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Bowling Terms

An A-to-Z List of Noteworthy Bowling Terms and Their Definitions

In order to get better in bowling, apart from perfecting the game, you should also understand its terminologies. Read the SportsAspire article to find definitions of different bowling terms used.
Sheetal Mandora
Last Updated: Jul 22, 2017
A ten-pin bowling, more popularly known as bowling, is a competitive sport. The game involves bowlers to roll a bowling ball down a wooden lane. At the end of the lane are 10 pins, lined in a triangular shape, some lined behind each other, which need to be knocked down. The player scores according to the number of pins that are knocked out of the way. There are 10 frames, and each player gets two turns per frame to clear all the pins.
Bowling Terminologies and Definitions
A bowler's initial position.
Surface of the lanes which is made of maple, pine, or urethane boards.
All the Way
Finishing a game with only strikes.
The last participant to bowl in a team competition.
The direction taken by the ball while traveling into the 1―3 pocket for right hand bowlers, 1―2 for left hand bowlers.
Portion of the lane (path) from the back of the ball return area to the foul line.
The entire arm movement, from the arc of your bowling arm (right or left) and hand from the initial move toward the line till the ball is released over that line.
Baby Ball
Throwing or releasing the ball too delicately or carefully.
Back Ends
The final 6 feet of the lane.
A ball that falls to the right side for right-handed bowlers and left side for left-handed bowlers.
Interfering to stop or mess up some other bowler's normal actions.
Ball Rack
The rack used to store balls or where the balls returns and rests before a turn.
Ball Return
Path between the lanes where the ball rolls on when it's returning to the rack.
A weak hit on the headpin.
A 7―10 split.
Belly the Ball
Increasing the width of a hook from the inside of a starting point.
Bench Work
Conversation or actions intended to disturb an opponent.
Hook or twist shot that comes really close to the channel just before breaking into the pocket.
Big Fill
9 or 10 pins on a spare, or double on a strike.
Big Five
Spare of 3 on one side and 2 on the other side.
Score allowed for a missing member.
A missed spare.
Blow a Rack
A successful strikeBlowoutKnocking down all the pins but one.
A single frame.
A lucky shot.
4-pin diamond on the sides or the center of the lane.
3 open frames available in a row, for one participant.
Power of the ball to knock down pins.
Chicken Wing
When any bowler's elbow gets out from his body while performing a swing.
Failing to achieve target.
Chopping the front pin of a spare while a pin behind/left/right remains.
An insistence (pressured) situation.
Come Up
Hook in the pocket caused by a spin on the axis.
Knocking down all the pins that were left behind with your second ball.
A strike made by leaving out the head pin.
Missing in a final frame when a spare could win.
Ball that travels from right to left.
A hook that slices the pins down.
The ball when it makes contact with pins and then angles aside to the right or left.
Preparation, Release and Follow-through.
A 200 average.
A ball that hooks itself at the last moment.
Two strikes made in a row.
Double Wood
When 1 pin is directly behind the other pin.
Dump the Ball
Releasing the ball without bending your knee.
Dutch 200
A 200 game scored interchanging strikes and spares.
Early Foundation
A strike made in the 8th frame.
Early Timing
Leaving the ball before the bent, sliding foot completes its slide.
Acronym for "Even Full Rollers Are Hooking"; lanes are very dry.
Entry Angle
The angle relative to the pocket (the ball enters the pocket). If the angle is increased, the strike will also increase.
A missed spare.
Extra Frame
The bonus for participant for filling the 10th frame.
Fence Posts
A 7―10 split.
Fit split
A split where it is possible for the ball to hit both pins simultaneously.
5 strikes in a row.
Flat ball
Fruitless ball.
The motion after release.
Touching or going outside the foul line.
Foul Line
The mark that decides the origin of the lane.
A strike in the 9th frame.
The friction caused between the lane and the ball.
Grandma's Teeth
An alignment of pins left standing.
Low score lanes.
Drop offs about 10 inches wide to the right/left of the lane to lead the ball to the pit.
Gutter Ball
A ball that goes into the gutter.
Half Hit
Difference between a full and light hit.
Pins presented to weak participants or teams in an effort to make the game even.
Head Pin
Front pin of a rack.
More to the left or right.
Home Alley
Favorite lane for participants or teams.
A good ball.
A ball that travels to the left or right.
House Ball
Bowling balls provided by the alley.
Oily or heavily conditioned lane as the ball keeps skidding.
In "There"
A good pocket hit.
In the Grove
Properly lined up, zoned, or automatic bowling.
A starting point near the center of the lane.
In Time
Releasing the ball and landing on the foul line with the sliding foot at the same time.
Force the ball high inside the pocket.
Jersey Side/Hit
A ball that hits on the other side of the participant's normal pocket.
High rotation or powerful delivery.
Junk Ball
Low rotation or less powered delivery.
A bowler.
Smooth ball delivery.
The headpin or the number 5 pin.
Money from team members for misses, and other set fines.
Late 10
When the 10 pin pauses and is the last to go down on a strike.
Leadoff Man
First man to bowl in a team game.
Light Seven
A hit excessively light on both sides of the head pin.
The route a bowling ball takes.
Throwing the ball onto the lane rather than revolving it.
Very heavy pins mainly utilized for practice.
An extra-wide hook ball.
Loose Hit
A light pocket hit.
Love Tap
A tap from a moving pin which knocks it down.
Match Play
A component of the tournament where participants are matched against each other.
A pin that comes across the lane after all the others have fallen down.
A missed spare.
A ball that makes the pins to rebound around.
A nickname for the gutter.
Move In
To start from the center of the approach.
Move Out
To start from a corner position on the approach.
Naked Spare
A single spare pin.
Negative Weight
The weight on a ball which tends to hold back the hook or rolls earlier than anticipated.
Never Up, Never In
An idea/philosophy which states that if a bowler wants to make a strike, he/she must first hit the headpin.
No Drive No Five
The expressions means that a bowler should take the 5-pin out on a pocket hit, as the ball travels through the deflection from the headpin to hit the 5-pin
The beak/center of the headpin.
Nose Hit
To hit the pins dead center.
Nothing Ball
A ball which accomplishes very little due to a poor hit.
On the Nose
To hit to the headpin in the center.
Open Bowling
Non-league plays for fun or practice opposite league nights.
Out of Bounds
Area on the lanes where a ball won't make it to the pocket.
Corner position of playing lanes.
To enforce too much spin to the ball.
A game score of 200.
Pinching the Ball
To clutch the ball too hard.
Pin deck
Area 60' from the foul line.
Space at end of lane where ball and pins end up.
Angle in which the holes of the bowling ball are drilled.
The parts of the lane from the very back of the ball return area up to the foul line.
Point Shot
Starting from the first arrow and throwing over first arrow.
Position Rounds
Parts of a league schedule which call for teams.
Pot Game
Competition in which two participants place a stake.
A strong ball that strikes.
A gutter ball.
Quality Shot
A shot where absolutely everything (approach, release, etc) come together at perfect timing with balance.
Quick Eight
A good pocket hit that knocks down 8 pins only, while leaving the 4―7 or 6―10 behind.
A wide open split.
When a single pin is left behind on a good hit.
Rat Club
A team that shoots low scores for one game.
The movement of hand as ball is rolled onto a lane.
Readjusting the pins.
The track which balls roll from pit to the rack.
The number of turns a ball takes when leaving from release to pins.
The spin to the ball at the time of delivery.
Starting area.
Competition in accordance with American Bowling Congress and Women's International Bowling Congress rules.
A bowler who keeps his average down in order to receive a higher handicap.
Scenic Route
The path taken by a sharp curve ball.
The length you allow between your standing position and where you want the ball to go.
Shadow Ball
A ball rolled in practice without any pins set.
Rolling a ball from the hip.
Six Pack
6 strikes in a row.
The last step of delivery.
Snow Plow
A ball that knocks down all the pins.
All pins knocked down with two balls.
Spare Leave
Pins standing up after the first ball is rolled.
A light-hit strike.
A strike where the pins are knocked down rapidly.
An area of lane where maple and pine boards connect.
A spare leave in which the headpin is down.
Spot Bowling
Direct on lane at which the bowler can aim.
To get more pins than you merit on a strike.
All 10 pins get knocked down.
Strike Out
To get all 3 strikes in the 10th frame.
3 or more strikes in a row.
The arm and hand movement throughout the delivery over the foul line.
A bowling tournament.
Swiss Cheese Ball
A ball used in pro shops to build a bowler's finger size and span for drilling.
Two pins lined one behind the other.
When a pin remains standing up on a perfect strike.
Team Captain
A lead member creditworthy for all participants being present, arranging for a substitute participant, and influencing team lineup.
Three Hundred Game
A perfect game of 12 strikes in a row.
Three Quarter Bucket
Three of the four pins of the bucket.
Throwing Rocks
Squeezing up strikes with many speed balls.
When the 6-pin gently tips the 10-pin.
Most used area on lane.
Tripped 4
When the 2-pin takes out the 4-pin.
A strike where the pins seem to fall separately.
3 strikes in a row.
Umbrella Ball
A high hit which results in a perfect strike.
In a tournament, the number of pins each participant is scoring under a 200 average.
Up the Hill
When a ball productively travels over a high board.
Drilling a small hole into a bowling ball to relieve suction on the thumb hole.
A violation affecting second and third ball score.
Wall Shot
A particular strike which is light in the pocket where all the pins are deflected into the kickbacks. Later returning to the pin deck to knock down other pins.
A split made with the 7- or 10-pins.
Weak Hit
A flat hit which leaves one pin or a pocket split.
It's what you say when you lose the ball in your backswing.
Winding Them In
Throwing a big hook back to the pocket.
In the zone and consistent with high scores.
Wrist Master
One of the many accessories worn by bowlers to help keep a firm wrist during backswing.
Make a spare out of a split leave.
Wrap Around
A short where the 6-pin almost hits 10-pin, however spins around it and keeps it standing.
Symbol for strike.
XXX'ed Out
The action of completing the game with all the strikes from a given point in the game.
Yank the Shot
When a bowler clings onto the ball for too long.
Yellow Dot
Old polyester bowling ball made by Columbia which is famous for giving an excellent roll and hit.
Zero In
Find the perfect strike spot on a lane, usually after a bad hit.
Zone/In the
Lined up in the groove, powerful and consistent.
Symbol for a spare.
Bowling pins in the bowling club
Orange ball does strike
Bowling Strike
Bowling alley