What Is Domino?

Domino is a family of games played by arranging domino pieces on the table edge to edge in long lines. When one piece is tipped over, it causes the next domino in line to tip, and so on until all the pieces topple over. The number of dominoes used in a game depends on the rules of that particular game. Many adults use dominoes to build intricate structures, and children often use them as toys that they stack on end in long lines.

The word “domino” comes from the Latin dominium, meaning “to rule” or “to lead.” The term is thought to refer to a hooded cloak worn by a priest over his surplice; in English, it also meant a cape that contrasted with the color of the garment. Domino appeared in French around 1750, though it is possible that the term may have been used earlier to denote a hooded garment.

A basic set of dominoes consists of 28 tiles numbered on two of their sides. These are shuffled and form the stock or boneyard, from which players draw tiles to make their turns. The heaviest domino in the hand of any player becomes the lead. Depending on the rules of the game, a player must draw from the stock when it is empty or when there is a tie.

Each domino has identifying marks, known as pips, on one side and is blank or identically patterned on the other. The pips are arranged in an arrangement that is similar to those on a die, but some of the squares are blank (indicated by a zero). A domino’s identifying marks are distinguished from its pips by a line or ridge running through the center of the tile.

Some dominoes have additional markings that are important in determining the order of play or the scoring for a game. A double is a domino that can be played on any of its four sides, while a triple can be played only on its two opposite edges. Some games are scored by counting the number of pips in one or more of the ends of a domino chain; such a count is usually done after each tile has been played.

In most domino games, a single tile is played by placing it on the edge of another domino in such a way that its pips touch those of the adjacent tile. This begins a domino chain that grows in length as more and more tiles are placed. Adding to the fun of this type of game is the manner in which the chains develop. Domino chains often develop a snake-like shape, although this is not required by the rules of any given game. Moreover, the shapes of the chains can be modified by the placement of particular pieces.