Glossary of ten-pin bowling terms


  • Action – The amount of spin placed on a ball. A slower ball with more action can be more effective at disrupting the pins than a faster ball with less action.
  • Address – The stance a player takes before beginning the approach.
  • Adjusting – A change that a player makes to the way they roll in order to improve their game. Adjustments can include anything from a change in technique, to the use of different equipment. See "ARSE".
  • Approach – An area behind the foul line at least 15 feet long in which a player may take steps before rolling the ball onto the lane.
  • Anchor-man – The player rolling last in a team game. The anchor-man is usually the team’s best player.
  • Angle – The line that the ball travels down the lane as it enters the pocket.
  • Arc – A ball rolled with a slower, more gradual break, or curve as opposed to a more aggressive hook.
  • Area – The number of different boards that a ball travels across (in width) before breaking into the pocket. A large area indicates a wide swinging ball.
  • Arrows – Targets on the lane 15 feet ahead of the foul line which aid the player in lining up their roll. There are usually seven arrows spaced evenly across the lane, five boards apart.
  • ARSE – An acronym describing the four basic adjustments used by players to establish their optimum strike line. Angle, Release, Speed, Equipment.
  • Arsenal – A collection of balls, each with unique characteristics, that allow the player to quickly adjust to changing lane conditions.


  • Baby split – A 2-7 or 3-10 split.
  • Back-end – The last part of the lane before the pins. The back-end is usually left free from oil so that the ball will hook before it hits the pins.
  • Backswing – The part of a swing during which the ball is behind the body. More backswing generally means more speed on the ball, once it is released.
  • Backup – A ball that curves away to the right for a right-handed player and to the left for a left-handed one.
  • Backup Ball – A type of ball that hooks in the opposite direction to normal.
  • Bagger – Either a number of consecutive strikes as in "four-bagger" (which would mean four strikes in a row) or a derogatory term aimed at someone who keeps their average score deliberately low in order to attain a higher handicap at the end of the season (a shortened from of "sandbagger").
  • Barmaid – A pin that is obscured from view by another pin.
  • Bed – The area surrounding the lane made up of the approach, the pit and the gutters.
  • Bed posts – A 7-10 split, the hardest shot in bowling. Also referred to as "fence posts".
  • Bench jockeying – Gibes made towards an opposition player in order to distract them from making their shot.
  • Benchmark ball – A ball that a player uses to gauge the oiling pattern on a given lane so they know how to adjust their game. The player will be intimate with the characteristics of the benchmark ball.
  • Big ears – A 4-6-7-10 split.
  • Blind – In team bowling the score awarded to any player that is absent, usually either the team average, or ten pins under.
  • Blocked lane – A lane with an oiling pattern conducive to high scoring. Also called a "wet lane", as opposed to a "dry lane".
  • Boards – The wooden planks that make up a bowling lane. A typical lane is 39 boards wide. Many bowlers count boards and use them as a targeting aid.
  • Boomer – A ball with a very large hook.
  • Box – One frame. The phrase refers to the layout of a typical bowling score sheet, in which the pin-count for each frame is displayed in a separate box.
  • Bridge – The gap between the holes in a bowling ball.
  • Break – The arc that a ball takes in travelling to the pins.
  • Breakpoint – The position on a lane where a ball will begin to hook back to the pocket.
  • Brooklyn hit – A ball that enters the pocket on the wrong side of the head pin, to the left for a right-handed bowler, and to the right for a left-handed. This can result in a "Brooklyn strike" if all the pins are knocked over.
  • Bumper bowling – A type of game, usually for beginners or young children, in which the gutters are covered so that wayward balls will stay on the lane.
  • Burner – A pin that remains standing after it has been hit by either the ball, or another pin.
  • Buzzard – Three splits in a row. Also called a "turkey buzzard".


  • Carry-down – The movement of oil across the surface of the lane during a game, often resulting in changing lane conditions. If a lane has a lot of carry-down, oil will move into the back-end and prohibit the ball from achieving a proper hook. It is usually desirable to have clean back-ends.
  • CC – A score of 200.
  • ‘Chopping the spare‘ – When two or more pins remain standing for the spare shot and they are not all knocked over.
  • Christmas tree – A 2-7-10 or 3-7-10 split.
  • Clothesline – A group of four pins in a line such as 1-3-6-10.
  • Conditioner – A substance, commonly referred to as oil, which is applied to a lane in order to reduce friction between the ball and the surface, and protect the heads from burn marks where the ball hits the lane. See "oil".
  • Convert – To make a spare after a split.
  • Count – The number of pins knocked down on the first roll of a frame.
  • Cranker – A shot of immense speed and power with a very aggressive hook in the back-end. Because of the power involved, it is very hard to maintain accuracy.
  • Creeper – A slow rolled ball.
  • Croaker – A combination of a cranker and a stroker.
  • Crown – An oiling pattern which guides the ball into the pocket. See "blocked lane".
  • Curve – A ball with a long gradual break, as opposed to a hook shot.
  • Cutter – A sharp breaking hook.


  • Dead ball – A ball that is out of play, or that does not count as having been rolled.
  • Dead wood – Pins that have been knocked down and remain on the floor after the machine has reset the pins.
  • Deflection – Changes in the movement of the ball or the pins when they collide. Deflected pins are required for a strike otherwise the ball cannot knock over all the pins in one roll.
  • Dive – A sharp last-second break into the pocket.
  • Dodo – A ball that is balanced illegally inside.
  • Double – Two strikes in a row.
  • Dry lane ball – A highly polished ball that copes well on lanes that are not very heavily oiled.
  • Dump – A ball released into the air that lands on the lane loudly.
  • Dutch 200 – A score of 200 achieved by alternating strikes and spares throughout the game.


  • EFRAH – An acronym describing an extremely dry lane. Even Full Rollers Are Hooking.
  • Entry angle – The angle at which the ball enters the pocket. A ball with a larger entry angle has a greater chance of achieving a strike.
  • Extra frame – The bonus shot, awarded to players earning a strike or a spare in the tenth and final frame. A strike will result in two additional rolls, while a spare will be rewarded with one.


  • Fall off – A ball which is released from the hand too quickly, resulting in a weaker roll.
  • Fast Eight – A good pocket hit that only knocks down eight pins.
  • Finger tip – A type of grip in which the player inserts their fingers only up to the first joint. The resultant throw will achieve more spin.
  • Flat ball – A ball with very little spin.
  • Follow through – The motion of the arm after the ball is released.
  • Foul line – The boundary between the approach and the lane. A player’s foot must not cross this line or else a foul is declared, and the shot is void.
  • Frame – A typical game is made up of ten frames, with each player entitled to two shots per frame (unless a strike is achieved on the first roll). A strike in the tenth and final frame will be awarded with two extra rolls, allowing for a maximum of three consecutive strikes in the last frame. A player who rolls a spare in the tenth frame will be awarded one additional shot.
  • Full hit – A ball that strikes the head pin straight on, usually resulting in a split shot.


  • Grab – The reaction of the ball due to friction between the lane and ball surface.
  • Grave yard – An insult levelled at bowling alleys notorious for low scores. Also called a "brick yard".
  • Greek church – A split in which two pins remain standing on one side, and three on the other. Pins 1 and 5 must be knocked down.
  • Groove – A ball track or indentation in the lane.
  • Gutter – The lowered trench that runs along each side of the lane and carries balls to the pit if they veer off of the lane.
  • Gutter ball – A ball that travels into the gutter before reaching the pins.


  • Hammer the pocket – Consistently hitting the pocket.
  • Handicap – Pins awarded to a player or team in order to even up the competition.
  • Hard-and-fast – A technique which creates less hook, allowing straighter shots to be played. Useful for knocking down single pins.
  • Head pin – The 1-pin, the closest pin to the foul line.
  • Heads – The boards at the front of the lane between the foul line and the arrows onto which the ball is delivered. Usually made out of harder wood because of the strain of ball delivery.
  • Helicopter – A rolling technique implemented in Asia countries to combat difficult lane conditions. Light-weight balls are rolled with large amounts of spin so that they deflect drastically upon colliding with the first pin and move through the decl.
  • Helper pin – A pin that comes off the kickback to knocks down other pins.
  • Hold spot – Heavily conditioned area of the lane that stops the ball from hooking and allows it to "hold" its line to the pins. See"’oil".
  • Hook – A roll in which the ball breaks sharply in the back-end causing it to enter the pocket at a more obtuse angle than a straight shot.



  • Junk ball – A ball that is thrown with very little power or rotation.


  • Kegel – A nine-pin game of skittles which was popular in Germany during the Middle Ages. Kegel would eventually be developed into ten-pin bowling once it spread to America.
  • Kickback – The boards that separate lanes at the end of the pit. Often, the pins will bounce off these sideboards and knock down more pins, hence the name.
  • Kingpin – A name given to the 5-pin because its movement is usually pivotal to knocking down the surrounding pins and securing a strike. Also the name of a 1996 Farrelly Brothers bowling comedy starring Woody Harrelson.


  • Late timing – When the ball is released near the end of the slide, allowing the player to use more upper body strength to add lift and power to the release, as their body is more firmly planted. Considered by some as the ideal release.
  • Leave – The pins left after the first ball of a frame has been rolled.
  • Lift – The upward motion of a players fingers when the ball is released.
  • Lily – A 5-7-10 split, also referred to as a "sour apple".
  • Line – The path that the ball takes to reach the pins. Bowlers use the board that the ball is delivered onto the lane and the target arrows to plot the ideal line.
  • Loafing – Delivering the ball onto the lane without enough lift, usually causing the ball to roll to the right for a right-handed bowler or the left for a left hander.
  • Lob – A throw that results in the ball crossing the lob line before making contact with the lane. The lob line is ten feet from the foul line.
  • Logs – Heavy pins used for practise as they require more precision to be knocked over.
  • Loop shot – A roll with a very slow and wide angled hook.


  • Messenger – A pin that rolls across the pindeck and into other pins, resulting in a strike or breaking up a split. Also referred to as a "Melinda" after model Melinda Messenger.
  • Mixer – A ball with a lot of action that scatters the pins for a strike.
  • Morph – A pin that moves across the deck without falling over.
  • Move in – When a player adjusts their approach further towards the centre of the lane. See "inside line".
  • Move out – When a player adjusts their approach further towards the outside of the lane. See "outside line".


  • Naked Spare – A single pin spare leave.
  • Nose hit – A ball that directly hits the head pin usually resulting in a split.


  • Oil – Refers to the conditioner applied to bowling lanes in order to reduce friction between the ball and the surface. Bowlers have learnt to use the oil to hook their shots into the pocket, as the ball will face more resistance when it moves off the heavily oiled areas. See also "conditioner".
  • Oil track – The thin line of conditioner left on a ball when it is rolled down a heavily oiled lane.
  • Oiling pattern – Describes the way in which oil has been applied to different parts of the lane. See "oil".
  • Open-play bowling – Non-competitive bowling that is not in league or tournament play.
  • Open frame – A frame at the end of which there are pins still standing.
  • Out-and-in – A hook that heads towards the outside gutter before breaking across the lane as it enters the pocket.
  • Outside line – The path of a ball that roles down the edge of the lane, in between the second arrow and the gutter. A "deep outside line" refers to the path of a ball travelling between the first arrow and the gutter.
  • Over-turn – A ball with too much spin, leading to an excessive hook that can result in a nose hit or a Brooklyn hit.


  • Perfect game – Twelve consecutive strikes, resulting in a score of 300, the highest possible in a ten frame match.
  • Pin deck – The surface on which the pins are spotted.
  • Pinfall – The number of pins knocked over in each frame.
  • Pit – The area at the end of the lane behind the pin deck.
  • Pocket – The optimum point for the ball to hit the pins generally just behind the front pin, between the 1-2 pins for a left handed roller, and the 1-3 pins for right handed.
  • Poison ivy – A 3-6-10 split.
  • Portsider – A left-handed bowler.
  • Punch out – To finish a game from any point with consecutive strikes.
  • Pushaway – The initial forward force applied to a ball to put it in motion. Some push the ball directly forward, while others drop the ball into motion.


  • Rack – A complete set of pins on the pindeck.
  • Railroad – A wide split with both remaining pins occupying the same line, such as a 7-10, 6-10 or 4-6.
  • Release – The point at which the player lets go of the ball and delivers it onto the lane.
  • Return – The track that carries rolled balls from the pit back to the approach.
  • Reverse block – A tough lane condition brought about by the carrying of oil from the centre to the edges.
  • Rock – A slang term for the bowling ball. The ball is also sometimes referred to as an "apple".
  • Roll-out – A ball that loses its spin before reaching the pins and straightens out instead of hooking into the pocket. This often occurs on dry lanes.


  • Skid – The movement of the ball through the heads. Due to the heavy application of oil on this part of the lane and the resultant loss of friction, the ball skids through with sideways rotation instead of rolling, allowing it to hook successfully.
  • Slide – The final stage of a bowler’s approach. The player’s foot slides towards the foul line as the ball is delivered onto the lane.
  • Slot – A very easy lane condition.
  • Snake eyes – The 7-10 split. See "bedposts".
  • Spare – The process of knocking all the pins down using both rolls in a single frame. The overall score for the frame will be ten plus the number of pins knocked down on the first ball of the next frame. See the section above on scoring for more information.
  • Spare leave – The pins that remain standing after the first ball of any frame.
  • Spare shot – The second shot in a frame.
  • Spare systems – Targeting methods for specific spare scenarios that take the guesswork out of rolling and allow players to convert more spares.
  • Split – A pin formation in which some pins including the head pin have been knocked down on the first roll in a frame. The standing pins are separated by at least one fallen pin leaving a gap between them. There are 459 possible split combinations.
  • Split leave – Typically a split in which the standing pins are far apart from each other.
  • Stroker – A player that uses more accuracy than a cranker.
  • Strike – The process of knocking all the pins down using only the first roll in a frame. The score for the frame will be ten plus the total number of pins knocked down by the next two balls. See the section above on scoring for more information.


  • Turkey – Three strikes in a row.
  • Turkey buzzard – Three splits in a row. Also called a "buzzard".


  • Washout split – A spare leave which would be a split except that the head pin (1-pin) remains standing.