What Is Dominoes?

When Lily Hevesh was 9, her grandparents gave her a 28-piece set of dominoes. She loved setting them up in straight or curved lines and flicking them to watch them fall. She’s now a professional domino artist, making sets for movies, TV shows and events like the Katy Perry album release. She’s also an evangelist for the art form, sharing her knowledge with her more than 2 million YouTube followers.

A domino is a rectangular tile marked on one side with an arrangement of spots, called pips, and blank or identically patterned on the other. Dominoes are normally twice as long as they are wide, which makes them easier to stack and re-stack.

The word domino comes from the Latin for “lord” or “master,” which is appropriate, because a good domino player knows that each action affects the next. This idea of domino effect is an important element in many stories, too. A story’s scenes should advance the plot and move the hero either closer or farther away from his or her goal. Yet they must also feel neither too long (which would bog down the story with details or minutiae) nor too short (which could leave readers feeling frustrated that they weren’t allowed to see more of the story’s climax).

Dominoes are typically molded or drilled and painted, but can be any color combination. The pips are generally colored black or white, though some sets use a different color for each type of domino. A domino set is often referred to as a deck, and the pips are usually arranged in suits. Each suit represents a number from zero to six, with each additional suit higher in value than the previous one. A domino whose one end features a particular number belongs to that suit; if both ends feature the same number, it is part of the suit of zeros.

Some domino games are variations of card games, which were used to circumvent religious prohibitions against playing cards. Others are block- and scoring-type games. Those that involve matching dominoes are based on the number of pips in a single domino. The first domino played to a double must be placed square to it, while all other dominoes are placed perpendicular to the double and touching its ends.

Dominoes are a great way to practice hand-eye coordination and learn to count, while also encouraging creativity, planning and strategy. They are also a fun way to spend time with family or friends, and they can be used to teach children how to play simple board games. Dominoes are even a great way to pass the time during a wait for an appointment or while traveling by train, bus, plane or car. In fact, a study by University of British Columbia physicist Lorne Whitehead found that dominoes are capable of knocking over objects about one-and-a-half times their size. So the next time you’re bored, grab a deck of dominoes and start playing!