You throw a big, hooking ball, and your bowling ball hits with maximum force. However, you’re one of those right-handed bowlers at the bowling center who struggles to get strikes on the opposite side of your dominant hand.

That’s frustrating, but how do you talk about it? What is the common bowling slang used to express frustration and joy, or simply to talk about the goings-on at the alley?

If you want to get in the know and learn all there is to learn about bowling slang, we’re here to help. Whether you throw a house ball or have your own high-performance option for league play, this glossary of bowling terms has been designed to help you get your bowling lingo on point!


Using your fingers in such a way to alter a bowling ball’s path following its release. Action is also used to refer to the violence and trajectory of pins after impact.


Bowlers refer to bowling lanes as an alley, even though it’s usually part of a larger alley setup.


The last player on a bowling league team to play.


The path the ball takes towards the 1-3 pin pocket for right-handers or the 1-2 pocket for left-handers.


The movement towards your bowling shot and release, or the area behind the foul line that such movement takes place.


Arrows are used on a lane to help you aim for the proper part of the pin deck area without looking at the pins.

Baby Split

A 2-7 or 3-10 split. Compared to most splits, these are a cinch to convert.

Baby Split With Company

A three-pin split with either the 3-9-10 or 2-7-8 left.

Babying The Ball

Throwing a slow ball towards the bowling pins with a lack of form, effort, and confidence.

Backup Ball

A ball that curves left to right when thrown by a right-handed bowler, or from right to left for righties.


Used for a string of more than three strikes in a row. Four strikes in a row is a four-bagger. Six strikes in a row is a six-bagger. And, so on.

Bad Rack

A poorly-placed set of ten pins. Usually, a bad rack has less than ten pins standing and is offset compared to its usual formation.

Baker Game

Throwing one single game with five different bowlers. Each bowler rolls just two of the game’s frames.

Ball Return

The mechanism to the side of the lane that your ball comes back to after a shot.

Ball Track

When a ball leaves most bowlers’ hands, it usually finds the ball track — the well-worn part of the lane where most balls tend to groove into.


A pin that hides behind another pin.

Bed Posts

The much-hated 7-10 split.

Beer Frame

Traditionally, the beer frame is the fifth frame. Those bowlers who don’t throw a strike in this frame are supposed to buy the other bowlers beer.

Belly the Ball

Throwing a ball from the inside to the outside, looking to curl it back into the proper pin pocket.

Big Four

The 4-6-7-10 split.


Posting a nine on the first throw of a frame.

Break Point

The point on a bowling lane where the ball begins its entry angle towards the pin pocket.

Brooklyn Strike

Any strike knocking all ten pins down from the opposite pin pocket. This means using the 1-2 pocket as a righty or the 1-3 pocket as a lefty.


Four pins left up that form a diamond, or bucket shape.


Easy-to-play lanes where your actual score is boosted by unchallenging lane conditions.


Taking out the front pin on your second ball and leaving the other pin(s) up.

Clean Game

Finishing all frames of a game with either a strike or a spare. No open frames.


Leaving either the 1-3-6-10 or 1-2-4-7 after your first ball.


The bonus points carried over from a subsequent frame for a previous strike or spare.


The materials that make up the outer shell of a bowling ball.


A bowler who maximizes the power of their arm swing during a shot.


Pins left on the lane from a previous shot.


Any bowling game where a player scores 200 or more.


Two strikes thrown in a row.

Double Pinochle

Another name for the 4-6-7-10 split.

Double Wood

Any two pins left where one stands directly behind another one.

Drop-Off Area

Another name for the gutters on a bowling lane.


Accidentally dropping a bowling ball on your approach at the foul line.

Dutch 200

Alternating throwing strikes and spares in each frame of a bowling game to finish with 200 points.

Fence Posts

Another name for the 7-10 split.

Field Goal

Throwing your second ball in between two pins left standing.


All pins dropped on a spare shot.


The measurement of a bowling ball’s movement from its beginning axis to its final axis.

Flat Ball

A ball thrown with a low number of revolutions that causes a good pocket hit to turn into a split. An apparent perfect hit becomes a light pocket hit in these circumstances.


Nailing the pin pocket perfectly.


Worth zero points, a foul occurs when any part of a bowler crosses the foul line or touches another part of the surrounding alley during a shot.

Foul Line

The line that divides the approach area from the actual bowling lane.


Like periods in hockey or innings in baseball, a frame is used to divide a game of bowling into parts. There are ten frames in a game of bowling.

Frozen Rope

Nailing the pin pocket at an extremely-high speed.

Full Hit

Hitting any pin standing directly.

Full Roller

Any ball that rolls over its entire circumference after a throw.

Golden Gate

Yet another name for the 4-6-7-10 split.


Challenging bowling lanes that make it hard to score.


Another name for the ball track on a bowling lane.


The two channels on each side of a bowling lane.

Gutter Ball

Scoring a zero by rolling a throw into one of the lane’s two gutters.


A boost to a player’s score during league or tournament play based on their previous scoring average. This is done to promote equal competition among bowlers at differing skill levels.

Hard Way

Another name for the Dutch 200. Alternating strikes and spare in each frame to throw a 200 game.


The first 20 feet or so of a bowling lane past the foul line.

Head Pin

The 1 pin.

High Hit

Catching more head pin on a first ball than advisable for throwing strikes.

Holding Alley

A bowling lane that makes things hard on a hook-dominant bowler.


Balls that move towards the left for a right-handed bowler, or towards the right for a lefty.


Any bowling alley that you bowl at.


Slotting a ball very high into a pin pocket.


Dividing partitions used to separate lanes in the pit area.

King Pin

Another name for the 5 pin. It’s the crux pin for most strikes.


A pot of money that players add to following missed shots during certain bowling tournaments.

Late 10

A 10 pin that has a delayed reaction before falling on a strike.


All pins left standing after your first ball.


Pushing your fingers upward during a ball’s release.

Light Hit

Hitting a pin and knocking it down with the lightest of impacts.


The 5-7-10 split.


The time a bowling ball takes to land on the lane after its release.


Hitting the head pin lightly on a first ball.


Any frame that ends with a strike or spare.

Match Play

A bowling tournament that pits players against each other in one-on-one competition.


The number of pins a bowler needs to make up to have a 200 scoring average in competitive play.


An active ball that causes massive pin action after impact.


A nickname for the 7-pin.

Mule Ears

Another bit of bowling lingo for the 7-10 split.

Nose Hit

Hitting the 1 pin directly on your first ball.

One In The Dark

Any of the trailing pins left standing on a 3-9, 2-8, or 1-5 split.

Open Frames

When you fail to convert a strike or spare in a frame, it’s considered open.

Open Bowling

Bowling for the fun of it outside of league or tournament structures.


The number of pins that a bowler is ahead when attempting to post a 200 average in competition.


Putting way too much spin and not enough lift on a throw.


Another name for a 200 game.

Perfect Game

Bowling twelve strikes in a row and leaving zero pins standing for a 300 game. The rarest feat in bowling.

Picket Fence

Leaving either a 1-2-4-7 or 1-3-6-10 formation after your first ball.

Pie Alley

A bowling lane that makes it easy as pie to get strikes and spares.

Pin Deck

Where the pins are set at the end of a bowling lane.


The area that pins are knocked down into and gathered for resetting after a shot.


The measurement for the angles of holes drilled into a ball.


The sweet spot for strikes on a first ball. The 1-3 pin pocket is considered to be perfect placement for a right-handed bowler, and the 1-2 pocket is the ticket for a lefty.

Poison Ivy

Another name for a 3-6-10 split.

Pot Game

A money game between two or more bowlers. Each bowler pays to play and the winner takes the pot.


A weak throw that hits the pins with very limited violence.



The count of the number of times a ball rolls over its full circumference from release to pin impact. The more revs a ball has, the more pin action it is likely to create.

Running Lane

A hook-friendly bowling lane.


Another name for the approach area before the foul line.


A player who plays badly when calculating scoring averages for a leg up in league or tournament competition.


Any strike where pins seem to drop one at a time.


An actual bowling score or average in competition without handicaps factored in.

Short Pin

A pin that comes up just short of knocking down another pin left standing.


A hidden pin on a spare attempt.

Slot Alley

A strike-friendly bowling lane.

Snake Eyes

Another term for the vaunted 7-10 split.

Sour Apple

Another name for the Lily, or 5-7-10 split.


The measurement of the space between the thumb holes and finger holes of bowling balls.


Knocking down all ten pins with two shots in a frame. A spare conversion is recorded when picking up the remaining pins on a second ball.


A spare leave with at least a pin’s worth of space between two or more pins.

Spot Bowling

Using arrows or dots on a bowling lane for aiming rather than looking at the pins.


Any strike recorded that shouldn’t have happened under normal circumstances.


Knocking down all ten pins on your first ball of a frame.


A sequence of consecutive strikes thrown.


Throwing a ball directly into the pin pocket, yet leaving one pin standing anyways.

Thin Hit

Hitting the pin pocket with only a slight touch of the head pin.

Tripped 4

When the 2 pin spins and deflects, knocking down the 4 pin.


Three strikes in a row.


The number of pins a bowler is behind when attempting to post a 200 scoring average.

Venting Hole

An extra hole on a bowling ball used to limit suction inside the thumb hole.

Wall Shot

Any strike where pins bounce off the kickback to knock other ones down.


Splits where the head pin is left standing.

Wire It

Finished out the tenth frame with three consecutive strikes.