arsenal: The set of bowling balls available for a bowler's use. Often, the term specifically refers to the limited quantity of balls permitted under rules of a particular competition. Balls in an arsenal are usually chosen to be mutually distinct in coverstock, core characteristics, and pin configuration, to achieve desired ball paths under different lane conditions.
- Asymmetric: Adjective describing a ball that is not symmetric, and therefore tending to have greater flare potential. Adjective is also applied to the ball's core.
- Average: The total of scores from multiple games divided by the number of games, rounded down to an integer (whole-number) value.
- Axis rotation: Angle of the ball's axis of rotation in a horizontal plane, measured with respect to a line parallel to the foul line. Generally, axis rotation is imparted by turning the ball, and significantly contributes to hook. Initial axis rotation is defined at the time of release. Axis rotation is also referred to as side rotation or side roll. Distinguish: axis tilt.
- Axis tilt: Angle of the ball's axis of rotation in a vertical plane, measured with respect to the horizontal. Initial axis tilt is defined at the time of release. Distinguish: axis rotation.
- Baby Split: A split that can be converted by hitting both pins with the ball. Examples: 3—10, 2—7, 4—5.
- Back _#_: A number, _#_, of consecutive strikes ending with the final roll of a game. For example, a player rolling strikes in the seventh, eighth and ninth frames plus three more in the tenth frame is said to have the "back six". Compare: front #_.
- Back-up ball: A ball thrown with a right-handed release that hooks left to right, or thrown with a left-handed release that hooks right to left.
- Back end: The (approx.) one-third of the lane furthest from the foul line, which generally lacks oil.
- Backswing: The portion of a delivery following the push-off (push away) and preceding the forward swing and release.
- _#_-Bagger: A string of _#_ strikes in consecutive frames within the same game (example: "six-bagger").
- Baker format: A team game scoring format in which a team's members bowl frames in a repetitive order to complete a single game (example: bowler A bowls frames 1 and 6, bowler B bowls frames 2 and 7, and so forth). Named after 1950s American Bowling Congress officer Frank K. Baker.
- Balance hole: A hole drilled into a bowling ball into which a finger is not inserted. The hole, originally meant to correct static imbalance, has also been used to change the ball's intended dynamics and was banned in competition by USBC effective August 1, 2020. Also called a weight hole.
- Balance leg: The leg opposite the leg on which a bowler slides in the final slide step, so named because the moving balance leg provides a counter-balance to the motion of the ball immediately before and during release, thus helping to stabilize the bowler's body position.
- Ball down: To switch to a ball that has a weaker hooking reaction. Opposite of ball up.
- Ball reaction: Change in direction of ball motion due to frictional contact with the lane surface, the term often applied to describe the amount of hook. Often shortened to reaction.
- Ball speed: Rate at which a ball as a whole moves down the lane (usually expressed in miles per hour, MPH). Distinguish: rev rate, which describes a ball's rotational velocity (expressed in revolutions per minute, RPM).
- Ball up: To switch to a ball that has a stronger hooking reaction. Opposite of ball down.
- Bananas: a pinsetter malfunction in which the pinsetter has an incomplete load and is stuck at full lift.
- Beer frame: Frame in which the only bowler on a team not to strike in the frame, or the bowler with the lowest score in a predetermined frame, buys beer for their teammates.
- Behind the ball: A position of the hand on the ball, furthest or nearly furthest from the pins and away from the side, generally thought to impart a modest but controllable amount of side rotation to modern reactive resin bowling balls. Designed to avoid a chicken wing delivery.
- Benchmark ball: A ball whose coverstock, core, and layout most reliably match a bowler's style under expected lane conditions—often chosen from an arsenal as a default (first-to-use) ball.
- BFO (beer frame opportunity): When three of the first four bowlers of a five-man team have struck such that if the fourth strikes, the frame will constitute a beer frame.
- Big Four: A split where only the 4, 6, 7 and 10 pins are standing.
- Blind (score): In league play, a score attributed to a team member who is absent for a particular session, the score usually smaller than the player's average. Also called "absentee score" or "dummy score". Distinguish: vacancy.
- Blocked lane: A lane with an oil pattern in which high oil volume on the middle boards allows a shot missed to inside to slide toward the pocket and not cross over, and in which low oil volume on the outer boards causes a shot missed to the outside to hook more strongly toward the pocket, the differing oil concentrations collectively increasing the margin of error for a strike. See typical house shot (THS). Distinguish: over/under.
- Blow-out-five (BOF):[Questionable] On a full rack, the ball hits light in the pocket, but still hits the 5-pin and makes it fly into the 7-pin (or 10-pin for left-handed releases) to strike. Broadcaster Nelson Burton, Jr. used this term. If the result of a pocket hit like this leaves a corner pin, the resulting leave is a "Swishing 7 (or 10)". Swishing 7-10 splits can even happen.
- Bo Derek: Used by Rob Stone, ten consecutive strikes in the same game, referring to the actress' best-known film.
- Board: A longitudinally placed wooden board or synthetic substitute, 39 of which constitute the 41.5-inch width of a lane. Boards are considered to be numbered 1 through 39, increasing from right to left for right-handed releases. Boards 5, 10, 15... 35 have marker arrows.
- Bracket(s): A contest format in which bowlers are divided into groups (the "brackets"), and each bowler is paired against another bowler in the group in the first round of what is usually a single-elimination tournament. Bracket competition is often conducted in parallel with regular tournament or league competition. More generally, the term bracket denotes a tree diagram representing how contestants are paired against each other.
- Breakdown: Process by which repeated ball traversals along a path incrementally remove oil from the path so it presents increased friction to subsequently-rolled balls, thus reducing their length. See also: burn. Breakdown is one aspect of lane transition. Distinguish: carry-down.
- Breakpoint: A term with slightly varying definitions: The point along a bowling ball's path at which the ball transitions from the skid phase to the hook phase; or the point of maximum change in direction; or the point at which the ball is at its most outside position; or the point at which the ball transitions from the hook phase to the roll phase. Compare: length.
- Broken (wrist position): A position of the wrist during delivery in which the back of the hand is bent toward the outside of the forearm (palm being opened). A broken-wrist-position delivery provides less rev rate and hook potential. Opposite of cupped.
- Brooklyn: A roll in which the ball crosses over the centerline to impact the pins on a side opposite the pocket. Also called a Jersey in the New York City area, or Windsor in the Metro Detroit area.
- Bumpers: Rails (barriers) surrounding a lane to prevent balls from going into the gutters, primarily for beginners or young children.
- Burn or burn up: Phenomenon or intentional competitive strategy by which a large amount of ball traffic on a particular path removes lane oil from that path, causing subsequently rolled balls to encounter increased friction. Term is often used to describe change in lane characteristics during long tournaments in which lanes are not repeatedly re-oiled. See breakdown.
- Carry: See pin carry.
- Carry-down: Process by which balls, having picked up oil from the oil pattern, deposit it in the normally-dry back end to cause subsequently-rolled balls to "slide" and thus extend their length before hooking. Carry-down is one aspect of lane transition. Distinguish: breakdown.
- Challenge match: In Japan, an event where a popular bowler, usually a licensed professional, hosts a tournament, allowing paying participants to compete for money and prizes. Typical event consists of three games. The host receives a payment, minus the funds used to pay off the bowlers who defeated the host.
- Channel: Formal term for gutter. One of two trough-shaped structures surrounding a lane to catch errant rolls.
- Cheesy cakes: Also: "cake shot". Lanes on which strikes are relatively easy.
- Cherry pick: See chop.
- Chicken sandwich: Three consecutive spares, preceded and followed by strikes.
- Chicken wing: A delivery in which the bowler's elbow is undesirably bent and extends outward to the side, rather than remaining behind the hand in line with the intended ball delivery path. Chicken winging is disfavored because it confounds the desirable action of the wrist and fingers in rotating the ball and generally results in a weaker release and diminished side rotation.
- Chop: In an attempt to convert a spare having (at least) two pins, to knock down a near pin while failing to knock down a pin that is immediately diagonally adjacent. Example: knocking the 2 and 4 down but leaving the 5 pin. A modern interpretation of the term includes picking only the middle pin out of, for example, the 1-3-6 or 3-6-10 (right handed release).
- Clean game: A game with a mark (spare or strike) in all ten frames.
- Closed (body position): Describes a body position in which the shoulders (especially) are directed squarely downlane and not to the outside; is commonly adopted by strokers, a style favoring repeatable accuracy over power. Compare: open (body position).
- Clover:[Questionable] Four strikes in a row. A reference to four-leaf clover.
- Come back: Of a ball: to hook. The term is usually applied when a ball seemingly was headed too low but ended up hooking adequately.
- Conditioner: Lubricating lane oil.
- Conventional grip or conventional fit: A ball grip in which fingers are inserted to the second knuckle from the fingertips; characteristic of house balls. Compare: fingertip grip.
- Conversion (convert): In the second ball roll of a frame, the knocking down of all pins that remained standing after the first roll, so as to achieve a spare for that frame. Term is often preceded by the number(s) of the pins involved (example: "3–6–10 conversion").
- Core: A dense structure inside a ball that can be shaped, located and oriented to strategically affect ball motion. Sometimes called a "weight block". See Bowling ball#Effect of coverstock, core and layout on ball motion
- Count: See pin count.
- Coverstock: The material comprising a ball's outer surface (cover), which determines the ball's frictional engagement with the lane and thus substantially affects ball motion. Coverstocks include polyester ("plastic"), polyurethane ("urethane") and reactive resin ("reactive").
- Cranker: A bowler who rolls the ball with high revolutions, a style favoring power over control and repeatability. Compare: stroker.
- Cross over: Of a ball: to pass from the right side to the left side of the center board (for right hand deliveries) before impacting any pins. See Brooklyn.
- Cupped (wrist position): A position of the wrist during delivery in which the palm is positioned toward the inner forearm, forming a "cup" to hold the ball. A cupped-position delivery enables higher rev rates and hook potential. Opposite of broken wrist.
- Current Frame Scoring System: An alternate scoring system (most recently used in the World Bowling Tour finals) in which any strike is counted as 30 pins, while a spare is counted as 10 pins plus the first ball count in the current frame (example: 8 pins followed by a spare is scored as 18). Open frames count total pinfall in the frame only, as with conventional scoring. There are no bonus rolls in the tenth frame, so a perfect score is 300.
- Dead wood: A pin left on the lane or in the channel out of reach of the sweeper.
- Deck: See pin deck.
- Deck (table) jam: A pinsetter malfunction in which the pinsetter is stuck and pins fall out of it.
- Deep: See inside.
- Delivery: The process beginning with the approach and ending with the ball release.
- Delivery angle: The angle at which a bowling ball is released, measured horizontally with respect to a line parallel to the boards. A ball with a "wide" (large) delivery angle "covers more boards" laterally than one delivered with a small delivery angle. Small delivery angles are associated with down and in deliveries. Delivery angles range from about -2° (for straight ball bowlers) to about +8° (for crankers). Distinguish: angle of entry into the pins.
- Differential (of RG): Difference between radii of gyration (RG) values of a ball along two axes, indicating the ball's flare potential.
- Dirk:[Questionable] See loft.
- Double: Two consecutive strikes within a single game.
- Double wood: A leave of two pins (the 2-8, the 3-9 or the rarer 1-5), the hidden one of which is called a sleeper.
- Down and in: Ball motion in which the skid is essentially parallel to the lane's boards ("down..."), generally before smoothly hooking ("... and in"). Distinguished from: skid paths that "cover" (cross) many boards at an angle moving toward the gutter, before hooking back.
- Downlane markers: Two pairs of three-foot long guide lines beginning 34 and 40 feet past the foul line, often used by bowlers to help determine on which board their balls reach their breakpoint.
- Drift: Lateral movement of a bowler's foot position between (initial) setup position and (final) sliding position, measured in boards left or right. Example: "a three-board drift to the left". One source calls this definition "lateral movement" and asserts that drift is more properly defined as unwanted variation away from a consistent desired lateral movement.
- Dummy score: See blind.
- Dutch 200: A game consisting only of alternating strikes and spares which always results in a score of 200.
- Early timing: A delivery in which the ball is released before the sliding foot slides. Compare: late timing.
- Emergency service (UK): Knocking down 9 pins in three successive frames—a reference to the "999" emergency telephone number in the U.K.
- End over end: A release that imparts more forward roll on a bowling ball, as opposed to side roll. See axis rotation.
- Entry angle: See angle of entry.
- Fall(ing) off: Bowlers are said to "fall off (the shot)" if, soon after delivery, their bodies tip away from a stable position, especially as a result of improper balance. Opposite of posting a shot.
- Fast 8: An apparent high flush pocket hit causing the 2 pin to deflect around the 4 and 7 pins, leaving both (right-handed release).
- Field goal: A failed 7-10 split conversion attempt in which the ball goes between the two pins.
- Fill ball or Fill frame: Throw(s) after a tenth-frame spare or strike(s), needed to determine bonus points that complete ("fill") the frame.
- Finals or Final rounds: The last stage of a tournament, which in professional tournaments is usually in stepladder format.
- Fingertip grip or fingertip fit: A ball grip in which fingers are inserted only to the first knuckle from the fingertips (thumb is still inserted completely); used especially in custom-drilled balls to allow fingers to impart more rotational force. Compare: conventional grip.
- Flare: See track flare. Distinguish: a ball's flare potential.
- Flare potential: Hook potential (determined by a ball's coverstock, core, layout, speed and rev rate). Distinguished from the track flare phenomenon.
- Finish: The degree of a ball surface's rough or smooth physical texture, which may be changed by sandpaper or polish. Distinguish: the microscopically-determined chemical "stickiness" characterizing reactive resin balls.
- Flat 10: A leave of the 10 pin, in which the 6 pin lies "flat" in the gutter. Also called "Weak 10". Compare: ringing 10.
- Flush: A full pocket hit which usually results in sending all ten pins into the pit.
- Follow-through: The continued motion of the bowling arm after ball release, used to help ensure the ball rolls over a target.
- Foul: Penalty occurrence in which a portion of the bowler's body touches beyond the foul line on a delivery in which the ball is released. The bowler receives a score of zero for that particular throw.
- Foundation frame: The 9th frame (lays a "foundation" for the final frame).
- Frame: One of ten scoring units constituting a game, each including one or two rolls (two or three in 10th frame) depending on pinfall.
- Front _#_: A number, _#_, of consecutive strikes beginning with frame 1. Compare: back #_.
- Fry Frame:[Questionable] Variant of beer frame.
- Full Murray: A 5–7–10 leave.
- Full roller: A delivery with zero axis tilt, in which the oil track on the ball traverses the full diameter of the ball as it rolls (see axis tilt diagram, above).
- (Go) off the sheet: See strike out. Derived during the time when bowling was scored manually on paper.
- Grandma's teeth: A 4-6-7-10 split or any "big five" split combination, resembling a mouth with missing teeth.
- Gravity swing: A delivery in which a bowler relies primarily on gravity to govern pendulum-like motion of a relatively relaxed bowling arm throughout the delivery, as distinguished from using muscular tension to control or restrict motion of the ball.
- Grip: The arrangement and intended use of a ball's holes, categorized as conventional grip or fingertip grip. Also used synonymously with grip pressure.
- Grip pressure: The amount of pressure applied by the fingers and thumb in grasping the ball during delivery. With modern reactive resin balls, especially those that are custom-drilled, less gripping pressure is required to achieve desired axis rotation.
- Greek Church: A 4-6-7-9-10 or 4-6-7-8-10 split, resembling five spires of a Greek Orthodox church.
- Grit: A degree of roughness of an abrasive product used to "sand" ball coverstocks to control frictional engagement with the lane. Grits commonly range from 180 (rougher, for more friction and earlier hooking) to 4000 (finer, for less friction and a longer skid).
- Gutter: See channel.
- Hambone: Commonly: four consecutive strikes within a game; coining of the term credited to announcer Rob Stone in the mid-2000s. Earlier, the term denoted two consecutive strikes within a game.
- Hand: A somewhat ambiguous term, but usually denoting the amount of wrist and the amount of finger rotation during release. Example: "using less hand" reduces side rotation, resulting in a milder hook.
- Handicap: A number added to a "scratch score" to form a "handicap score". Generally, handicaps make lower-average bowlers have handicap scores that are close to handicap scores of higher-average bowlers, to make matches more evenly competitive.
- Head pin: The 1-pin.
- (The) Heads: The front part of the lane, roughly from the foul line to the arrows. Precedes the midlane and back end.
- Heavy: See high. Opposite of light.
- Hook: The second of three phases of ball motion—following the skid phase and preceding the roll phase—characterized by maximum change in ball direction. Hook is mainly caused by a ball's frictional engagement with a lane in its side rotation (rotation not in the same direction as the ball's overall forward motion); hook is also affected by dynamic imbalances in the ball's internal structure (core design and orientation).
- High: Adjective describing shots that impact the pins undesirably inside from center pocket. Opposite of low.
- High flush: A strike in which the ball apparently impacts high of center pocket, but still sends all ten pins to the pit (a flush).
- House ball: A non-custom ball, generally conventional grip with polyester ("plastic") coverstock, provided by bowling facilities for use by patrons.
- Hybrid reactive: A type of reactive resin ball having a coverstock designed to have the mid-lane reaction of a solid coverstock and the back end reaction of a pearl coverstock.
- Ice and rug: Informal name for a lane's oil pattern, including oil ("ice") for skidding on the first two-thirds (approx.), and a non-oiled, higher-friction back end ("rug") for hooking.
- Inserts: Tubes, glued into a ball's holes and conforming to their pitch angles, that are sized and contoured to fit a bowler's fingers to provide comfort and enhance release action.
- Inside: The portion of the lane further to the left (for right-handed releases), often expressed in comparison to a previous ball path. As lanes transition, bowlers typically "move inside" and roll the ball inside the previous path. Distinguish: high and heavy, which usually connote where the ball impacts the pins. Opposite of outside.
- Kickback(s): Side wall(s) beside the gutters that enclose the pin deck and support the pinsetter. Pins that strike the kickback can bounce back onto the pin deck to become messengers. Also called sideboard(s).
- Kickback plates: Plates that cover the kickback, against which pins bounce during pin scatter.
- Killer shot: A conversion of a difficult split.
- Kingpin: The (centrally positioned) 5 pin.
- Lateral movement: See and compare: drift.
- Label: Usually refers to labeling on bowling pins, including manufacturer logo and USBC certification.
- Lane transition: Incremental changes in a lane's frictional characteristics along a path that has experienced repeated ball traversals so as to change the oil pattern and its effect on subsequently-rolled balls, a process that involves one or both of breakdown and carry-down.
- Late timing: A delivery in which the ball is released after the sliding foot slides. Compare: early timing.
- Layout: The plan of how a bowling ball's holes, pin and mass bias indicator are located relative to each other. A pin up layout has the pin "above" the finger holes (further from the thumb hole than the finger holes), whereas a pin down layout has the pin between the finger holes and thumb hole. See Bowling ball#Layout and grip and Bowling ball#Effect of coverstock, core and layout on ball motion.
- League: An organized group of bowling teams that compete against each other according to rules and a schedule. Leagues may be certified by a national governing body. See bowling league.
- Leave: (Noun, verb) The pins left standing after the first roll of a frame. Example: "a 10-pin leave".
- Length: The distance between the foul line and the point at which a ball enters the hook phase at the breakpoint. Length depends on oil pattern, ball surface, and delivery technique. "Length" also describes an oil pattern itself, in terms of the furthest distance past the foul line on which oil is applied. Distinguish: volume, which indicates the total volume of oil applied to the lane (usually expressed in milliliters).
- Light: See low. Opposite of heavy.
- Line: A ball's path down the lane, especially the substantially straight path from the foul line to the breakpoint. Also: one game (one "line" on a scoresheet).
- Line up, lining up: See alignment.
- Llama: Four consecutive strikes within a single game. More common: 4-bagger. Informal: hambone.
- Loft: (verb, noun) A thrown ball's path through the air before contacting the lane surface; also, the distance traveled on such a throw.
- Long pattern: An oil pattern that has oil distributed a relatively long distance beyond the foul line (example: 42–45 feet). Also called "long oil".
- Love tap: A light pocket hit causing (for a right-handed release) the 6-pin to fall into the channel, pop back up and "tap" the 10-pin to knock it down. Distinguish: the flat 10 leave.
- Low: Adjective describing shots that impact the pins undesirably outside from center pocket. Opposite of high.
- Major: One of five PBA tournaments that are considered the most important for a bowler to win. They are - The USBC Masters, The PBA World Championship, The Tournament of Champions, The U.S. Open, and The PBA Players Championship.
- Man weight: An individual is said to be "throwing man weight" when they are throwing sixteen-pound bowling balls, the heaviest allowed weight.
- Mark: (Noun, verb) A spare or a strike, distinguished from an open frame.
- Mass bias indicator or Mass bias marker: A marker indicating the part of the ball at which the core is closest to the coverstock exterior. Its location in the layout affects the shape of the ball's reaction, especially on the back end.
- Match play or Match rounds: Refers to what is usually the intermediate stage of a tournament, in which entrants compete, generally in head-to-head matches, to determine seeding for the final rounds.
- Match(ing) up: To optimize one's release ratio. More specifically, matching up means to control a ball's forward speed and its rev rate at time of release, so that the ball achieves full traction immediately before striking the pins, thereby maximizing energy imparted to the pins.
- Meg:[Questionable] A roll knocking down only the 7-pin or 10-pin.
- Messenger: A pin (generally the headpin) that travels laterally across the pin deck, usually after deflecting off a side wall (kickback); also applied to a pin that knocks down other pin(s) "late" to result in a strike. Also known as a bird dog, scout, shrapnel, or rogue pin.
- Middle finger: A roll leaving only the 5-pin.
- (The) Midlane: The part of the lane between the heads and the back end.
- Mixer: A roll that causes the pins to bounce around extensively ("mix"), possibly reflecting off side wall(s); term usually distinguishes from a roll in which all pins are quickly and decisively knocked into the pit.
- Negative axis point: The opposite end of the axis of rotation as the PAP (positive axis point).
- No-tap: An alternative method of scoring in which, if a given number of pins (less than ten) are knocked down on the first roll, the frame is still scored as a strike. Example: under "nine pin no-tap" scoring, knocking down only nine pins would be scored as a strike.
- Nine-call: In Japan, a phrase used to describe an announcement over the PA system, to alert other bowlers and spectators in the establishment that a potential perfect game is about to happen. The announcement is made right before the bowler starts the 10th frame.
- Oil: The lubricating conditioner applied to the front two-thirds (approximately) of the lane. See oil pattern.
- Oil pattern: Quantitative pattern of distribution of oil on the lane, having a major effect on ball motion. Oil patterns are given names (example: animal patterns such as "Scorpion", tournament patterns such as "U.S. Open", or legend patterns such as "Dick Weber 45"); also, "pattern" is sometimes used to particularly characterize a pattern's length (example: in "a 39-foot pattern", oil is applied only in the first 39 feet past the foul line). See typical house shot and sport pattern.
- Oil ratio: The ratio of oil concentration at the center of the lane to oil concentration near the outer edges of the lane. Typical house shots generally have oil ratios much higher than those of sport shots.
- Open (body position): Describes a body position in which the torso is directed substantially to the outside and not squarely downlane; often adopted by crankers as enabling extra power as the torso rotates from open to closed position during delivery. Compare: closed (body position).
- Open bowling: Term applied in bowling centers to denote unstructured practice sessions or fun times, as distinguished from league or tournament play.
- Open frame: A frame in which neither a strike nor spare is achieved.
- Out of range: describes a pin that has been moved off its proper spot far enough that the pinsetter cannot pick it up, sometimes jamming the pinsetter, and preventing the sweeping of downed pins; this often requires technician intervention.
- Outside: The portion of the lane further to the right (for right-handed deliveries), often expressed in comparison to a previous ball path. Typically, bowlers "move outside" to obtain a greater angle of entry to the pins without requiring a large hook. Distinguish: light and low, which usually connote where the ball impacts the pins. Opposite of inside.
- Over/under: A phenomenon in which two very slightly different rolls start on paths directed outside and inside of each other, but, against expectation, follow paths that cross each other downlane to impact the pins high and low, respectively. Common explanation: a first roll encounters unexpectedly high friction and hooks excessively so as to hit the pins too high, but a second roll delivered very slightly further inside encounters unexpectedly high oil concentration and hooks inadequately so as to hit the pins too low. Over-under may be caused by steep ("cliff") oil patterns, or by defective lane topology. Sometimes called wet/dry.
- Overlay: A type of lane surface in which a film is applied to a wood surface, protecting it while preserving some of the characteristics of a traditional wood surface.
- PAP: Abbreviation for positive axis point. The pocket-side end of a ball's initial axis of rotation, used by pro shop operators to strategically determine where to drill holes for the ball's layout.
- Par: A scratch score of 200.
- Pair: Two adjacent lanes that share a common ball return.
- Paralyzer:[Questionable] A pin knocked down that stands up again, one that skids while standing or one that gets hit on opposite sides by the ball and/or other pin(s) and somehow does not go down.
- Pattern: See oil pattern.
- PBA: Professional Bowlers Association, the international sanctioning body for professional bowlers, formed in 1958.
- PBA 4:[Questionable] The 3-4-6-7-9-10 split (or 2-4-6-7-8-10 for left-handed release).
- Perfect game: A game of 12 consecutive strikes (score: 300).
- Perfect strike: A strike in which the ball hits only the 1, 3, 5 and 9 pins (right-handed release) and 1, 2, 5 and 8 pins (left-handed release).
- Pearl reactive: A type of reactive resin ball in which the coverstock has resin or mica particles that roughen the coverstock's microscopic pores to extend the skid length and hook more decisively than solid reactive balls when reaching the dry part of the lane.
- Petraglia Scoring System: Developed by PBA and USBC Hall of Famer Johnny Petraglia, the system is based on the number of rolls it takes to knock down all ten pins in a frame. Thus, a strike is scored as 1, a spare is scored as 2, with more numbers added in increments of 1 if additional rolls are required to clear ten pins. Lowest score wins. There are no bonus rolls in the tenth frame, so a perfect game score is 10.
- Pin (element of bowling ball): A usually cylindrical, polyester or urethane stem extending from the top of the core (weight block) to the ball's cover, seen as a colored dot that is used as a reference point for drilling the ball (see pin up and pin down). The pin, also called pin locator, holds the core in place as the coverstock is poured into the ball mold during manufacture.
- Pin action: See pin scatter.
- Pin carry: The process by which pins are knocked down by direct ball impact and pin scatter. Pin carry is affected by factors including angle of entry, point of entry, ball weight, pin spotting variation, and construction of the pin deck, kickbacks (sideboards), and gutters. Pin carry is quantified by pin count.
- Pin chaser: Colloquial name for a bowling center's mechanic.
- Pin count: The number of pins knocked down on a given roll, usually referring to the first roll of a frame. Pin count is particularly important after mark(s) in prior frame(s), because the scoring effect of first-roll-of-a-frame pin count is doubled following a spare or single strike, and tripled following two consecutive strikes. Often shortened to count.
- Pin deck: Area of the lane on which the pins stand, immediately in front of the pit.
- Pin down: See layout.
- Pin scatter: The process by which pins interact and potentially knock each other down, usually distinguished from being knocked down directly by ball impact. Also called pin action. Pin scatter affects pin carry.
- Pin up: See layout.
- Pit: The region, behind the pin deck, that collects downed or swept pins.
- Pitch: Angle and direction at which finger holes and thumb holes are drilled. Pitch affects release characteristics.
- Pivot step: The second-to-last step in a bowler's delivery, the step immediately preceding the slide step.
- Plastic: See polyester.
- Pocket: The ideal place for the ball to hit the pins in order to maximize strike probability. According to a USBC Pin Carry Survey completed in 2008, a ball ideally hits the head pin while centered 2.5 boards from the center of the head pin, on "board 17.5".
- Point up: To play the lane by angling the ball from the gutter toward the pocket with more of a straight shot than hook. Distinguish: Down and in.
- Polyester: Proper name of "plastic", usually describing ball coverstocks. Polyester (plastic) balls are often chosen as straight balls.
- Polyurethane: Proper name of "urethane", describing ball coverstocks.
- Position round: A league session in which teams that are adjacent each other in the standings are paired to bowl against each other (#1 ranked vs. #2 ranked; #3 vs. #4, etc.). Also: such a pairing of bowlers in (usually) the last round of tournament match play, whose outcome will determine seeding for the subsequent (final or championship) rounds.
- Positive axis point: See PAP.
- Post (a shot): To retain a stationary, stable, balanced position until well after the end of a delivery, a practice thought to improve consistency of delivery. Opposite of falling off (a shot).
- Power stroker: A bowler who combines a cranker's emphasis on power with a stroker's emphasis on control. Similar to "tweener."
- Post-bowl and pre-bowl: To bowl a league game after or before scheduled league time; rules vary as to availability of honor awards, and as to requirements for official witnessing and bowling opposite an opposing team.
- Preferred spin axis (PSA): The axis to which a ball's axis of rotation will migrate after having been rolled with an initial spin axis. The migration is caused by dynamic imbalances in the ball's internal structure (core design and orientation).
- Pre-shot routine: A predetermined, ordered sequence of mental and/or physical steps practiced immediately before beginning a delivery, in an effort to increase consistency.
- Push off or push away: The initial forward movement of the ball from the stable setup position, and preceding the backswing.
- PWBA: The Professional Women's Bowling Association (1960—2003; 2015— ) organizes professional women's bowling events.
- Rack: A full set of ten pins, either in the pinsetter or after being placed onto the pin deck.
- Radius of gyration (RG): A specification of the degree to which a ball's core is "center heavy" (minimum RG value=2.46, favoring shorter length) or "cover heavy" (maximum RG value=2.80, favoring greater length). See Bowling ball#Effect of coverstock, core and layout on ball motion.
- Rail: The 1–2–4–7 or 1–3–6–10 pins; spinners "ride the rail" after deflecting from the 1-pin. Also: "picket fence".
- Rangefinders: See downlane markers.
- Ratio: A broad mathematical term denoting a quotient of two entities. In bowling, see oil ratio (describing a lane's oil pattern) and release ratio (a characteristic of a bowler's ball release).
- Reaction: See ball reaction.
- Reactive resin (often shortened to reactive): A coverstock composition in which polyurethane is enhanced with microscopic pores and/or additives to increase frictional engagement with the lane, to increase hook potential. Reactive technology includes solid reactive, pearl reactive, or hybrid reactive coverstocks.
- Release: The final stage of the delivery (occurring after the approach) in which the ball leaves the bowler's hand.
- Release ratio: The ratio of a ball's forward (translational) speed to its rev rate (rotational speed) at time of release. This ratio continually decreases throughout the ball's travel until it reaches exactly 1.0 when full traction is achieved upon entering the roll phase. See Bowling ball#Ball motion.
- Resurface: To apply a sequence of one or more abrasive pads to a ball's coverstock to achieve a chosen surface roughness, to achieve desired frictional characteristics for controlling ball motion. See Abralon, Siaair.
- Rejuvenator: A machine that uses hot air to heat a bowling ball to a safe temperature to "pull" oil from the coverstock, for restoring "tack" for increasing frictional characteristics.
- Re-rack: Placement of a new set of pins onto the pin deck; often performed if an earlier set had a pin off its mark, or as a tactical delay in a competitive match.
- Rev-dominant: Adjective describing a release with a too-low release ratio, in which the ratio of ball speed to rev rate is too low, causing the ball to enter the roll phase before reaching the pins, wasting power that would otherwise be imparted to the pins. Opposite of speed-dominant.
- Rev rate: (Informal) A ball's rotational speed, substantially affecting hook; usually expressed in revolutions per minute (RPM).
- RG: Abbreviation of radius of gyration.
- RG differential: See differential of RG.
- Ride the lightning: (Informal) To roll a ball close to the gutter.
- Ringing 10: A leave of the 10-pin, in which the 6-pin flies around the 10-pin to the outside and enters the pit (compare: flat 10). Also called "Solid 10". Left-handed release equivalent: "Ringing 7".
- Roll: The third phase of ball motion, in which the ball gains full traction upon leaving the hook phase.
- Roll finger: The middle finger, so named because when positioned directly behind the ball at delivery, applies forward roll to the ball and causes low axis tilt. Compare: turn finger.
- Roll-out: Progression from the hook phase into the roll phase of ball motion. Commonly, the term connotes undesirably early entry into the roll phase, distinguished from optimally entering the roll phase immediately before reaching the pins: early roll-out wastes power to lane friction. See release ratio.
- Rotation: See axis rotation.
- Rule of 31: A rough guideline for estimating on which board the ball should leave the oil pattern to reach the pocket. Specifically, the formula is B=L–31: board B = length L of the oil pattern in feet, minus 31. Example: Pattern length 40 ft. — 31 = 9 board.
- Sacrificial lamb: In competitive scratch team play, a low-average bowler who is deliberately matched against a high-average bowler on the opposing team, as the team's strategy to win match-ups of the remaining players.
- Sandbagging: Intentionally bowling poorly early in a season to obtain a high handicap to apply when later bowling earnestly.
- Scout: See messenger.
- Scratch: Adjective describing scores actually achieved—without addition of a handicap.
- Series: An associated set of plural (usually three) bowling games.
- Set: See series.
- Setup: The still and stable position of the body from which bowlers launch their approaches. Setup encompasses knee bend, tilt from the waist, initial ball position, weight distribution and relative position of the two feet, etc., and is the time when the bowler focuses on the target. Verbal form: set up.
- Shadow bowling: Bowling without pins, especially for practice or warm-up, promoting focus on technique or ball motion rather than scoring result.
- Short pattern: An oil pattern that has oil distributed a relatively short distance beyond the foul line (example: 32–35 feet). Also called "short oil".
- Shut out: In competition, to score sufficient points to make it mathematically impossible for an opponent to catch up with one's own score by the end of the game.
- Siaair (pad): An abrasion technology product used to "sand" ball coverstocks with different grits (degrees of roughness) to control the amount of friction between the coverstock and lane.
- Sideboard(s): See kickback.
- Side rotation: Axis rotation.
- Sight(ing): The process of focusing one's vision and attention, usually at the arrows, primarily to promote accurate targeting and ease of visually following the ball's path, but also affecting posture and release characteristics such as ball speed, loft distance and follow-through.
- Six-pack: Six consecutive strikes in a single game.
- Skid: The first phase of ball motion, in which the ball travels a substantially straight path until reaching the breakpoint.
- Skid/flip or Skid/snap: Adjective applied to balls or ball motion, in which the ball conserves energy in a long skid phase, and releases the energy by curving sharply far down-lane in the hook phase.
- / (slash): Symbol for spare.
- Sleeper: A pin positioned directly behind another pin after the first ball roll, specifically: the 8-pin behind the 2-pin, the 9-pin behind the 3-pin, or the 5-pin behind the 1-pin. The two pins are collectively called double wood. Also: "ninja pin".
- Slide step: The final step in a bowler's delivery, the step immediately following the pivot step.
- Solid reactive: a type of reactive resin ball having more microscopic reactive pores its coverstock than pearl or hybrid balls, thus tending to hook earlier and less sharply.
- Solid 8 or Solid 9: Leaving the 8-pin (for right-handed releases) or 9-pin (for left-handed releases) on a perfect pocket hit. Also called stone 8 or stone 9.
- Sombrero: Less common term for a 4-bagger (four consecutive strikes).
- Span: The distance between a ball's finger holes and the thumb hole.
- Spare: The scoring result in a frame in which the last of the ten pins is/are knocked down on the second roll of the frame. The term sometimes refers to the pins left standing after the first roll (example: "3-6-10 spare"). See conversion.
- Spare-related terms: (Terms assume a right hand release, and white numbers represent standing pins.)
Bucket if missing 8-pin
|Double wood left
or Sleeper #1
|Double wood right|
or Sleeper #2
|7 8 9 10
4 5 6
|7 8 9 10
4 5 6
|7 8 9 10|
4 5 6
|Baby split||Christmas tree #1||Christmas tree #2|
|7 8 9 10
4 5 6
|7 8 9 10
4 5 6
|7 8 9 10|
4 5 6
|Big Four||Greek Church (Big Five)||Goal (Fence- or Bed-) posts|
|7 8 9 10
4 5 6
|7 8 9 10
4 5 6
|7 8 9 10|
4 5 6
|Dime store #1||Dime store #2||Lily, Sour apple|
|7 8 9 10
4 5 6
|7 8 9 10
4 5 6
|7 8 9 10|
4 5 6
|Washout #1||Washout #2||Modern Washout (Super Washout)|
|7 8 9 10
4 5 6
|7 8 9 10
4 5 6
|7 8 9 10|
4 5 6
- Sparrow: Three spares in a row. Also: "chicken".
- Speed: Abbreviation for ball speed.
- Speed-dominant: Adjective describing a release with a too-high release ratio, in which the ratio of ball speed to rev rate is too high, causing the ball to reach the pins while still in the hook phase, causing unnecessarily low entry angle and increased ball deflection. Opposite of rev-dominant.
- Spin: Misnomer for axis rotation.
- Spinner: A bowler or bowling style imparting a high axis tilt causing the ball to spin like a top, thus promoting greater length before hooking. The term spinner also refers to a mechanical device in which a ball is quickly rotated while abrasives are pressed or polishes are applied, in order to change surface characteristics of the ball's coverstock.
- Split: A spare leave in which the head pin is knocked down but at least two non-adjacent pins remain standing with a gap between them. Example: the 9-10 leave (non-adjacent pins) is a split, but the 6-10 leave (adjacent pins) is not a split. Distinguish: washout.
- Sport pattern or sport shot: One of a number of challenging oil patterns customarily used in competitive matches and professional events, in which the distribution of oil laterally across the lane is "flat" (relatively evenly distributed) so as to provide little assistance in guiding the ball toward the pocket. Distinguish: Typical house shot (THS).
- Spots: A set of alignment dots located about six feet beyond the foul line, usable in spot bowling for targeting (aiming).
- Spot bowl (spot bowling): Verb (noun). To execute a delivery while targeting (visually focusing on) the spots six feet beyond the foul line, or more broadly: targeting other markers (such as the arrows or breakpoint) that are nearer than the pins themselves.
- Stance: The stable initial body position before the approach begins, including ball and hand/arm position, posture, and alignment of feet, knees, hips and shoulders.
- Stay(ing) down (on your shot): Retaining a stable and balanced position at the foul line after delivery, a practice designed to ensure consistent delivery; distinguished from pulling away or standing up.
- Stepladder final: A variant of the single-elimination tournament format in which the lowest-ranked finalist is first paired against the second-lowest-ranked finalist, the winner advancing to oppose the third-lowest-ranked finalist in a second game, the winner of which advances to oppose the fourth-lowest-ranked finalist, and so forth, through a final match involving the highest-ranked finalist. See diagram for tournament.
- Stick: A pin, a count, or a specific pin number. Examples: "down 20 sticks" or "leave a 10-stick." Also: "wood".
- Steener: A strike in which the ball misses the head pin but pin action knocks it down. Also: "backwash", "backdoor strike". Alternative definition: a 1-pin leave.
- Stone 8 or Stone 9: See solid 8 or solid 9.
- Stewart:[Questionable] A perfect game.
- Straight ball: A ball that travels a relatively straight path, without hooking substantially. Because of their low hook potential, polyester (plastic) balls are often chosen as straight balls for converting certain spares.
- Strike: (Noun, verb) Scoring result for a frame in which all ten pins are knocked down on the first roll.
- Strike out: To roll consecutive strikes from a certain frame through the end of a game. Also: "going (off the) sheet", "going to the wall", or "punching out".
- Stroker: A bowler with a style emphasizing control and repeatability over power. Compare: cranker.
- Strong: Adjective characterizing a ball (or its coverstock, layout, core design, etc.) as beginning to hook earlier and more smoothly, and experience less downlane sideways motion than a weak ball. The term is sometimes used (incorrectly, according to some sources) to indicate a larger overall hook potential. The first definition concentrates on length whereas the second definition concentrates on left-right motion.
- Suitcase grip, Suitcase release: A grip or release of the bowling ball in which the thumb continuously points inward (left, for a right-handed release) and the fingers continuously point outward. Distinguished from grips and releases in which the fingers are behind the ball (facing away from the pins).
- Symmetric: Adjective describing a ball whose RG (radius of gyration) values along the Y (high RG) and Z (intermediate RG) axes do not differ by more than 5% of total differential. Adjective is also applied to the core itself.
- Synthetic: Adjective describing a material other than wood, usually applied to pins or lane surfaces.
- Tap: Differing definitions: (a) modern use: a first roll leaving only a single pin standing (comes from "9 pin no-tap" scoring, which counts such frames as strikes); or (b) historical use: a solid pocket hit that leaves a single pin, usually in the back row.
- Target: (noun or verb) A point, usually at or near the arrows, on which bowlers focus their eyes, ideally during approach and follow-through. Most experienced bowlers consider it inadvisable to "target" (aim at) the pins. See sighting and spot bowl.
- Team USA: The U.S. national bowling team. See USA Bowling.
- Tempo: The rate at which a bowler takes footsteps during the approach.
- Ten in the pit: A strike in which all ten pins are knocked from the pin deck into the pit.
- THS: Typical house shot.
- Tiger beer frame:[Questionable] Similar to Beer Frame except the strikes bridge two frames. Example: 4th and 5th bowlers strike in one frame, and 1st and 3rd strike in the ensuing frame, thus "hanging" the 2nd bowler. Derived from Tiger Grand Slam.[Questionable]
- Tight (lane): A lane whose conditions reduce hooking, such as through heavy application of oil.
- Tilt: See axis tilt.
- Timing: A characterization of the time the hand releases the ball compared to the time the sliding foot slides. See early timing and late timing.
- Timmy:[Questionable] Nickname for the 7 pin, or right-handed releases that knock down only the 7 pin. TIM is an acronym for Tenpin in the Mirror.
- Topography: Lane surface physical characteristics, or more specifically: a map showing deviations away from being planar (flat and smooth), continuous and level, especially if beyond specified tolerances.
- Tournament: A contest among a large number of bowlers. Some larger (and most professional) tournaments start with qualifying rounds that determine who goes on to compete in match play, which determines seeding (initial ranking) for the final matches which are usually stepladder finals.
- Tracks: Bowtie-shaped rings of oil left on a bowling ball after a shot, indicating where the ball contacted the lane. See also: track flare. Track also denotes a ball's path down the lane.
- Track flare: Progression of the ball's oil track reflecting migration of the ball's axis of rotation on successive revolutions. Track flare exposes dry ball surface to the lane with each revolution, to thus increase friction and enhance ball reaction. Distinguish this track flare phenomenon from a ball's flare potential.
- Transition: See lane transition.
- Turkey: Three consecutive strikes within a single game.
- Turkey sandwich: A turkey preceded and followed by spares.
- Turn(ing) the ball: To apply axis rotation, sometimes called side rotation. Motion of modern bowling balls is thought to be better controlled using finger rotation without elbow rotation.
- Turn finger: The ring finger, so named because when positioned behind the ball and turning it slightly at delivery, increases axis rotation and axis tilt. Compare: roll finger.
- Typical house pattern: See typical house shot.
- Typical house shot (THS): Also called typical house pattern. One of a number of oil patterns commonly used to help non-sport league bowlers achieve more strikes, the patterns generally having larger oil concentrations near the centerline (to let balls slide directly toward the pocket) and with lower oil concentrations nearer the channels (to help balls hook toward the pocket). Distinguish: Sport shot.
- Urethane: Informal adaptation of the proper term polyurethane, applied to ball coverstocks. Balls with urethane coverstocks provide less angular hooking motion than reactive resin balls.
- Uneven frames: Marking (achieving a spare or strike) in every other frame. Distinguish: Dutch 200.
- USA Bowling: Formed in 1989 represent the sport as the national governing body and supporting Team USA, the national team. USA Bowling merged in 2005 with other organizations to form the United States Bowling Congress (USBC).
- USBC: United States Bowling Congress, the standards and rules governing organization for ten-pin bowling in the United States, formed in 2005 from a merger of the American Bowling Congress (ABC) (founded in 1895), the Women's International Bowling Congress (WIBC, 1916), the Young American Bowling Alliance (YABA, 1982), and (Team) USA Bowling (1989).
- Vacancy (score): In league play, a score attributed to a position in the team roster that has not been filled. Distinguish: blind.
- Volume: An indication of the total amount of oil (lubricant) applied to a lane, usually expressed in milliliters (from under 18 ml to more than 25 ml). Other factors being equal, balls tend to hook further downlane on high-volume ("wet") lanes, and sooner on low-volume ("dry") lanes. Distinguish: length, which relates to the distance beyond the foul line over which the oil is distributed.
- Wall shot: A strike involving a light pocket hit and pins (especially the headpin) bouncing off the side wall(s). See also: mixer.
- Washout: A leave in which at least two non-adjacent pins remain standing, but in which the head pin is still standing to disqualify it from being a split.
- Weak: See explanation of strong, which is the opposite of weak.
- Weight block: See core.
- Weight hole: See balance hole.
- Wet/dry: See over/under.
- WIBC: Women's International Bowling Congress, the governing organization for women's bowling, formed in 1916 as a counterpart to the male-only ABC, and merged in 2005 with other organizations to form the United States Bowling Congress (USBC).
- Wrist: In bowling, wrist denotes the way the bowler's wrist is bent during release. Example: "using less wrist" denotes positioning the wrist further away from a cupped position, resulting in a milder hook.
- Wrist brace or Wrist guard or Wrist positioner or Wrist support: A device fitted to the wrist and back of the hand to hold the wrist in a desired position, often with the goal of increasing side rotation and hook by preventing the wrist from unintentionally "breaking" during delivery.
- Wrist lag: Part of a delivery technique in which the ball is first cradled and then the wrist is uncoiled so the fingers apply a snapping action to the ball. Wrist lag is used to increase rev rate.
- Wombat:[Questionable] A spare achieved after rolling a gutter ball on the first roll.
- X: Symbol for strike.
- YABA: Young American Bowling Alliance, serving bowlers under age 22. Previously the American Junior Bowling Congress, YABA was formed in 1982 and in 2005 merged with other organizations to form the United States Bowling Congress (USBC).
- Yahtzee: Five consecutive strikes in the same game.
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