The first two balls thrown in each frame can result in a variety of remaining pin configurations, including “hi-lo-jack,” the “full Worcester” and the “four horsemen.” To know the terms of candlepin bowling is to love the sport. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

If you’ve ever been bowling, you’ve most definitely heard the word “strike,” “spare,” and maybe even a “turkey.” But candlepin bowling has its own special language. Walk into any candlepin bowling league night and you’ll likely hear a jumble of seemingly random words pieced together as players bowl their strings.

If you’re a candlepin newbie, here’s a glossary with some popular terms to help you talk about the sport like a pro.

BOX: Commonly called a “frame” in 10-pin bowling, it’s the term for when you get up and bowl your three balls and the score from that effort.

STRING: A game. Each game or string consists of 10 consecutive frames or “boxes.” Bowl as many strings as you like.

MARK: A spare or strike.

BONUS BALL(S): A ball or balls rolled after bowling a spare or strike (mark), which is added to the score of the previous box. A strike rewards two bonus balls, a spare rewards one bonus ball.


WOOD: A term for fallen pins still lying in the playing area. Wood is not cleared away between rolls during a player’s turn and players can use the downed pins to knock down others.

DEADWOOD: A term for downed pins that are in the gutter or still on the lane but out of the reach of the automated rake, which is designated by a “deadwood line.” According to the established rules, all downed pins remaining on the lane and entirely behind the deadwood line are live and playable (and are considered “wood”). Those touching or forward (toward the bowler) of the deadwood line are dead and shall be removed (and are considered “deadwood”). As are pins in the gutter.

Richard Morin of Norway lines up a shot at Stars and Strikes Bowling Center in Paris during league night on March 21. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

SPREAD EAGLE: A split configuration where the 2-3-4-6-7-10 pins are left standing.

DIAMOND: Four pins that form a diamond-shaped configuration, either the 2-4-5-8, known as “left-side diamond,” the 3-5-6-9, known as “right-side diamond,” or the 1-2-3-5, known as the “center diamond.”

THE FOUR HORSEMEN: Four remaining pins in a diagonal line, from the head-pin outward; if the 1-2-4-7, it is known as “four horsemen, left side,” and if the 1-3-6-10, it is known as “Four horsemen, right side.” The usual 10-pin term for this is a “picket fence” or “clothesline.”

HEAD PIN: The 1 pin.


HI-LO-JACK: A configuration in which the bowler is facing the 1, 7, and 10 pins.

HALF WORCESTER: The punching out of either the 2 and 8 pins or the 3 and 9 pins. This can be done on both sides of the headpin within the same box, resulting in a “full Worcester.” 

BACKDOOR STRIKE: A strike in which the 1 pin is the last to fall.

KING PIN: The 5 pin.

7-10 SPLIT:  When after the ball is thrown, only the 7 and 10 pins remain standing on the lane. If there is no wood, it is the hardest two-pin combination to completely knock down on one ball. The 10-pin terms for this most dreaded configuration include “bedposts” and “goal posts.”

ROAD BLOCK: A term used when a bowler’s deadwood appears to be helpful but negatively affects the bowler’s shot upon hitting the deadwood.

Sources: and

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