Bowling Lingo And Terminology

While bowling is a relatively easy sport to participate in, there are some terms and phrases that a beginner may not understand. Read on to learn about the lingo used in bowling, from the basics to more advanced scoring and strategy terms.

Bowling Terms for Kids

Ball: A bowling ball in bowling is the circular ball that is rolled in order to knock down the pins. A bowling ball contains three holes for players to place their fingers inside, in order to grip the ball while winding back to throw. Bowling balls vary in weight, size, and design. Bowling ball weights generally range from six pounds to 16 pounds, and all are allowed on most lanes. Professional players tend to use heavier balls because they generate more force and allow for the pins to be knocked over easier.

Gutters: Gutters are the grooves on the sides of the lane where your ball could get trapped if you throw it incorrectly.

Perfect Game: A perfect game in bowling is a result of a game consisting of all strikes. A perfect game results in a score of 300, which is the maximum score in bowling.

Pins: The big white objects at the end of the lane located in the pin deck area. The distance between the front pin and the foul line is 60ft.

Spare: A spare in bowling occurs when a bowler knocks down all of the pins left after his first try.

Strike: A strike in bowling is when all ten pins are knocked down during a bowler’s first attempt.

Bowling Lane Terms

Getting familiar with bowling lane terms can really help you learn the sport if you are just beginning to play or watch.

Approach: This term takes on two meanings. It is either the area of the lane behind the foul line in which the player uses to step and deliver or it is how the bowler advances to the foul line.

Arrows: The arrows in bowling are the triangles fixed in the lane to assist the bowler in aiming their shot.

Back End: The back end in bowling is the far portion (last 20 feet) of the lane. This is where the most hook can happen.

Ball Rack: The ball rack in bowling is where the balls are before they are rolled and where they come back to from the pit.

Ball Return: The ball return in bowling is the part under and between the lane that brings the balls back to the ball rack after delivery.

Ball Track: The ball track in bowling is the area of the lane where the ball is thrown.

Conditioner: Conditioner in bowling is another term to refer to lane oil.

Dots: The dots in bowling are marks that are between the foul line and arrows. There are typically seven that help a bowler to aim more accurately.

Foul Line: The foul line in bowling in the line, usually red, that separates the approach from the beginning of the lane.

Kickbacks: Kickbacks in bowling are the side boards surrounding the pins that separate the lanes. This is where pins often rebound which frequently results in the knocking down of more pins.

Lane: A lane in bowling is the playing surface.

Mid Lane: The mid lane is bowling in the middle third area of the lane.

Pin Deck: The pin deck in bowling is where the pins are located.

Pit: The pit in bowling is the portion of the lane behind the pin deck.

Bowling Scoring Lingo

Bowling is a unique sport and has its own set of terms in regards to scoring and playing the game. If you want to gain a better understanding of how to define a specific turn and the outcome of a turn, check out these scoring terms:

Bagger: A bagger in bowling is a consecutive set of strikes achieved by a bowler. For example, a four-bagger means four strikes scored in a row.

Chop: A chop in bowling refers to when a bowler is going for a spare and knocks down one pin while the pin next to or behind it stays up.

Count: A count in bowling is typically the number of pins that are knocked down in the following frame in regards to a spare or strike.

Foul: A foul in bowling occurs when a player touches his foot to the foul line or crosses his foot past the foul line at the time of delivery.

Frame: A frame in bowling is a turn each bowler has. There are ten frames in a bowling game and each bowler has two chances to knock all of the pins down.

Handicap: A handicap in bowling is where there is a change made in the scores to even the competition.

Minus: A minus in bowling is the number of pins a bowler is scoring below a 200 average. 

Open Frame: An open frame in bowling is a frame that contains neither a spare nor strike.

Open Bowling: Open bowling in bowling is playing just for fun, as opposed to in a tournament or a competitive league.

Over: Over in bowling means the number of pins over a 200 score.

Par: A par in bowling is a 200 score.

Plus: Plus in bowling refers to the number of pins a bowler is scoring over a score of 200.

Punch Out: A punch out in bowling is when a bowler finishes a game with consecutive strikes. A punch out can occur from any frame until the end of the game.

Sandbagging: Sandbagging in bowling refers to when a bowler purposely keeps his score low to gain a larger handicap.

Scratch: A scratch in bowling is the actual score a bowler receives. A scratch does not include handicap accommodation.

Six-Pack: A six-pack in bowling is when a strike occurs six times in a row.

Tap: A top in bowling occurs when it seems there is a perfect roll for a strike but one pin is left.

Turkey: A turkey in bowling occurs when there are three strikes in a row.

Three-Hundred (300) Game: A three hundred game in bowling refers to a perfect game.

Vacancy: A vacancy in bowling is a fake score that is applied when a team does not have the same amount of team members as all of the other teams. A vacancy score is assigned by the league.

Bowling Strategy Terms

In bowling, there are 10 pins that reside in the pin deck. Each pin is numbered and there are terms that refer to certain pins. Check out the terms below to learn how to better identify pins in bowling:

Action: Action in bowling occurs when pins are flying and jumbling together.

Beak: A beak in bowling is the center part of the head pin.

Bucket: A bucket in bowling is a diamond shaped group of pins, consisting of four pins.

Double Wood: A double wood in bowling is any combination of two pins in which one pin is right behind the other pin.

Fast Eight: A fast eight in bowling refers to a turn that results in eight pins being knocked down.

Greek Church: A Greek church in bowling occurs when there is a split resulting in three pins on one side and two pins on the other.

Head Pin: The head pin in bowling is the 1 pin.

High Hit: A high hit in bowling occurs when the ball hits the 1 pin too much while a bowler is attempting to get a strike.

Kingpin: The kingpin in bowling is the 5 pin and it is centered directly in the middle of the pyramid shape used in standard ten-pin bowling.

Leave: A leave in bowling is the pins that are left after a bowler’s first attempt in a frame.

Light Hit: A light hit in bowling occurs when a ball hits the side of a pin and results in the pin moving sideways.

Messenger: A messenger in bowling is the name of a pin that is pushed across the pin deck to knock down another pin or pins to achieve a spare or a strike.

Pocket: A pocket in bowling is the best spot to hit the pins to heighten the chances of getting a strike.