Dominoes are flat tiles whose sides are adorned with spots or pips that indicate their value. They are normally twice as long as they are wide and can be stacked on end in long lines. When one domino is tipped over, it causes the next domino in line to tip, and so on until all the dominoes have fallen. This is what gives rise to the term “domino effect,” which describes a chain of events that start with one simple action but have much greater-and sometimes catastrophic-consequences.
In a game of domino, players compete to make the longest domino chains by playing tiles on the table so that they touch both ends of an adjacent domino. Each end of a domino has a particular value indicating how many spots it contains; a domino with more pips is said to be worth more than a domino with less. A tile may also have a special symbol on its face that is used for scoring purposes.
Most popular domino games are played with a double six set of dominoes, which has 28 tiles. However, larger sets exist and are popular for games with more than four players. The most common extended sets are double nine, double twelve, and double fifteen. These have more dominoes than the standard double six set, and each has a different number of pips on each end.
The most basic western dominoes are block-and-draw games for two to four players. The pieces are shuffled and a player draws to decide who will lead, generally choosing the piece with the highest total pip count. The other players then draw at random the number of pieces they need to play, usually seven. The pieces remaining are called the stock or boneyard.
Dominoes are also popular among children, who stack them on edge in rows and then knock over the lines they have created. This is a fun way for kids to learn about cause and effect and to practice motor skills. It is important to teach children how to handle the dominoes properly and safely, though, as they can easily become tripping hazards if the line is not balanced or if the tiles are placed too close together.
Some people use dominoes to create artistic and decorative displays. They can be arranged to form letters and numbers, or they can be set up to create pictures and patterns. Some people even use them to model complex buildings or landscapes.
The word domino is derived from the Latin dominus, meaning lord or master. The word is believed to have acquired its more recent sense as a name for the game in French shortly after 1750, although it had earlier denoted a long hooded cloak worn together with a mask during carnival season or at a masquerade. In English, the word also was once used to refer to a priest’s black cape contrasting with his white surplice. This latter sense may have influenced the design of the domino, which is often black and white to represent the church’s color scheme.