What Is Domino?


Domino is a game of skill, strategy and chance where players try to empty their hand while blocking opponents’ play. A variety of domino games exist, with each one requiring players to make certain that the ends of their tiles match: two ‘one’s touch each other or that all exposed ‘zero’ ends sum to a multiple of five. Some games are adaptations of card-playing activities that circumvent religious proscriptions on playing cards, while others teach number recognition and basic math skills.

The name is derived from the Latin dominus, meaning “master.” The word’s roots are also found in hooded masquerade costumes with masks, which suggests the idea of a master who sees the consequences of each action. In the workplace, a manager with this mindset is sure to think two moves ahead and keep an eye on the big picture.

A domino effect is a chain reaction that starts with a single event and cascades to a larger outcome, often in dramatic fashion. It is also a popular metaphor for a positive feedback loop, where an initial success triggers successive successes.

In writing, domino can refer to a scene in a story, a paragraph or even an entire chapter. Each scene in a novel is like a domino that has a distinct purpose, and they all work together to form a narrative flow. A domino can be anything that affects the main action of a story, such as an opening sequence, a character introduction or a turning point in an argument.

As children, many of us enjoyed setting up a line of dominoes in a straight or curved pattern, flicking the first tile and watching the whole row fall, one after the other. Lily Hevesh, who started building domino creations in 2017, has been fascinated by them since she was 9. “My grandparents had the classic 28-piece set, and I loved setting them up, making a long, twisted shape with them and then flicking the first one to see what happened,” she says.

Each domino has a unique set of spots, called pips, that distinguishes it from other dominoes. The pips are usually arranged in rows of four, but some dominoes are blank or identically patterned on both sides. The identifying marks are arranged on a domino’s surface, and its identity-bearing side is usually marked with a pattern of dots or a ridge.

The most common domino sets have a maximum of nine tiles, and there are several variants that expand this limit by adding more pips to some of the tiles. These extended sets, which include double-nine, double-twelve and double-15, are commonly used with four players.

Dominoes can be made from natural materials, including bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother of pearl), ivory or a dark hardwood such as ebony, with contrasting black or white pips inlaid or painted on the pieces. In recent years, dominoes have also been produced in plastic and ceramic clay. These types of sets offer a more novel look and feel to the game, but they are typically much less durable than wood or metal.