Domino is a small rectangular block of wood or plastic, usually marked by pips (points resembling the dots on dice) and played with on a flat surface such as a table. A domino game consists of one or more players and is played by placing dominoes on the table in a row so that each domino has one end touching another. Then a domino is tipped over, which causes the other ends of the row to tip over, creating a chain that grows in length until there are no more available turns for play.
Most domino games are positional; that is, the player in turn places a domino edge to edge against another so that the pips match or form a certain total. The first person to do this wins the round. Some domino games are solitaire, while others are cooperative or competitive. Many games have specific rules for when the play must stop or for winning.
Besides being used to play domino games, a domino can also serve as a decoration or even a musical instrument. The piece can be tapped with the palm of a hand to produce a sound, similar to the striking of a gong or other musical instrument. The piece can also be used to mark a path on a floor or in the snow.
There are hundreds of different ways to use dominoes, from simple straight lines to curved, 3D structures like towers and pyramids. Some people even make domino art, using a grid to form pictures or words, stacked walls, or a custom set of curved lines. Some artists and architects have created mind-blowing domino installations that are designed to be photographed or filmed from different angles.
A domino can be a metaphor for any number of things in fiction and nonfiction writing, such as scenes that advance a story. These scene dominos might not be effective on their own, but when arranged together they naturally influence the next scene and create a chain of events with greater–and sometimes catastrophic–consequences.
The origin of the word domino is obscure, but it appears that the name came from an earlier sense of the word, denoting a long hooded cloak worn together with a mask at a carnival or masquerade. The word ‘domino’ may have also been used in the 16th century to refer to a playing piece made of ivory and ebony, which suggested a priest’s black domino contrasting with his white surplice.
A domino set is often made of bone, silver lip ocean pearl oyster shell (mother-of-pearl), or a dark hardwood such as ebony with contrasting black or white pips. Some sets are also crafted from other natural materials, such as marble, granite, or soapstone; metals; ceramic clay; or frosted glass. Natural-material dominoes tend to feel heavier and more substantial than polymer sets. They can also be more expensive.