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Strap on your bowling shoes and sprint down the alley of cool with the lingo that’ll turn heads and wow your laneside crew!

In the universe of strikes, spares, and splits, grasping these 30 must-know bowling terms will rocket your convo from gutter-bound to kingpin status.

Ready to roll with the pros? Let’s knock ’em down!

Must-Know Bowling Terms, Phrases and Slang:

  1. Alley
  2. Approach
  3. Frame
  4. Gutter
  5. Lane
  6. Pin
  7. Spare
  8. Split
  9. Strike
  10. Turkey
  11. Baker format
  12. Ball return
  13. Brooklyn
  14. Clean game
  15. Dead wood
  16. Foul line
  17. Handicap
  18. Hook
  19. Mark
  20. Open frame
  21. Perfect game
  22. Pocket
  23. Sandbagging
  24. Scratch
  25. Series
  26. Sleeper
  27. Spare ball
  28. Spot bowling
  29. Tap
  30. Ten-pin

#1 Alley

In bowling, an “alley” refers to the entire establishment or the area where the lanes are located where the sport is played. It’s synonymous with a bowling center or bowling alley, where enthusiasts gather for both casual and competitive play.

#2 Approach

The “approach” is the area just before the foul line where bowlers take several strides to gain momentum before releasing the ball. It’s a critical space for bowlers to perfect their timing and technique for an effective roll.

#3 Frame

A “frame” is one of ten divisions of play in a game of bowling, during which a player has up to two chances to knock down all ten pins. The score of a game is the total number of pins knocked down over these ten frames.

#4 Gutter

The “gutter” is a channel on either side of the lane that catches errant balls that don’t stay on the lane. A ball that lands in the gutter is out of play and does not score any points for knocking down pins.

#5 Lane

The “lane” is the long, narrow path on which the ball is rolled toward the pins. Made of wood or synthetic materials, it is treated with oil patterns that affect the ball’s movement, making lane conditions a crucial part of the sport.

#6 Pin

In bowling, a pin is one of the ten slender, tall objects arranged in a triangular pattern at the end of the lane. The objective is to knock down these pins with a bowling ball to score points.

#7 Spare

A spare is scored when a player knocks down all ten pins with two consecutive rolls in a single frame. Achieving a spare allows the player to add the pins knocked down in their next roll to that frame’s score.

#8 Split

A difficult situation in bowling where two or more pins remain standing after the first ball of a frame, with a gap between them that makes it challenging to knock all remaining pins down with the second ball.

#9 Strike

When a bowler knocks down all ten pins with the first ball rolled in a frame, achieving the most desirable result in a single roll. This action not only earns maximum points but can also lead to scoring multipliers in subsequent frames.

#10 Turkey

A term used in bowling to describe when a player rolls three strikes in a row. It’s a significant achievement that often boosts a player’s score substantially and showcases consistent high-level performance.

#11 Baker format

A team bowling format where members alternate frames to complete a single game, emphasizing teamwork and strategy. The name originates from the creator of this method, Frank K. Baker, intending to balance individual and team contributions.

#12 Ball return

An automated machine that delivers the bowled ball back to the player at the approach area. It allows for seamless and efficient play by returning the ball after each roll.

#13 Brooklyn

A strike that’s achieved by hitting the pins on the opposite side of the head pin from the bowler’s handedness (a left-hander striking from the right and vice versa). It’s often considered a lucky break as the ball crosses over the center.

#14 Clean game

In bowling, a clean game is achieved when a player does not leave any open frames, meaning they score a spare or strike in every frame. This is a sign of consistent performance throughout the game.

#15 Dead wood

Refers to pins that have been knocked down and lie on the lane or in the gutter but are not cleared away before the next ball is rolled. Dead wood can affect the path and behavior of subsequent rolls.

#16 Foul line

The line at the beginning of the bowling lane that players must not cross when delivering the bowling ball. If a player’s foot crosses this line during delivery, it results in a foul and the pins knocked down do not count.

#17 Handicap

Bowling handicaps level the playing field by adding extra points to a bowler’s score based on their average, allowing players of varying skill levels to compete fairly. It’s an added score to give novice players a chance to win against more skilled opponents.

#18 Hook

The hook refers to the curve a bowling ball takes as it travels down the lane, caused by the bowler’s spin. A strong hook can be advantageous, increasing the chance of striking the pins in the pocket for maximum pin action.

#19 Mark

A mark is achieved in a frame if a bowler knocks down all ten pins within the allotted two attempts, resulting in either a strike or a spare. It’s a vital component of scoring, as consecutive marks can greatly increase a bowler’s final score.

#20 Open Frame

An open frame occurs when a bowler fails to knock down all ten pins in a given frame, missing the mark. It’s a situation often avoided, as it can lead to lower overall scores and decrease the chance of winning.

#21 Perfect Game

A perfect game in bowling is the pinnacle of achievement, where a player scores 300 by rolling 12 consecutive strikes in one game. It’s a rare feat that requires skill and a bit of luck, showcasing a bowler at their best.

#22 Pocket

The ideal target area between pins for a strike, typically between the 1 and 3 pins for right-handed bowlers, and the 1 and 2 pins for left-handed bowlers. Hitting the pocket maximizes the chances of knocking all pins down.

#23 Sandbagging

A tactic in some bowling competitions where a player intentionally plays below their capability to manipulate their average score, often to gain a strategic advantage in handicap-based tournaments.

#24 Scratch

Refers to a score achieved without any handicap; essentially, it is the actual number of pins knocked down by a player. In professional and amateur leagues, scratch scores represent a bowler’s true skill level without adjustments.

#25 Series

A series is typically a set of three games bowled consecutively, with the total pinfall determining a player’s or team’s score. In tournament or league play, the series score is crucial for standings and averages.

#26 Sleeper

Sleeper describes a pin positioned directly behind another, often not easily seen, making it more challenging to hit. These pins pose a risk for leaving pin(s) standing, as they are harder to knock down due to their hidden placement.

#27 Spare Ball

A spare ball is a bowling ball with minimal hook potential, often made of plastic or polyester, used specifically to convert spares. Because of its straighter trajectory, bowlers use it to accurately target remaining pins without worrying about lane conditions affecting its path.

#28 Spot Bowling

Spot bowling is a targeting technique where bowlers focus on specific marks or arrows on the lane rather than aiming directly at the pins. This method helps maintain consistency in shots since it is easier to hit a closer target than one further away.

#29 Tap

In bowling, a tap occurs when a well-thrown ball hits the pocket but leaves one pin standing, often unexpectedly, due to slight misalignment or pin action.

#30 Ten-pin

The version of bowling most commonly played worldwide, where the objective is to knock down ten pins arranged at the end of a lane using a large bowling ball. The term distinguishes it from other forms of bowling like five-pin or candlepin.



What are some Bowling terms for beginners?

“Alley,” “Frame,” and “Gutter” are some Bowling terms beginners should start with. These are basic concepts essential to understanding the game and its scoring system.

What are some funny Bowling terms?

“Brooklyn,” “Turkey,” and “Dead wood” are some funny Bowling terms that add character to the sport, each with a unique backstory relating to gameplay and scoring quirks.

What is a famous Bowling phrase?

“Let’s roll,” is a famous Bowling phrase, often used to rally players to start their game or as encouragement, highlighting the camaraderie and action-packed nature of bowling.

Meet Rev, one of our dedicated team members who embodies the essence of sports passion. When he’s not immersed in the world of sports content creation, Rev is busy honing his skills in esports and exploring the great outdoors through activities like hiking and basketball.

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