Whether you’re just getting started in the wonderful world of bowling or have been playing for years, there’s always something new to learn! Here are 30 must-know bowling terms to help you get up to speed on your bowling game.

1. Back End

The back end of a bowling lane is where a bowler needs to take most advantage of hooking their ball. The back end is the farthest portion on the lane, and there should be a lot of movement or "hook" within this area.

2. Bagger

Commonly used in bowling, is a term that describes when a player gets multiple strikes in a row. For example, if you manage to get five strikes in a row, it would be referred to as a 'Five Bagger'.

3. Ball Rack

Acting like a storage space for the vibrant, colorful balls, this area is where you select your ball before each turn, and it’s also where your ball is returned to after each throw or roll.

4. Ball Track

The ball track is an essential component of a bowling ball, as it has direct contact with the lane during the release. This area of the ball aids in direction, and friction, and predictably affects spin.

5. Breakpoint

The spot on the lane where a bowler should aim in order to cause maximum pin action.

6. Center Pin Spare

A spare that is made by knocking down the headpin and all other pins with one ball (also known as “splitting the headpin”).

7. Clean Game

This is when you don’t leave any pins standing after two rolls in any frame.

8. Cross

When a bowler throws a ball so that it crosses over from one side of the lane to another, this is known as “crossing over.”

9. Double

When you get two strikes in a row, you have achieved a double!

10. Double Wood

Double wood refers to two bowling pins having one directly behind the other on the pin deck, as opposed to a single pin spaced apart from other pins.

11. Finger Holes

Holes drilled into a bowling ball that fit around the fingers of the bowler, making it easier to control their shots and spin.

Finger holes refer to the array of holes on either side of the thumb hole at the top of bowling balls. Not only do these indented nooks provide grip, but they also help bowlers determine which ball fits best for their hand shape and size.

12. Frame

An entire game is divided into ten turns or frames. When the ball is thrown, each frame has two chances for the bowler to try and knock down all remaining pins.

13. Foul Line

The line at which bowlers must stand while delivering their ball down the lane; if they step beyond the foul line, they will be issued a foul shot and any pins knocked down won't count towards their score; also known as “the line of delivery” or “the foul mark”.

14. Gutter Ball

When a bowler throws their ball into either side gutter without knocking down any pins; also known as “gettin' gutterized!”

15. Handicap

Handicaps help level the playing field between players of different skill levels by awarding bonus points to lower-skilled players or subtracting points from higher-skilled players. This helps ensure that competitive matches are fair for everyone involved.

16. Head Pin

The head pin is the first pin at the front end of the lane that must be knocked down for any other pins behind it to fall; also called “the kingpin" or "Number One".

17. House Ball

These are basically bowling balls provided by the bowling alley or house for first-time bowlers or casual players who don’t have their own balls.

18. Hook Shot

A type of shot used by competitive bowlers in which they use spin and rotation to make their balls curve towards their target instead of traveling in a straight line; often referred to as “jailbreak"

19. Lane Oil Pattern

Lane oil patterns are predetermined designs used by bowling alleys to create different levels of difficulty for bowlers by using various amounts and locations of oil on each lane; these patterns can range from easy to extremely difficult depending on what kind of challenge bowlers are looking for

20. Leave

Leave is what happens when pins remain standing after your first roll in any given frame.

21. Open Frame

An open frame is a common occurrence that can arise after two balls. An open frame happens when pins are still standing on the alley, so no bonus points are given for a strike or spare.

22. Perfect Game

A perfect game is achieved when you score 300 points by getting 12 strikes in all ten frames without leaving any pins standing throughout the entire game.

23. Pin Deck

It's the place where all ten pins are set for bowlers to hit down. Located precisely 60 ft from the foul line.

24. Pocket Hit

This term refers to when the ball hits the headpin smack dab in the middle-- giving it an almost perfect strike.

25. Spare

A spare is when a player succeeds in knocking down all ten pins with two rolls in a frame. On the first roll, if there are pins remaining after the first roll, then during the 2nd roll, if the player knocks down any pins left standing, it counts as a "spare".

26. Splits

When two or more non-contiguous groups (or "splits") of pins remain standing after a bowler's first shot.

27. Strike

A strike is when the ball thrown knocks down all ten pins in one go. Hitting a strike in ten-pin bowling is perhaps one of the most exciting and dramatic moments you can experience on the lanes. It's incredibly satisfying to witness that energy of power as your ball rolls along, handing you victory.

28. Tap

A tap is when only one pin remains standing after a bowler's first throw

29. Turkey

Three consecutive strikes in a row.

30. The 7-10 Split

The 7-10 Split is one of the most difficult spares to pick up because only two pins remain standing after the first ball is rolled. This occurs when only the leftmost and rightmost pins (7 and 10) remain standing. Some experts believe that this split requires more skill than any other spare, so it's no surprise that it has its own name!


There you have it—30 essential bowling terms every beginner should know! Whether you plan to become the next world-renowned bowling champion or just hit the lanes for some fun, it’s important to be familiar with the various terms of bowling lingo.

With these handy terms in your arsenal, you'll be ready to take on your next match play like an absolute pro knocking down all the pins in no time! Good luck out there!

If you're looking for the best bowling equipment, check out our top picks! We've done all the research for you, so you don't have to!

Check out our other bowling and sports & fitness blog posts!

Bowling Rules for Beginners: What You Need to Know
Here’s a quick guide to the bowling rules and etiquette so that you can jump right into the game with confidence. Read on to learn more!
7 Bowling Tips for Beginners: Boost Your Game Right Away
Looking for bowling tips for beginners? Learn the basics with these seven essential bowling tips for beginners that will help you improve your game and have more fun! Read more!
5 Essential Bowling Tips for Seniors to Improve Their Game
Looking for some bowling tips specifically designed for seniors? Here are five expert tips and tricks that will help you take your game up a notch! Read more!
The Best Bowling Ball for Straight Bowlers: Our Top 3 Picks
We’ll go through the best balls for straight bowlers so that you can make an informed decision about which bowling ball is right for your game.
The Best Bowling Ball for Hook - Our Top 5 Picks for 2023
Finding the perfect bowling ball is essential to any bowler. Learn more about the best bowling balls for hook and start improving your game today!
The 5 Best Bowling Ball Cleaner on the Market 2022
We’ve done the research for you and found the 5 best bowling ball cleaners out there. These are high-quality products that won’t disappoint! Read more!
How to Use a Bowling Ball Cleaner to Enhance Your Game
Keep your bowling ball clean and improve your strikes and spares with the help of a bowling ball cleaner. Learn how to use it in this guide. Read more!
How to Improve Your Bowling Score in 10 Simple Steps
Take your bowling game to the next level with these 10 simple tips. Learn how to improve your bowling score, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced bowler!
Pinpointing the Sweet Spot: What’s A Good Bowling Score?
Want to know what a good bowling score is? This article breaks down all the key components that make up a good score in bowling. Find out more!
The Top 10 Bowling Safety Tips to Keep You Injury-Free
Everyone loves going bowling, but don’t let a preventable injury ruin the fun! Here are ten tips to help you safely enjoy a game of bowling.
Share this post