Pool Terminology Explained: Simply

Pool Terminology is a term used to explain all the jargon and slang that is part of the pool and billiards world. Like any sport, there are certain objects and actions that are unique to this one. Knowing the right jargon is the start to mastering your game.

The following semi-alphabetical listing of some of the more common pool terminology that is spoken will get you up to speed on all those buzzwords that are floating around the pool table and billiards hall.

Use this table of contents to jump straight to the terminology you’re looking up.

Learn these words and their definitions and you’ll sound like a pro in no time. And, after all, looking and sounding like a pro is half the battle when it comes to psyching out your opponent and winning pool games. Click on the blue linked words for further explanations and descriptions of their meanings.

Aim Spot

The “aim spot” on the cue ball actually has two meanings. It is the exact spot where the cue tip contacts the cue ball. The exact spot on where this contact is made determines if the cue ball rolls perfectly straight or has some english or swerve to it. The other “aim spot” on the cue ball is that exact spot on the cue ball that makes contact with the object ball.

The “aim spot” on the object ball, or the ball that is being shot at, is the exact spot on this ball where the cue ball should contact it to make it travel in the desired direction to go into the pocket. When these two aim spots come in contact correctly, the object ball has no choice but to go in the pocket.


The “break” occurs when the player shoots into the racked balls to start the pool game. This break causes the balls to disperse all around the table where they may be shot at and pocketed.


“Bottom” spin refers to the practice of contacting the cue ball with the cue tip vertically below the center of the cue. When done correctly, this causes the cue ball to spin backwards, or in the direction opposite to the line of travel, thereby causing the cue ball to reverse direction when contacting the object ball.


The “bridge” is where the shaft of the cue stick is rested on and where it slides when taking a shot. This bridge may either be the “bridge hand”, or the “bridge stick”, which is used when a longer reach is needed to access the cue ball.


The “bumpers” , also referred to as the “cushions”, or the “banks”, are the rubber sides that are attached to the rails of the pool table that the balls bounce off of.

Bank Shot

A “bank shot” is one where the object ball is intentionally bounced off the bumpers during the shot. The “bed” or slate of the pool table is the actual flat playing surface.


“Billiards” refers, in the strict sense, to the pocketless, carom-type game of the same name. However, in the USA it has come to also mean pocket billiards as well.


The “butt” end of the pool cue is the thicker end where the player grabs the cue to manipulate it. The “butt” of a two piece pool cue is usually where most of the decoration and design work is displayed.

Ball In Hand

“Ball in hand” refers to the right of a pool shooter to place the cue ball where ever he wants on the pool table, for his next shot, after his opponent scratches or commits a foul.

Corner Pockets

The “corner pockets” are those pockets that are at the four corners of the pool table.


“Chalk” is used on the cue tip to provide a better grip of the cue tip on the cue ball so as to prevent miscues – also referred to as “chalking up”.

“Hand chalk” is used by many players to provide a smooth, frictionless slide of the cue shaft through the bridge hand. A “combination” is where the cue ball hits one object ball into another, with the intent of sinking one of the object balls.

Cue Ball

The “cue ball” is the white ball that is hit by the cue stick to make contact with the other balls. The “cue stick” , or “cue”, usually made of hard wood, is the stick that the player uses to hit the balls. To “call” your shot, in pool terminology, means to verbally announce which ball you are shooting for and where you plan to pocket it.

Cue Case

A “cue case” is a case that is used to store and transport the cue stick.

Double Kiss

A “double kiss” refers to a shot where the cue ball contacts the object ball twice before pocketing it. This is usually considered a foul and causes the shooter to lose his turn.


“Diamonds” are the inlays on the rails of many pool tables that assist the shooter in making bank shots.


“Draw” is done by hitting the cue ball below center, making it spin in a reverse direction, and causing it to travel backwards after hitting the object ball – the result of “bottom” english.

Eight Ball

The “eight ball” is the black ball with the number eight on it. “Eight ball” also refers to the game of the same name, where shooters must either make all the solid or striped balls, and the eight ball is the last ball to be pocketed for the win.


“English” refers to the practice of putting side spin on the cue ball, usually for the purpose of affecting the travel of the cue ball and causing it to stop at an optimum location for the next shot.


The “felt” is the cloth that covers the bed of the pool table and the cushions.


“Follow” is caused by hitting the cue ball above center, thereby making it spin forward in the direction of travel. This causes the cue ball to “follow” the object ball after contacting it instead of stopping like it would normally do, and is used for cue position.


The “ferrule” is the plastic piece on the end of the cue shaft that the cue tip is attached to.


A “foul” is some illegal move or a breaking of the rules of the game, usually resulting in the shooter losing his shot.

High Balls

“High balls” refers to the balls with the higher numbers of 9 through 15, which are also the striped balls.


A “hustler” is a pool player that usually shoots well and tries to win money or other value from an opponent, sometimes through deceit or trickery. A

Jump Shot

“jump shot” is one where the cue ball is “jumped” over another ball that is in the way of the object ball.


The “joint” of the pool cue is where the pieces of a two piece cue are screwed together.


A “lag” is one way to determine who shoots first when starting a pool game. Each shooter hits a ball from one rail, the long way down the table, bounces it off the far bank, and tries to stop his ball closest to the beginning rail. The closest ball wins the “lag” and that person shoots first.

Low Balls

“Low balls” refers to the balls with the lower numbers 1 through 7, which are also the balls with the solid or non-striped paint scheme.

A cue tip “mushrooms” after is has been used a lot. When this happens the leather tip loses its shape and begins to flatten out and expand sideways into a mushroom-like shape, which adversely affects its shot-making abilities.


A “miscue” occurs when the cue tip does not hit the cue ball correctly during a shot and glances off the side of the ball, causing it to travel in an incorrect direction. Chalking the cue before each shot helps avoid this occurrence.

Nine-Ball (9-Ball)

“Nine ball” is the yellow striped ball and also refers to the popular game of the same name. This game is played with the 1 through 9 balls and is a rotation type game, where the balls are hit in numerical sequence, and the nine ball is pocketed last to win the game.

Open Table

“Open table” is called when the person who breaks does not make any balls on the break. The table is “open” for the opponent to shoot at his choice of balls.

Object Ball

The “object ball” is the ball that the shooter is aiming at and attempting to pocket.

One Pocket

“One pocket” is a game where each shooter must drop all of his assigned balls into one particular pocket on the table. Each player has a different pocket from the other.


A “pocket” is of course the hole where the balls are shot into. There are six on the modern pocket billiards table – one at each corner and one in the center of the long rails. The “pool cue” is the purpose-made stick for shooting pool balls.


The “rails” are the four sides on the bed of the pool table that the cushions are attached to and the pockets are cut into. Bouncing the cue ball off the cushion before hitting the object ball is referred to as hitting it “off the rail”.


The “rack” is the plastic or wood triangular frame that holds the balls in the correct position as they are “racked” for a game.


“Running” the table in eight ball is when the shooter breaks the rack and proceeds to pocket all his balls, including the eight ball, in one turn.


“Rotation” is when the balls are pocketed in numerical order, as in the game of nine ball.


A “scratch” occurs when the cue ball is pocketed or knocked off the table during the game. Depending on the game, it is either given to the opponent as ball-in-hand or placed behind the head string of the table for the next shot.


A pool “shark” is someone who is usually very proficient at pool.


A “safety” refers to the practice of shooting the cue ball to a location that is inconvenient for your opponent when you cannot make a shot for your desired object ball.


The “shaft” of the pool cue is the more narrow section that slides through the bridge hand and ends in the cue tip.


The “solids” are the stripe-less 1 through 7 balls.


The “stripes” are the striped 9 through 15 balls. The “spot” is the location on the table where balls are placed that are accidently knocked off the table or are removed from the pocket.


There are often actual paper “spots” that are stuck on the table cloth – the foot spot and the head spot.


The “slate” is the smooth bed or playing surface of the pool table that is actually made of slate on better tables. Because it is so heavy, this slate is often made into three pieces for ease of handling.

Stop Shot

A “stop shot” is one where the cue ball is made to “stop” in its tracks as soon as it contacts the object ball. This is usually done to align the cue ball optimally for the next shot.


The “stance” refers to the position of the body for shooting pool. In the ideal “stance” , the feet should be shoulder width apart and the body bent over at the waist, with the dominant eye directly over the pool cue.

Straight Pool

“Straight pool” is another popular game where the shooter pockets the balls in any order, with the object of the game to be the first to pocket a set number of balls.


“Topspin” or follow is achieved by hitting the cue ball above center with the cue tip. This causes the cue ball to spin in the direction of travel and is used for cue positioning.


And finally, the “tip” is the cue tip – the crown-shaped leather piece that is glued to the ferrule and contacts the cue ball when a shot is made.

Final Thoughts

This list should clear up any confusion beginners to the game may have over what some of the jargon and slang means. This is by no means a definitive listing, but it should give folks a good foundation to understanding pool and billiards terminology. Knowing the right jargon is the start to mastering your game. Once you’ve mastered all of the terminology, it’s time to look at getting your head around the vast amount of accessories in pool.