1. a rather deep, round dish or basin, used chiefly for holding liquids, food, etc.
  2. the contents of a bowl: a bowl of tomato soup.
  3. a rounded, cuplike, hollow part: the bowl of a pipe.
  4. a large drinking cup.
  5. festive drinking; conviviality.
  6. any bowl-shaped depression or formation.
  7. an edifice with tiers of seats forming sides like those of a bowl, having the arena at the bottom; stadium.
  8. Also called bowl game. a football game played after the regular season by teams selected by the sponsors of the game, usually as representing the best from a region of the country: the Rose Bowl.
  9. Typography. a curved or semicircular line of a character, as of a, d, b, etc.
verb (used with object)
  1. to give (a floor) a gentle inclination on all sides toward some area, as a stage or platform.

Origin of bowl

before 950; Middle English bolle, Old English bolla; cognate with Old Norse bolli. See boll
Related formsbowl·like, adjective


  1. one of the balls, having little or no bias, used in playing ninepins or tenpins.
  2. one of the biased or weighted balls used in lawn bowling.
  3. bowls, (used with a singular verb) lawn bowling.
  4. a delivery of the ball in bowling or lawn bowling.
  5. (formerly) a rotating cylindrical part in a machine, as one to reduce friction.
verb (used without object)
  1. to play at bowling or bowls; participate in or have a game or games of bowling.
  2. to roll a bowl or ball.
  3. to move along smoothly and rapidly.
  4. Cricket. to deliver the ball to be played by the batsman.
verb (used with object)
  1. to roll or trundle, as a ball or hoop.
  2. to attain by bowling: He bowls a good game. She usually bowls a 120 game, but today she bowled 180.
  3. to knock or strike, as by the ball in bowling (usually followed by over or down).
  4. to carry or convey, as in a wheeled vehicle.
  5. Cricket. to eliminate (a batsman) by bowling (usually followed by out): He was bowled for a duck. He was bowled out for a duck.
Verb Phrases
  1. bowl over, to surprise greatly: We were bowled over by the news.

Origin of bowl

1375–1425; late Middle English bowle, variant of boule < Middle French < Latin bulla bubble, knob; cf. boil1, bola

lawn bowling

  1. a game played with wooden balls on a level, closely mowed green having a slight bias, the object being to roll one's ball as near as possible to a smaller white ball at the other end of the green.Also called bowls, bowling on the green.Compare bowl2(def 2), bowling green, jack1(def 7), rink(def 5).

Origin of lawn bowling

First recorded in 1925–30 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for bowls

Contemporary Examples of bowls

Historical Examples of bowls

British Dictionary definitions for bowls


noun (functioning as singular)
    1. a game played on a bowling green in which a small bowl (the jack) is pitched from a mark and two opponents or opposing teams take turns to roll biased wooden bowls towards it, the object being to finish as near the jack as possible
    2. (as modifier)a bowls tournament
  1. skittles or tenpin bowling


  1. a round container open at the top, used for holding liquid, keeping fruit, serving food, etc
  2. Also: bowlful the amount a bowl will hold
  3. the rounded or hollow part of an object, esp of a spoon or tobacco pipe
  4. any container shaped like a bowl, such as a sink or lavatory
  5. mainly US a bowl-shaped building or other structure, such as a football stadium or amphitheatre
  6. a bowl-shaped depression of the land surfaceSee also dust bowl
  7. literary
    1. a drinking cup
    2. intoxicating drink

Word Origin for bowl

Old English bolla; related to Old Norse bolli, Old Saxon bollo


  1. a wooden ball used in the game of bowls, having flattened sides, one side usually being flatter than the other in order to make it run on a curved course
  2. a large heavy ball with holes for gripping with the fingers and thumb, used in tenpin bowling
  1. to roll smoothly or cause to roll smoothly, esp by throwing underarm along the ground
  2. (intr usually foll by along) to move easily and rapidly, as in a car
  3. cricket
    1. to send (a ball) down the pitch from one's hand towards the batsman, keeping the arm straight while doing so
    2. Also: bowl outto dismiss (a batsman) by delivering a ball that breaks his wicket
  4. (intr) to play bowls or tenpin bowling
  5. (tr) (in tenpin bowling) to score (a specified amount)he bowled 120
See also bowl over, bowls

Word Origin for bowl

C15: from French boule, ultimately from Latin bulla bubble
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for bowls

game played with balls, mid-15c. (implied in bowlyn), from gerund of bowl "wooden ball" (early 15c.), from Old French bole (13c., Modern French boule) "ball," ultimately from Latin bulla "bubble, knob, round thing" (see bull (n.2)).

Noon apprentice ... [shall] play ... at the Tenys, Closshe, Dise, Cardes, Bowles nor any other unlawfull game. [Act 11, Henry VII, 1495]



Old English bolla "pot, cup, bowl," from Proto-Germanic *bul- "a round vessel" (cf. Old Norse bolle, Old High German bolla), from PIE *bhl-, from root *bhel- (2) "to blow, inflate, swell" (see bole).



"to roll a ball on the ground," typically as part of a game or contest, mid-15c., from bowl "wooden ball" (see bowls). Specifically of cricket from 1755; cricket use is source of late 19c. expressions bowl over, etc. Related: Bowled; bowling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper