The Many Uses of Dominoes


When people think of domino, they probably envision a game in which one small piece triggers a chain reaction that causes larger pieces to fall over. However, this is just one of many uses for the individual black and white rectangles that make up a domino set. Dominoes are also used for making artistic creations. These can include straight or curved lines, grids that form pictures when they fall, stacked walls, or even 3D structures such as pyramids. Some artists, such as Lily Hevesh, use domino to create intricate designs that have earned her international recognition.

Although dominoes have been in use in the West since the mid-18th century, their roots are not as clear. They may have come from India, where a similar game is played with a similar game board and pieces made of bone or ivory. The word domino itself was coined by Sir Henry Cole, who wrote a history of games in England in 1831. The name was inspired by a word in Italian and French that denoted an arrangement of spots or “pips” on a piece of cardboard or other surface.

Dominoes have a rectangular shape with an open face that is marked with numbers or other symbols. The other face is blank or identically patterned. Each domino has a unique identity, indicated by an arrangement of spots or “pips,” similar to those on the face of a die. Dominoes can have anywhere from two to eight or more pips, although most have just four. The first domino placed down becomes the leader, and players play their tiles in order according to the rules of the specific game being played.

The order in which a player plays his or her tiles is called the line of play. Generally, the tiles are joined to each other by matching the open end of a tile to the pips on the adjacent dominoes. This configuration is also known as the layout or string. Some games allow only certain types of tiles to be added to the line of play. For example, a double cannot be added to a string that has an all-singles pattern.

Counting the pips on the ends of the line of play is an important part of scoring in some domino games. The count is usually made by counting the number of pips on each of the two ends of the domino, or by using a special type of tile that has both an open and closed end, called a spinner. Depending on the game, only a certain number of spinners can be used in the line of play, or all doubles may be considered to be spinners.

Like dominoes, good habits often have a ripple effect. For example, when Jennifer Dukes Lee began making her bed each day, it triggered a new behavior that contributed to a more tidy home. She also began to believe that she was the type of person who maintained a clean and organized house.