32 Bocce Ball Terms and Glossary9 min read

Like every other sport, bocce has a host of terminologies that every player needs to know. You don’t necessarily need to know all the bocce ball lingo in the book, but learning some of the most common terms and phrases and their definitions will definitely give you an advantage. Plus, you’ll need to know these terms to understand your teammates who may be throwing some jargon around during the game.

Here are 32 of the most popular bocce ball glossary terms you need to know.

  1. Advantage – In bocce ball terminology, the first team that gets to throw the pallino has an “advantage” or a “pallino advantage” over the other team. That’s because they have the freedom to place the pallino wherever they want in the court and they also have a clear shot at throwing the first bocce ball.
  2. Backboards – Some people call these the end boards or the back walls. These are the shorter court walls that you’ll find at the opposite ends of a bocce ball court. 
  3. Bank Shot – This is a shot in which you throw the ball so that it hits the sideboards and bounces against it to move as close to the pallino as possible. You can also refer to this shot as “banking.”
  4. Bocce – Bocce is the name of the sport and is the plural form of “boccia,” which is Italian for “ball.” We’ve discussed the origin of the term in detail in our previous post exploring what is bocce.  You could further learn about the origin of the sport in our post where we discuss the history of bocce.
  5. Bocce Balls – Bocce balls are the eight balls used to play bocce. You roll these balls and try to get them as close to the pallino a possible to score points. Unlike petanque, bocce uses colorful balls – mainly blue and red. You can find varying qualities and sizes of bocce balls in the market. Use our bocce ball set list to learn more about different bocce balls or learn more about lawn bowling.
Image Credit: Marco Verch on Flickr
  1. Dead Ball – When an official has disqualified a ball because of some technicality or infringement, the ball becomes a dead ball.
  2. Doubles – A doubles game is when there are two teams playing against each other with two players in each team. So there will be a total of four players for this game. You can also call this “pairs.”
  3. End – More commonly known as a “frame” or a “round,” an end is a period of the game in which all players have taken their turns. The official will award points to the scoring team for that end before starting another end.
  4. Foul – This is typically a foot foul or a line foul and involves a player violating the bocce ball game rules. It could be anything from stepping over the foul line or releasing the ball after crossing the foul line. The team that commits the foul will receive a penalty based on the type and frequency of the foul.
  5. Foul Line – A foul line in bocce ball terminology is the line in a court that a player should not cross before releasing the ball. They must remain behind the foul line regardless of whether they’re playing a pointing shot or a hitting shot.
  6. Fours – This is a game in which there are two teams playing against each other, with four players in each team. So there will be a total of eight players for this game. Some people would also refer to this type of game as “teams.”
  7. Half Court Marker – As the name suggests, a half court marker is a line or marker that divides the court exactly in half. Typically, this would be a line drawn on the court surface halfway between the two backboards of the court.
  8. Hitting – In bocce ball terminology, hitting is a shot that involves hitting other balls on the court in an attempt to displace them. These shots are typically forceful, because they’re supposed to carry the ball to the far end of the court. You may have heard of this shot by other terms such as “spocking,” “shooting,” or “popping.”
  9. Inbound Lines – These are the lines that define the 12-inch boundary that the pallino must not cross during the initial throw.
  10. Initial Point – This refers to the first ball that you roll towards the pallino at the beginning of a frame. As it is the first ball, it is also closest to the pallino at that moment. Therefore, it establishes the initial point of that frame. The player that tosses the pallino should also make the first roll to establish the initial point.
  11. In Team – The in team is the team that has their ball closest to the pallino and holds the point. They will continue to be the in team for that frame unless the opposition gets ahead of them and becomes the in team.
  12. Jack – Also known as a “pallino,” a jack is the smaller white ball that’s thrown at the beginning of each game. It may also come in other colors such as yellow or even metallic. The objective of the game is to get your balls as close to this jack as possible in order to earn points for the frame.
Bocce Ball Circle

Image Credit: Marco Verch on Flickr
  1. Kiss – Some people also call this a “baci.” It refers to a situation in which a bocce ball is touching or “kissing” the pallino.
  2. Lagging – This is the basic throw in which a player tries to roll the ball as close to the pallino as possible. This throw is also known as “pointing,” as described in our article on different bocce ball throwing techniques. The throwing styles may vary according to the player, but the gist of it is to gently roll the ball towards the pallino. It’s a great option for beginners who are just learning how to play bocce.
  3. Live Ball – A live ball refers to any ball that is legitimate and in play. Some people also call this a “good” ball.
  4. Measure – This is the act of measuring the distance between the bocce balls and the pallino to determine which of them will get to score for that frame. This comes in handy when two or more balls appear to be in the same distance from the pallino. In this case, you’ll need to measure which of them is actually closer to the pallino.
  5. No Point – Also known as a “tie,” this occurs when the closest balls from the two teams are at an equal distance from the pallino. In this case, the team that delivered the last ball will have to re-attempt their throw. If all the balls have been played for that frame, however, neither team gets a point.
  6. Out Team – As opposed to the in team, the out team is the team whose ball is farther from the pallino and does not hold the point at that moment. They will continue to be the out team until one of their balls surpasses their opponent’s closest ball and they eventually become the in team.  
  7. Penalty – This is where you’ll find similarities between bocce ball glossary and other sport terminologies. A penalty in bocce refers to the consequence of committing a foul or violating a game rule. It can be against a team or against a specific player.
  8. Rule of Advantage – A rule of advantage refers to the option that a team gets when their opponents commit a foul. The team will get to make a choice depending on their ball position and the state of the game.
  9. Sideboards – Sideboards refer to the boards that enclose the length of the court to keep the balls from rolling out of court. They are typically 6-12 inches high.
Image Credit: Branko Radovanovic on Wikimedia
  1. Singles – A singles game, also known as a one-on-one game, is a game involving two players who are playing against each other.
  2. Social Bocce – Social bocce is a term for casual bocce games among a group of people. Typically, people will get together and form temporary teams for the day. It doesn’t involve tournament play or scheduled league plays and is solely for fun.
  3. Team – A team on a bocce ball court can have a maximum of four players and a minimum of two players.
  4. Tournament – Like with other sports, a bocce ball tournament involves several teams playing matches over a certain period of time. Losing teams get eliminated until there is only one team remaining, which then becomes the winner of that tournament.
  5. Unified – This is a bocce ball terminology used in the Special Olympics and refers to a game in which an equal number of Unified Partners and Special Olympics athletes play on the same team. The Unified Partner should have an equal ability to the Special Olympics athlete they’re partnering with.
  6. Volo – Volo refers to a hard and long throw in the air so that your bocce ball lands beyond the center line. The main goal of this throw is to spock another ball. However, volo is generally not permitted in court bocce because you could end up damaging the court surface or breaking other bocce balls. It could also be a safety risk for other players.

Final Thoughts

These are some of the most common bocce ball lingo and slang you might come across as you get familiar with the game. Learn the definitions of these terms and phrases to enrich your bocce knowledge. You can even check out our bocce ball FAQ reference guide if you want to learn more about the game.

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