Candlepin bowling

Candlepin bowling

Candlepin bowling is a variation of bowling that is played primarily in several New England states, and in the Canadian Maritime provinces of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia.

History and Differences

It was developed in 1880 in Worcester, Massachusetts by a local bowling centre owner, Justin White, some years before either the standardization of the tenpin sport in 1895, and the invention of duckpin bowling. As in other forms of bowling, the players roll balls down a wooden pathway ("lane") to knock down as many pins as possible. The main differences between candlepin bowling and the predominant ten-pin bowling style are that each player uses three balls per frame (see below), the balls are much smaller (11.43 cm, or 4.5" diameter) and do not have holes, the downed pins (known as 'wood') are not cleared away between balls during a player's turn, and the pins are thinner, and thus harder to knock down. Because of these differences, scoring points is considerably more difficult than in ten-pin bowling, and the highest officially sanctioned score ever recorded is 245 out of a possible 300 points. [ [ ICBA Records] ] .

Game play

Each lane consists of an approach area 14'-16' long for the player to bowl from, and then the lane proper, a maple surface approximately 41" wide, bounded on either side by a "channel", or trough. The lane is separated from approach area by a "foul line", which must not be crossed by players. At the far end of the lane, about 60' away, are the pins (60' from the foul line to the center of the headpin or pin #1), placed by a machine called a pinsetter which occupies space both above and behind the pins. Behind the pins is a slightly depressed area for pins and balls to fall into, and a curtain behind this to gently stop the pins and balls from going any further. Generally there is seating behind the approach area for teammates and spectators, and containing a small table to hold scorepads.

Candlepin pins are 15.75" (400 mm) tall, have a cylindrical shape which tapers equally towards each end (and therefore having no distinct "top" or "bottom" end, unlike a tenpin), giving them an overall appearance somewhat like that of a candle. The ten candlepins are automatically set by machine into a triangle with 4 pins in the back row, then 3, 2, and finally 1 in the front, at the center of the lane. Numering of the candlepins is exactly the same as in tenpin bowling, with the frontmost central pin being the number 1 pin, the two immediately behind and beside it being numbered 2 and 3, and so on, to the rightmost rear corner pin being the number 10 pin. it As in ten-pin bowling, due to the spacing of the pins (12", or 30.5 cm, center to center), it is impossible for the ball to strike every one. However, while in ten-pin a well-placed ball (usually between the front pin and one of its nearest neighbors) may knock down all ten pins from the chain reaction of pin hitting pin (a "strike"), in candlepin the smaller thickness of the pins makes throwing a strike extremely difficult. In general, a forcefully thrown ball hitting near the center of the pins will result in many pins being knocked down, but not all. In order to count, the pin must be knocked over entirely; in unlucky circumstances, a pin may wobble furiously, or, even more frustratingly, be "kicked" to the side by several inches, yet come to rest upright, thus not being scored (and not be reset to its original position for any throws that remain, though it may of course still be knocked over by subsequent balls).

Additionally, there is a line 10 feet (3.05 m) down the lane from the foul line; this is the lob line, and the ball must first contact the lane at a point on the bowler's side of it. Violation of this rule constitutes a lob and any pins knocked down by such a ball do not count, and such pins are not reset if the lobbed ball was not the third and last shot for that player in that box.

Also, a third line, centered two feet in front of the head pin (number-1 pin) spot is the dead wood line, which defines the maximum forward limit that any dead wood can occupy and still be legally playable. This lane specification essentially results in the presence of 'three' foul lines, more than in any other bowling sport.

A game of candlepin bowling, often called a string in New England, is divided into ten rounds, each of these rounds being most commonly referred to as a box, rather than a "frame" as in ten-pin bowling. In each normal box, a player is given up to three opportunities to knock down as many pins as possible. In the final box, three balls are rolled regardless of the pincount, meaning three strikes can be scored in the 10th frame.

In each of the first nine boxes, play proceeds as follows: The first player bowls their first ball at the pins. Whatever pins are knocked down are counted and scored. Then the player rolls a second and a third ball at any remaining targets. In the event that all ten pins were knocked down with the first ball (a 'strike'), the player receives ten points plus the count on the next two rolls, the pins are cleared, a new set placed, and play passes to the next competitor. If all ten pins were knocked down with two balls (a 'spare'), the player receives 10 points plus the count of the next ball, pins are cleared and reset, and play passes to the next competitor. If all three balls are needed to knock all the pins down, the score for that frame is simply 10.

In the tenth box, play is similar, except that a player scoring a strike is granted two additional balls, scoring a spare earns one additional ball. Three balls are rolled in the tenth frame regardless. [ [ Official ICBA Rulebook] ]


A foul (scored by "F") refers to a ball that rolls into the channel and then strikes wood (felled pins resting on the pin deck behind the dead wood line) or a standing pin, a ball that touches neither the approach or lane before the lob line, or a roll made by a bowler crossing over the foot foul line. Special scoring comes into play.

A foul always scores zero (0), but you may reset the pins provided it is the first throw in a box or all the preceding balls scored a "F" or 0. Therefore, if on the first ball there is a foul or zero--it is possible to keep the ball on the lane yet miss all ten pins standing in their normal position--and on a second ball foul, the pins may be reset, attempting to knock down a fresh set of 10 pins, but not score a strike or a spare. A foul in the first box but with knocking down all ten pins in the rerack, it is a spare, otherwise a third ball is thrown to finish out the box. Fouling all three attempts scores a zero.

Knocking down at least one pin on the first ball, the rack can not be reset because of a foul. Those pins felled by a foul ball (a ball jumping out of the channel, a lobbed ball, a ball delivered by a bowler over the foot foul line)--whether standing, playable wood, or pins in the channel--remain down and reduce the maximum number of pins to be counted for the box. Therefore, with six pins remaining standing with a foul on the next ball, managing to knock down the remaining six with the foul ball, the frame is over, scoring a 4 for that frame. Knocking down some of the remaining pins means a third ball is rolled I may shoot for the pins left standing and only add that total to the four (4) I felled in the first ball (ex. thus, unadjusted score: 4 4 2 = "X", but true score: 4 F 2 = 6). The same holds true for rolling two good balls and fouling in the third attempt. My frame is over and only the pins felled in the first two attempts are recorded for my score for that box. [ [ Official ICBA Foul Rules] ]

While some candlepin alleys have automated scoring systems, and thus know when to clear and reset pins, other alleys, especially older ones have a button, or floor-mounted foot pedal switch, which players must press to manually initiate the clearing and resetting of pins. Automatic pinsetters were introduced in the late 1940s; prior to this, as with ten-pin, pins were set by workers called "pinboys".

In league play, a bowler will bowl five boxes at a time, called a half.


One point is scored for each pin that is knocked over. So, in a hypothetical game, if player 'A' felled 3 pins with their first ball, then 5 with their second, and 1 with the third, they would receive a total of 9 points for that box. If player 'B' knocks down 9 pins with their first shot, but misses with their second and third, they would also score 9.

In the event that all ten pins are felled by any one player in a single box, by no more than two throws (just as in tenpins) bonuses are awarded for a strike or spare. Two for a strike and one for a spare. If all ten pins are felled by rolling all three balls in a box, the result is a ten-box, usually marked by an X (as in the Roman numeral for ten) but no additional points are awarded. (In ten-pin bowling, a strike is often scored with an "X").

The maximum score in a game is 300 - a perfect game. This is scored by bowling 12 strikes: one in each box, and a strike with both bonus balls in the 10th box. In this way, each box will score 30 points (see above - scoring:strike).

This scoring system, except for the scoring sheet's appearance, is identical to that of duckpins.


When all 10 pins are knocked down with the first ball (called a strike), a player is awarded 10 points, plus a bonus of whatever they score with their next 2 balls. In this way, the points scored for the two balls after the strike are scored twice.:Example:::Box 1, ball 1: 10 pins felled(strike)::Box 2, ball 1: 3 pins felled::Box 2, ball 2: 6 pins felled::Box 2, ball 3: 1 pin felled::The total score from these throws is: 10 + (3+6) + 3 + 6 +1= 29

:A player who scores multiple strikes in succession would score like so:::Box 1, ball 1: 10 pins felled(strike)::Box 2, ball 1: 10 pins felled(strike)::Box 3, ball 1: 4 pins felled::Box 3, ball 2: 2 pins felled::Box 3, ball 3: 2 pins felled::The score from these throws is: :::*Box one... 10 + (10 + 4) = 24:::*Box two... 10 + (4 + 2) = 16:::*Box three... 4 + 2 +2 = 8::::TOTAL = 48

:A player who bowls a strike in the 10th (final) box is awarded two extra balls, so as to allow for their bonus points. If both these balls also result in strikes, a total of 30 points (10 + 10 + 10) is awarded for the box.


A 'spare' is awarded when all pins are knocked down with a fair ball in or by the second frame. For example, a player uses the first two balls of a box to clear all ten pins. A player achieving a spare is awarded 10 points, plus a bonus of whatever they score with their next ball (only the first ball is counted).:Example:::Box 1, ball 1: 7 pins felled::Box 1, ball 2: 3 pins felled(spare)::Box 2, ball 1: 4 pins felled::Box 2, ball 2: 2 pins felled::Box 2, ball 3: 1 pin felled::The total score from these throws is: 7 + 3 + 4(bonus) + 4 + 2 + 1 = 21

A player who bowls a spare in the 10th (final) box, is awarded one extra ball so as to allow for their bonus points.

X box

An 'x box' (or "10-box") is awarded when no pins are left standing after the third ball of a box. A player achieving an X box is awarded 10 points, but without any bonus for the following ball.:Example:::Box 1, ball 1: 7 pins felled::Box 1, ball 2: 2 pins felled::Box 1, ball 3: 1 pin felled::The total score from these throws simply is: 7 + 2 + 1 = 10 [ [ How to Score a Game of Candlepins] ]

Calculating scores

Correct calculation of bonus points can be a bit tricky, especially when combinations of strikes and spares come in successive boxes. In modern times, however, this has been overcome with automated scoring systems. When a scoring system is "automated", you don't have to do anything but bowl. It keeps score for you and will reset the pinsetter after three balls are thrown or all 10 pins have been knocked down. If a scoring system is "semi-automated", you have to enter the score but the computer will keep track of it for you. You will need to press a button at the end of ball return (thing the bowling balls sit on) to receive a new "rack" of candlepins.

coring sheet

The candlepin scoring sheet is different from either tenpins or duckpins, in that it is usually oriented vertically, with two columns of squares in a two-square-wide, ten-square-tall arrangement to score one string for one player. The left hand column is used to detail the "per-box" score, with the cumulative total being recorded as each box is rolled in the right-hand square. The first box bowled is recorded in the top horizontal pair of squares, running down the sheet as the string progresses.

Spares and strikes are also marked uniquely in candlepins. Spares are recorded in a box by coloring in the left upper corner of the appropriate left-hand square (using a triangular shape to "fill-in the corner"). If a strike is recorded, opposing corners of the left-hand square are similarly colored in. A common (albeit unofficial) practice is to mark a strike on a strike's bonus ball (double strike) by shading in the remaining two corners of the first strike.


Candlepin bowling uses its own colorful jargon to refer to the many scenarios that can arise in a game, with most of the terms denoting different combinations of pins left standing after the first ball has been rolled. Examples of these terms include:

*Head pin: The 1-pin, which is in front of the other pins.
*King pin: The 5-pin, which is in the center of the pins.
*Four Horsemen: Four pins in a diagonal line, from the head-pin outward; if the 1-2-4-7, it is known as "Four horsemen, left side," and if the 1-3-6-10, it is known as "Four horsemen, right side." The usual tenpin term for a spare leave of this kind is a "picket fence" or "clothesline".
*Spread Eagle: A split configuration consisting of the 2-3-4-6-7-10, caused by the first shot striking the head pin too directly, leading to a failure to scatter the pins.
*Diamond: Four pins that form a diamond-shaped configuration, either the 2-4-5-8, known as "left-side diamond," the 3-5-6-9, known as "right-side diamond", or the 1-2-3-5, known as the "center diamond" (this same configuration is usually referred to as a "bucket" in standard ten-pin bowling, and while it is very difficult to convert into a spare in candlepin bowling, in ten-pin bowling a spare is usually made from it by an experienced bowler).
*Half Worcester: Perhaps the most distinctive term used in the game. This results when the first shot strikes either the 2-pin or 3-pin too directly, and knocks down only that pin and the one immediately behind it; when only the 2- and 8-pins fall it is a "Half Worcester Left," and when only the 3- and 9-pins fall it is a "Half Worcester Right" (less commonly only the 1- and 5-pins may be knocked down with the first ball, producing a "Half Worcester Center"). According to legend, the term was coined when a team from Worcester and a team from Boston were competing in the semifinal round of a statewide tournament held sometime in the 1940s; late in the last match of the round, one of the bowlers on the Worcester team knocked down only two such pins with his first ball, prompting a member of the Boston team to taunt him by saying, "You're halfway back to Worcester!" It is sometimes said that a player will get "one a game" referring to the Half Worcester.
*Hi-Low-Jack: This term refers to the 1-, 7-, and 10-pins, which are on the three corners of the triangle. Trying to knock down all three in one shot (with no wood) is sometimes a contest as part of a televised candlepin bowling program.
*Meineke: This term has multiple connotations. In candlepin bowling, meineke refers to a players luck. If a player is having good luck and getting several lucky breaks, he is said to have good meineke. If a player is having bad luck and none of the pins seem to be falling his way, he is said to have bad meineke. Legend has it that this term was first coined after a player observed his friend roll a few unlucky balls and said, "You need to go to Meineke. You've had some pretty bad breaks." This was an obvious pun on the word "brakes", as Meineke is a chain of automotive repair centers.
*The Emily: This candlepin bowling jargon refers to a particular spare conversion: when the first ball is rolled and all 10 pins remain standing; then, the second ball is rolled and knocks every pin down for an unlikely spare.
*Magnet: Originally 'ball magnet', this term has been shortened to simply magnet over the years. It refers to an empty space created by the ball punching through the pins. A half worcester or a spread eagle leave the bowler facing a magnet. It is called a magnet because the space seems to always attract the ball. No matter how hard the bowler tries to avoid rolling the ball into the spot he already hit, the ball rolls through taking no pins with it. This gap is also often considered "the black hole."
*Ray Ball: This candlepin bowling jargon refers to a particular strike conversion: It refers to a strike in which the headpin or the 1- pin is the last pin to fall. It is also known as a back-door strike. Legend has it that the name comes from a bowler named Ray who on occasion would throw multiple strikes in this fashion.
*7-10 split: when after the ball is thrown, only the 7 and 10 pins remain standing on the lane. If there is no wood, it is the hardest pin combination to completely knock down on one ball.

Television broadcasts

From 1958 until 1996, a weekly professional bowling match was held in Massachusetts, produced by Boston television station WHDH-TV/WCVB-TV Channel 5, airing every Saturday morning. The winner of this match would return the following Saturday to face a new opponent determined by the outcome of qualifying matches, or "roll-offs," held during the week. Cash prizes were awarded to both the winner and loser of the televised match, with bonuses for rolling three consecutive marks (strikes or spares in any combination, or a larger bonus for three strikes in a row), and for rolling a cumulative score of 400 or higher in the three games, or "strings," of which each match consisted. The highest score achieved in the history of the show was 500, in 1992, the bowler was given an additional cash prize for reaching 500. For most of the year, this competition was restricted to men only, with a few weeks devoted to matches for women only; other televised matches were also held, involving mixed doubles teams of one man and one woman bowler.

In addition, there have been two unrelated weekly candlepin bowling programs on WNDS/WZMY in Derry, New Hampshire since 1983 and on AT&T 3/CN8 New England since 2001. As of September 2005, the WZMY show is on hiatus, while CN8's program has entered its fifth season.

There is also a show that originates from the 1-7-10 Sportscenter in Augusta, Maine. It is on Adelphia channel 9 and is shown every Sunday night at 7pm. This show has been on air since 1997.

The ATV network in Atlantic Canada also broadcast a weekly candlepin bowling show in the 1980s and early 1990s, matching bowlers from New Brunswick against those from Nova Scotia. Its sponsors included Number 7, Mark 10, and Belvedere cigarettes.

List of Candlepin bowling TV broadcast shows

Each show is listed with its station of origin

*Candlepin Bowling - WHDH/WCVB, Channel 5 - 1958-1996:Hosted by Jim Britt (1958-1967) and Don Gillis (1967-1996)"Candlepin Bowling" was the first candlepin bowling show to be broadcast on television. When WHDH lost its broadcast license, the show simply moved to the new channel 5, WCVB. Originally taped at the former Boylston Bowladrome (1260 Boylston Street, Boston, MA), then at Sammy White's Brighton Bowl, the show moved to the Fairway Lanes in Natick (where "Candlepin Doubles" was already taping) when Sammy White's closed down in 1986. The show finished its long run at Pilgrim Lanes in Haverhill. Candlepin Bowling was cancelled in 1996 due to ABC's lessened interest in the broadcasting of local shows. WCVB was also more interested in the broadcasting of Boston College football games. Candlepin Doubles was cancelled in 1993. During the 1980s and 1990s, this program was also locally syndicated to WGGB-TV Channel 40 in Springfield, MA and WPRI-TV Channel 12 in Providence, RI. [ [ Channel 5 television show information] ] In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the show used Van McCoy's disco dance hit "The Hustle" as its theme song.

*Winning Pins - WHDH, Channel 5 - 1960s:Hosted by Jim BrittA children's version of "Candlepin Bowling", showcasing the best bowlers under 16 years of age. Taped at Sammy White's Brighton Bowl. After this show was cancelled, another televised kids' candlepin contest would not air until 2004.

*Bay State Bowling - WSMW, Channel 27 - 1970-1981:Hosted by Bob Fouracre and Dave AdamsWSMW-TV (channel 27) in Worcester first aired in 1970. This was one of WSMW's inaugural shows when the station first went on the air. The format was similar to channel 5's "Candlepin Bowling". This show was notable for its use of the 1972 pop hit "Roundabout" by the British band Yes, as well as the 1975-1981 animated opening theme to the tune of The Spinners' "Rubberband Man". This show, and all of WSMW's other programming, got cancelled in late 1981 when the station's pay-TV movie block expanded to a 24/7 schedule.

*Candlepin Super Bowl - WCVB, Channel 5 - 1972-1983:Hosted by Bill O'Connell (1972-1982) and Brian Leary (1982-1983)"Candlepin Super Bowl" was a mixed doubles show. Premiering soon after WCVB took over the channel 5 band, the "Super Bowl" pitted 2 teams made up of one male and one female bowler each. Taped at Sammy White's Brighton Bowl.

*Candlepins for Cash - WNAC, Channel 7 - 1973-1980 and WXNE, Channel 25 - 1980-1982:Hosted by Bob Gamere (WNAC) and Rico Petrocelli (WXNE)"Candlepins for Cash" deterred from a competitive nature to more of a game show format. Bowlers were introduced one by one to win money and prizes by how well they did on the lanes. Also featured a special "red pin" which was worth extra cash if felled on a strike. WNAC taped the show in-studio on lanes built specially for the show (there were 2 lanes in the studio alley). When WNAC chose not to renew the show in April 1980, production moved that fall to WXNE, channel 25, which taped the show at an actual bowling alley, the Wal-Lex Lanes in Waltham, Massachusetts. Host Bob Gamere was still under contract with WNAC, so WXNE hired former Boston Red Sox star Rico Petrocelli as the new host.

*Candlepin Doubles - WCVB, Channel 5 - 1983-1993:Hosted by Brian Leary (1983-1988), Ed Harding (1988-1993)."Candlepin Doubles" was a revamped version of "Candlepin Super Bowl," which removed mixed doubles, with either all-male or all-female doubles groups. Taped at Fairway Lanes in Natick.

*Big Shot Bowling - NESN - 1985-1991:Hosted by Bob Fouracre and Dan MurphyNESN's entry into the televised bowling market was similar in format to channel 5's "Candlepin Bowling", however qualifying requirements were more strict than channel 5, with intentions to attract the best bowlers in the New England area.

*Candlepin Stars And Strikes - WNDS, Channel 50 - 1983-2005:Hosted by Doug Brown, Dan Murphy (older versions of the show) Dick Lutsk and Mike Morin (most recent versions of the show)Similar in format to the channel 5 show, except in a stepladder format. Each ladder winner qualified for the Tournament of Champions at the end of the season, which was in the same format as the regular season stepladders. Taped at a number of locations throughout the years, the last location before the show was cancelled being Leda Lanes in Nashua, New Hampshire.

*Candlepin Bowling - Adelphia Channel 9, (Augusta, Maine) - 1997-presentSimilar in format to the original channel 5 show. Taped at the 1-7-10 Sportscenter in Augusta, Maine

* [ CN8 Candlepin Challenge] - AT&T 3/CN8 New England - 2001-present:Hosted by John Holt, Dan Murphy, and Trina Fernandez"CN8 Candlepin Challenge" had three bowlers compete against each other, rather than two. Two bowlers compete for one string in the qualifying round, then the winner of that round plays two strings against a third bowler. The overall winner of the second round is declared that week's champion. At the end of each season, the top three bowlers of the season compete in a similar format but with a higher prize than the regular shows. Taped at the Woburn Bowladrome. For its first five seasons, the show was called the "$30,000 Candlepin Challenge"; it was renamed to its present title for its sixth season.

* [ Candlepins for Kids] - Southbridge Community Access Television, Southbridge, MA and surrounding towns, 2004-present:Hosted by Steve Renaud and Dan Gauthier. Format has competition by children in three age groups: 11 and under, 12-14, and 15-18. Episodes air over Southbridge Community Access Television and online. Taped all over state of MA.

* [ Candlepins for Dollars] - WLVI, Channel 56 - 2006 :Hosted by Frank Mallicoat and Mike Morin:Also locally syndicated on 5 other stations in the New England and eastern New York State areasDespite the similarity in name, this show was not related to the old "Candlepins For Cash" format; instead it was based more on the Stars and Strikes format. After WLVI's sale to Sunbeam Television in December 2006, the show was put on indefinite hiatus. Executive Producer Bart Maderios has reclaimed the rights to his show and says that two "major networks" are negotiating to bring the show back into production.

References in popular culture

* In the 1992 "Saturday Night Live" sketch "What's the Best Way," a mock game show lampoons three stereotypical New Englanders. Upon being asked of their hobbies, all mention Candlepin bowling. [ [ What's the Best Way ] ]
* In "The Simpsons" episode "My Mother the Carjacker", ep# EABF18, Lisa suggests they hold a candlelight vigil as a protest, to which Homer responds "Candlepin bowling! That's a great idea!" [ [ The Simpsons Archive: Episode Guide ] ]


External links

* [ Candlepin Gallery]
* [ International Candlepin Bowling Association]
* [ International Candlepin Youth Bowling Association]
* [ Western New England Candlepin Association]
* [ World Candlepin Bowlers Congress]

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