A Short Glossary of Popular Billiards Terms

Different players, households and halls refer to common techniques and equipment by different names. To help standardize the billiards vocabulary, we’ve assembled a small glossary of common terms.

  • Apex: The front ball in the pyramid or rack.
  • Bank shot: When the object ball hits one or more cushions before entering a pocket. It does not qualify as a bank shot if the ball travels adjacent to a rail.
  • Baulk line: A straight line near the bottom of the table, used in snooker.
  • Bed of the table: The inner surface area of the table—the felted area.
  • Break: The opening shot or the total points scored in an inning (snooker).
  • Bridge: An accessory for assisting with long-table shots.
  • Called shot/ball: When a player announces which ball/pocket they are aiming for; the shot is disqualified if the player strikes the wrong ball or pockets in the wrong place.
  • Clean bank: The object ball does not touch any other balls on its way into the pocket.
  • Combination: The cue ball strikes an object ball into another object ball to score either the last contacted or both contacted balls.
  • Cue: The wooden shaft used for striking balls.
  • Cue ball: The white ball directly struck by the cue.
  • Cushion: The rubber borders on the inside of the rails.
  • Dead ball: When the cue ball transfers all speed to its object, causing it to move very little after contact.
  • English: Side spin used to change the roll of the cue or object ball.
  • Feather shot: A shot where the cue ball grazes the object ball.
  • Follow shot: A shot where the cue ball is struck above the center, causing a forward after-spin.
  • Foot of the table: The area of the table where balls are racked at the beginning of a game.
  • Foul: An infraction of the rules—often penalized.
  • Game ball: The shot that wins the game.
  • Head of the table: The area of the table from which the break shot occurs.
  • Jump shot: When the cue ball or object balls comes off the table but remains in the bed.
  • Masse: A significant curve shot made with by elevating the cue and shooting downward.
  • Miscue: A stroke that results in missing the cue ball.
  • Rails: The sides of the table. A rail shot happens when a ball is touching one of the rails.
  • Push shot: The cue tip keeps contact with the cue ball longer than is legal.
  • Split hit: When the first ball of contact cannot be determined.
  • Squeeze shot: A shot made near a crowded pocket.