Names for Old Marbles Games

In times past and in various regions where children play, there existed a wide and strange vocabulary exercised in the game of marbles. A few words were made by children and forgotten as children grew into adults. A few words survived and were remembered and even recorded in dictionaries and journals. Some words and phrases can be found in stories from those periods when marbles were played by so many children. The section below describes the many names that have been used to desribe different games of marbles. Maybe they will inspire you to set up a game with your friends, and you can make up fantastic names too.

Oh Marbles! for iPhone and iPad

Oh Marbles! is a marbles game for iPhone and iPad. It is based on the real idea of shooting marbles out of a circle, winning and collecting marbles.

Children everywhere have gathered to play marbles in school yards, homes, or any other place where kids play. Every marble player had marbles in different, fascinating designs. Oh Marbles is designed to present that same experience. As in the classic game, Oh Marbles presents the best experiences of playing marbles – wining, losing, collecting, trading and pondering the endless variety of marble designs.


A large stone marble or a game played with large marbles. OED 1862 John P. Stillwell writes of the game as played in the 1840's. See "Poems of Rural Life, in the Dorset Dialect" by W Barnes 1848. Alsoin EDD AS boncer.

Boss Out

A game of marbles in which two boys alternately shoot at their Rae's, usually called bonces in this game. The marble that is kissed or touched is out of play. Also known as boss or span. The boss, or taw is pitched or tosses out and the other boss has to span the distance in order to hit the first one.


A game played with bowls OED.


A marbles game. Gomme 1 45


A marbles game in which players attempt to roll marbles into holes in the ground, under certain conditions the winner has to allow others to shoot at his knuckles. The hole may be called bun hole (rabbit hole). Similar to golf.


A marbles game in which every player uses only one marble, each shooting alternatively. It is a variation on boss out and span. Played with regular sized marbles.


A marbles game. See OED


A game played with. Chestnuts

Dob in the Ring

A marbles game (John t Page, the origin of taw 1899). "As boys we used to play a game of marbles here known as "dob in the ring" which consisted of starting from a certain point known as a taw and endeavoring to Knock out with a big sob as many marbles as possible.


Setup - Draw a circle or square on the ground, several feet across. Each player puts in between one and three marbles into the ring. They can be placed anywhere in the ring. Players take turns standing outside of the circle and shooting marbles, trying to knock marbles out of the circle. Players can either drop the marble straight down, or toss it. If any marbles leave the circle, the player who knocked them out collects them and his or her shooter and the turn is over. If no marbles leave the circle, the player must pay one marble into the circle and collect the his or her shooter. The turn is then over. The game is over when all of the marbles have been knocked out of the circle. The player with the most marbles wins. Optionally, if a player does not hit any marbles and her shooter stops inside of the circle, she must leave her shooter inside of the ring. Other players may aim at her shooter.


A game in which players keep the marbles they knock from the ring.

English Ring Taw

This variation of the ringer game requires that mibsters stand behind a line to shoot.

Setup - Draw a circle a few feet across, on the ground. mark a taw line about six feet away. Each player puts in about five marbles. Players take turns shooting from behind the taw line. The first player must hit the marbles out of the ring and keep her shooter outside of the ring too. Players keep any marbles they hit out of the circle. Any shooters left in the circle become targets for any player. If a player hits a marble out of the circle but and the shooter stays in the circle, the turn continues by using any marble won earlier as a shooter. If a player hits a marble out of the circle and the shooter goes out of the circle too, then the players turn continues and they can shoot from behind the taw line. If a player has no more marbles to shoot, they are out of the game.

The game ends when all of the marbles have been knocked out of the circle.


A marbles game. Variation on holly-golly. Played with hickory nuts. Heard in Tennessee as "hul gul"


A marble game Maybe make a game scene where hundreds are in the center and you get one shot to knock out as many as possible. Make that the first game?

Holy Bang

A marbles game

Increase Pound

A game. Strutt 304


A marbles game of chance in which marbles knocked from the ring by a player remain in his or her possession. In the early 1900's, some school districts banned "keeps" because they considered it a form of gambling. If you are playing marbles for keeps, be sure to agree on the rules and play fair so that arguements and fights don't break out.

Knock Out

A marbles game


A game in which the players try to shoot their marbles into four holes in the ground.


A game in which marbles are placed in a line rather than in a group.

Marble Days

A day in which everyone plays marbles. See Moon Marble in Bonner Springs, Kansas for more info about Marble Days.

Odd and Even

A game in which on player tries to guess whether the other has an odd or even number of marbles hidden in his closed hand.

Picking the Plum

A marbles game. See plum pudding. A game where one shoots at marbles placed in a row. Encyclopedia britanica 11th ed.


Ringer is the game upon which tournaments are played.

Setup - Draw a circle that is ten fee across and put thirteen marbles in the center. The marbles should form a cross, and be spaced three inches apart. Starting with the first player, each mibster shoots from anywhere outside of the circle, trying to hit a mib out of the ring while keeping her shooter inside the ring. In a tournament, rules may say that the players must knuckle down when they shoot. If a player's shooter misses a mib, or doesn't hit any out of the ring, her turn is over and she picks up her shooter. If a shooter hits a mib out of the ring but the shooter also rolls out of the ring, she keeps the marbles that rolled out of the ring. her turn is over, and she picks up her shooter. If her shooter hits a mib out of the ring and stays inside of the ring, she can shoot again. she keeps all of the marbles that she hit out of the ring, but she has to shoot from whereever her shooter ends up. On each new turn, players can shoot from anywhere outside of the circle. play continues until all the marbles have been shot out of the ring.

Whoever collects the most marbles is the winner. If you want, you can change the rules so that if a shooter remains indisee the circle, the she must leave it there and it becomes a target for the other players.

Ring Taw

The object of the game is to knock the marbles out of the innter circle. The "taw" is the offensive marble that is used for shooting. Taw can also mean the line from where you shoot, and you can also be used as a verb, meaning "to shoot a marble."

Setup - Draw a circle that is about seven feet across. In the center, draw another circle about one foot across. Each player contributes about five marbles to put in the center circle. Players take turns shooting from anywhere outside of the larger circle for the first turn. From later turns, the player shoots from where ever his shooter rests. If a player knocks a marble outside of the inner circle, he keeps that marble and continues to shoot. he must shoot from wherever his marble rests. If a player doesn't hit any marbles out of the circle, his turn is over. Players can shoot at other players shootrs inside either circle. If a shooter is hit, the owner must pay the other player one marble. a player cannot his the other players shooter more than once per turn.

The game ends when there are no marbles left in either circle. The player with the most marbles is the winner.


A marbles game. Strutt 304


A marbles game. EDD. warwichshire 1896.


A game like ring taw. EDD. East Anglia

Three Holes

A marbles game. Strutt. Northumberland. 1892-1894


A marbles game. Strutt 304 dickens. Pickwick papers xxxiv


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