A lexicon of tiddlywinks terms
Over its decades of development, tiddlywinks has acquired a complex
set of terminology, partly out of specialism, partly out of historical use.
These risk making the game impenetrable to the casual observer, so this
lexicon is intended to provide some elucidation.
N.B. See also the list of traditional terms informally used by CUTwC.
There are also some means of recording games, although
they are not currently in common use.
Related to that, as part of the COVID-19 isolation, Alex came up with a suggested
approach for tiddlywinks over
videoconference (or correspondence winks).
- Base line (n)
- A line drawn across the corner of the mat, three feet from the centre (or an
imaginary boundary if the playing area is too small). Winks start the game
behind the base line; the area behind the base line does not count as part of
the playing area. Mats with base lines actually drawn on them cause much
confusion when the size of the mat doesn't match the underlying playing surface.
- Biden (n)
- Defined by symmetry with "Palin" (q.v.), to mean "apa1out" — all play all
once, playing the people from the other league(s) (as distinct from
"apa1in", wherein one plays everyone else from the same league).
This reference turned out to be relevant longer than anyone expected.
- Bomb (v.t.)
- To cause a wink to hit a pile, with the intent of knocking winks free.
- Boondock (v.i., v.t.)
- To play a squopped wink so as to send it far away ("into the boondocks").
- Bring-in (n, v.t.)
- A shot in which a wink is moved close to the centre of the mat (presumably
aiming to be near either the pot or a pile of interest) from far away -
including from behind a base line.
- Bristol (n)
- A shot which moves two or more winks together, played by applying pressure to the uppermost wink. ("Watch out for Charles's Bristols.")
A Bristol (named after the club which introduced it) is a specialised form of Gromp (q.v.) in which the upper wink is behind the lower in the direction of travel, meaning that the force on the upper wink alone can move the lower, without the lower wink needing to be pushed directly by the squidger.
- Bristol (v.i., v.t.[of a pile of winks])
- To play a Bristol with a pile of winks. ("Be careful, Charles will Bristol those winks onto you.")
- Brundle (v.i., v.t. [of a wink or pile])
- A shot with minimal positional effect, played in a turn when there is nothing urgent to do. ("Just brundle until we know what they're doing.")
- Cambridge Open (n)
- A national tournament hosted by CUTwC on the weekend of the Club Dinner, in
January each year. A two-day, Individual Pairs tournament with no handicaps. Won by the
player who missed no more than two rounds and had the highest points per game.
- Carnovsky (n, v.i., v.t. [of a wink])
- To pot a wink from the baseline in one shot. (Named after a novice who did so.)
- Colour (n)
- The virtual entity in charge of all the winks of a single colour. In a doubles game,
each player plays one colour; in a singles game, each player controls two colours.
The colour of wink played during a single colour's turn may not be the same as that
of the colour, if there has been a failure to free. This is a lot more obvious than
- Crud (v.t.)
- To apply a lot of force to a pile during a shot, intending to separate as many winks as possible.
- CUTwC (n)
- Cambridge University Tiddlywinks Club.
- Dave Taylor (v.i.)
- The strategy of alternately bringing-in and potting. This avoids exposing
more than one wink at a time to being squopped, but if a wink is squopped
there will be fewer winks available to mount a rescue.
- Dock (v.i., v.t.)
- Contraction of boondock (q.v.).
- Doubleton (n)
- A pile of three winks, in which the uppermost is squopping the other two.
- ETwA (n)
- The English Tiddlywinks Association.
- Free wink (n)
- A wink which is not covered by another wink (and can therefore be played).
- Free turns (n)
- Shots which can be played after a squop-up, before an enemy wink must be freed.
- Geoff Thorpe Trophy (n)
- A national tournament for novice players, played during the first day
(typically qualifying) of the ETwA National Singles, on the basis that
novices are often discouraged from playing in the Singles proper so that
they don't get discouraged by losing a lot. There is typically a losers'
Plate on the second day of the Singles, which novices are encouraged to
attend, so this trophy was created to give novices a whole weekend of
winks — particularly important if they need to travel. The trophy
was created posthumously in honour of Geoff Thorpe, and depicts a Thorpe
- Good Shot (n)
- A shot in which a wink is pushed into the mat and fired horizontally, so
as to hit the side or underside of a nearby pile.
- Gromp (n, v.t.)
- A shot in which two or more winks are moved together, in which the squidger may make
contact with multiple winks. (A Bristol is a gromp in which the squidger contacts only
the uppermost wink; as such the term "gromp" is usually only applied to a gromp which
is not a Bristol, since judging the force of the second contact is much harder.)
- Handicap (n)
- Handicapping in tiddlywinks works by giving each player a handicap value that
represents their expected relative score — a number (usually rounded to the
nearest half or integer) typically between 0 and 7. A very strong player may
have a handicap of 7 and a complete novice may have a handicap of 0. If the
handicapping perfectly predicted the game results, each game would be a draw;
therefore the handicapped tournaments should be won by the player who plays
the best relative to the expected performance. Since handicapping is usually
applied to pairs matches, the combined handicap of the pair is considered; this
means that players who are playing singles should treat their handicap as doubled.
Typically, during the tournament, the game score is adjusted by a quarter of the
difference between the total handicaps of the teams involved in the game; this
adjusted score counts as the players' score for the tournament.
For example, let's assume that the players playing red and blue have
handicaps of 2 and 5; they are playing against a single player with a handicap
of 6 (games of two against one are often necessary in a pairs tournament where
the total number of players is indivisible by four). The red/blue team handicap
total is 2+5 = 7. The yellow/green player has a handicap of 6+6 = 12.
Let's say yellow/green wins the game with a game score of 4 - 3. There
is a point transfer of ((12-7)÷4) = 1¼ points towards
red/blue. Therefore the game score for the purposes of the tournament is
(4 - 1¼) - (3 + 1¼), or a
4¼ - 2¾ win for red and blue.
A pairing of players with very high handicaps playing a pair of novices cannot
achieve a large win — indeed, two players seeded 7 can do no better than draw
against two novices seeded 0. In the days where many novices were expected at
tournaments it was therefore considered preferable to partner novices with
experienced players rather than building "super teams" of experts. Note that
the ETwA ratings are updated on the basis of actual game scores, not adjusted
- IFTwA (n)
- The International Federation of Tiddlywinks Associations. A body which exists
primarily to oversee the World Singles, World Pairs and International Match titles.
- Individual Pairs (n)
- A tournament format in which the games are pairs games, but the partnerships
change each round (unlike a pure Pairs tournament, in which the partnerships are
fixed). The winner is the individual player who does best. For example, the
Bombardier Slap-'Em Together Joogs, the ETwA National Handicapped Individual Pairs,
the Plate component of the ETwA National Singles, and the Cambridge Open.
- Inglis game (n)
- A game dominated by areas owned by one side, in which neither side is willing
to play a high-risk squopping shot.
- John Lennon Memorial Shot (n)
- A simultaneous boondock and squop: a wink on a pile is played such
that the lower wink is sent away and the upper wink moves to cover another wink.
- Knock-off (n)
- A shot in which a wink impacts with a pile, causing the upper wink to
cease to be squopping a lower wink.
- Knock-off and squop (n)
- A knock-off shot, in which the wink played not only knocks the upper wink
off a lower one, but also leaves the upper wink squopped.
- Lennon (n, v.i.)
- Contraction of John Lennon Memorial Shot; to play a Lennon.
- Lunch (v.t.)
- To pot a lower wink from a pile. Often used to remove the available
winks that an opponent has to play — "sending your opponent out to lunch".
- Mat (n)
- 1. The playing surface, made of felt. ("Someone got port on my mat.")
2. The supported playing area. ("I sent myself off the mat.")
- Middle for diddle
- Invitation to begin the squidge-off.
- National Handicapped Individual Pairs (n)
- An ETwA tournament colloquially termed the "NHIPper", after a CUTwC president
with the nickname "Nipper". This is a one-day and supposedly novice-friendly
tournament. As the name suggests, it is an individual pairs tournament for
which the players are handicapped. Historically held in Oxford, it has more
recently doubled as the Shrewsbury Open.
- National Pairs (n)
- An ETwA tournament (unless otherwise specified — NATwA have one too)
comprised of two days of (fixed) pairs games, with no handicaps. Considered
second in seriousness only to the National Singles. The winners and higest-placed
British pairing get challenges to the IFTwA World Pairs title.
- National Singles (n)
- An ETwA tournament (unless otherwise specified — NATwA have one too)
comprised of two days of singles games, with no handicaps. The exact format
varies by attendance, but typically there is a qualifying stage on Saturday
followed by a final on Sunday. Considered the premier tournament of the winking
calendar — the winner and highest-placed British player get challenges to the
IFTwA World Singles title. It is considered particularly harsh on novices, and
their attendance tends to be discouraged accordingly.
- National Singles Plate (n)
- The Sunday of the National Singles traditionally holds a tournament for
those who did not qualify for the final of the National Singles, and for
anyone who did not wish to play in the main tournament (or, since the
format supports players attending for only part of the tournament, those
who have a bye or who were involved in a pot-out in the main tournament
and therefore have time for an extra game). It is the recommended event for
any novice wishing to drop in on the National Singles. The Plate is a handicapped
individual pairs tournament, won by the player who attended at least all-but-two
games and whose adjusted p.p.g. is highest. If one side wins by five points or
more after the handicap adjustment has been applied, the handicaps of the
players are adjusted: half a point is added to the handicap of the winning
players (or player) and half a point is subtracted from the handicap of the
losing players (or player). These handicap adustments persist and are
cumulative, but are not applied retrospectively.
For example, red has a handicap of 2 and blue has a handicap
of 3, and they are playing a single player with a handicap of 6. There is
a point transfer of ((6+6)-(3+2))÷4 = 1¾ points
towards red and blue. Red and blue win the game 6*-1*, and with adjustment
they win 7¾ - -¾ (yes, it's possible to get a
negative score in a handicapped tournament). The winning side had at least
five points, so their handicaps increase by half a point and the losing
player's handicap is decreased by half a point. Therefore red's handicap
becomes 2½, blue's handicap becomes 3½ and yellow/green's
handicap becomes 5½.
It is common to make mistakes when applying these changes and declare the
wrong player as the winner of the Plate.
- National Teams of Four (n)
- A two-day ETwA tournament, consisting of matches between teams of four
players. Within each match, each team of four picks two pairings of its
constituent players; each pairing then plays each pair of the opposing
team — thus there are two pairs of games between each pair of teams that
play each other. Teams may choose to change their pairings between
matches. This tournament is handicapped.
- NATwA (n)
- The North American Tiddlywinks
- Nurdle (v.t.)
- To cause a wink to land so close to the pot that it is under the rim,
which makes it substantially harder to pot (and indeed play in general).
- OUTS (n)
- Oxford University
- P.p.g. (n)
- Points per game — average score. Used to determine the winner of
some tournaments that allow players to miss one or more rounds (e.g.
the Cambridge Open, the NHIPper, the National Singles Plate). It's
usual to require that the winner miss no more than two rounds of these
- Palin (n)
- A corruption of "apa1in", which is an abbreviation of "all play all,
once, playing people in the same league" — one possible tournament
format. C.f. "Biden".
- Penhaligon (n, v.i., v.t. [of a wink])
- See Carnovsky. (Named after a T.V. presenter who potted from the base line
on national television.)
- Pile (n)
- A collection of winks which are connected by a series of squops. ("All my winks are in one big pile.")
- Pile flip (n)
- A shot is which a pile is played in such a manner that a wink which was
previously squopped by another wink is now, instead, squopping it.
("The pile flip is the shot of the new millennium.")
- Phone card (n)
- A squidger made from a BT phone card or similar material, which is
very flexible, allowing small nearly-nurdled winks to be potted.
- Plan 47 (n)
- The strategy of potting one's winks while in a disadvantageous position,
so that the opponent is obliged to free a squopped wink (eventually). This
relies on the opponents not being able to get more points during free
turns. The term is only used when the strategy is obviously high-risk and
the player is forgoing a chance to rescue his own winks, not at the end
of the game.
- Playing area (n)
- The supported region of the mat, excluding the area behind base line.
A wink which leaves the playing area is replaced at the boundary, and
may cause the player to miss a turn.
- Pot (n)
- The receptacle in the middle of the mat, into which winks may be played. ("Did you move the pot?")
- Pot (v.i., v.t. [of a wink])
- To play (a wink) such that it lands in the pot. ("Pot the yellows, starting with all of them.")
- Round (n)
- At the end of the timed period of the game, each colour has at least
five more turns to play. Each round consists of a turn for each colour.
- Run <number> (v.i.)
- To pot more than one wink in a single turn.
- Scrunge (v.i.)
- A shot in which a wink lands in the pot, but bounces out again.
- Shot (n)
- The action of causing, or attempting to cause, winks to move.
- Shrewsbury Open (n)
- A tournament hosted in Shrewsbury School. Until recently, the tournament
has doubled as the ETwA National Handicapped Individual Pairs, although
the two may diverge.
- Squidge (v.t.)
- To play a wink (uncommon).
- Snoove (v.i.)
- To play a positional shot.
- Squidge-off (n)
- A contest held before the game starts, in which each colour plays one
wink from the baseline, trying to get it as close to the pot as possible.
The player who gets closest and wins the squidge-off plays both the first
and (usually) last turn of the game.
- Squidger (n)
- The circular object used to propel winks.
- Squop (n)
- 1. A shot which causes one wink to cover another. ("Play a squop.")
2. A pair of winks, one of which covers another. ("How many squops do we have?")
- Squop (v.t.)
- 1. (Of a player) To cover with another wink. ("Squop the sixth enemy wink.")
2. (Of a wink) To cover another wink. ("The red wink is squopping the yellow wink.")
- Squop (v.i.)
- To play a squop. ("I can't squop for toffee today.")
- Squop-up (n)
- Situation in which all the playable winks of one side are squopped,
in which the squopping side has free turns.
- Sub (n, v.i.)
- A shot in which the played wink ends up squopped (as in "submarined").
- Thorpe Ring (n)
- Named after famous winker Geoff Thorpe, a Thorpe Ring is a series of
winks arranged in a ring such that each is squopping the others and no
unsquopped wink is on top. Nobody being able to play because all remaining
winks are in a Thorpe Ring is the least common legal way for a game to end
(compared with time and rounds expiring, and a pot-out).
- Tiddly (n)
- A table point (as distinct from a game point). One tiddly is scored for each free wink
that has been brought in by the end of the game; three tiddlies are scored for each wink
that ends the game in the pot.
- Tiddlywink (n)
- A wink. (Unusual.)
- Tiddlywinks (n)
- The game.
- Tripleton (n)
- A pile consisting of four winks, in which one wink is free.
(Also, rarer, quadrupleton, pentupleton.)
- Turn (n)
- A sequence of one or more shots, played by a single colour.
A player may have more than one shot in a turn if a wink is
- Wessex Trophy (n)
- A tournament currently under the auspices of ETwA and normally held
as a two-day tournament during the summer. The players are split into
two teams and play pairs games against each other. There are no handicaps.
- Wink (n)
- One of the plastic counters used in the game.
- Winker (n)
- Someone who plays tiddlywinks.
- Winking World
- Official journal of ETwA. Roughly biannual.
- Winks (n)
- 1. Common abbreviation of the game of tiddlywinks.
2. Plural of wink.
There is another list of common technical terms on the ETwA web site.