What Is Domino?


Domino is a small rectangular block of wood with one or more numbers written on each side. Each number is separated from the others by an even-numbered space. Typically, dominoes are twice as long as they are wide.

The word is derived from the Italian dominio, which in turn was borrowed from the Spanish and Portuguese domnio. The first recorded use of the word in English was around 1750. It replaced an earlier sense of the word, which referred to a hooded cloak worn with a mask at a carnival or masquerade. Later, the word came to be used for a piece of furniture.

When Lily Hevesh was 9 years old, her grandparents gave her the classic 28-piece set of dominoes. She loved lining them up in straight or curved lines and flicking the first domino to start the chain reaction that would make them fall, one by one.

Today, Hevesh is a world-renowned domino artist with more than 2 million YouTube subscribers. She creates mind-blowing domino setups for movies, TV shows, and events—including a recent album launch for pop superstar Katy Perry.

Her dominoes range in size from tiny to massive, with the largest being a double-nine set (55 tiles). She builds them from wood, marble, and other materials. Her work is meticulous and precise. She tests each section of a setup to ensure it works before she adds the rest.

Hevesh says that she follows a version of the engineering-design process when creating her sets. She brainstorms images and words that she wants to include before she starts building. She also uses a template to help her keep the layout uniform.

Once a domino is built, players can take turns playing it. The goal is to get a line of dominoes to touch and form a snake-like pattern. Then the player scores points by laying a tile to match one of the touching ends. The exposed sides of the tile are scored, and if the tiles total any multiple of five, the player earns that amount of points.

A domino’s value is based on its position in the chain and the total number of spots, called pips, on each end. Pips range from six to none or blank. A domino with more pips is considered higher in value than a domino with fewer pips.

As a result of this, most domino games limit the number of tiles that can be played. The most common are the double-twelve and double-nine sets. In those games, four players each choose 12 or nine tiles. Larger sets are often “extended” by introducing new ends that increase the number of unique combinations of spots. The most common extended sets are the double-nine and double-15, which have 55 and 136 tiles respectively. A larger extended set could theoretically exist, but it would be rare if not impossible to play with.