any of various games played on a sloping, glass-topped table presenting a field of colorful, knoblike target pins and rails, the object usually being to shoot a ball, driven by a spring, up a side passage and cause it to roll back down against these projections and through channels, which electrically flash or ring and record the score.

Origin of pinball

An Americanism dating back to 1880–85; pin + ball1 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for pin-ball

Historical Examples of pin-ball

  • He read a newspaper and fed a dollar and a half into a pin-ball machine.

    Ghost Beyond the Gate

    Mildred A. Wirt

  • It was as natural for her to want to flirt with every man she saw, as for a kitten to scamper after a pin-ball.

    The Pearl of Orr's Island

    Harriet Beecher Stowe

  • The little lady watches every motion as comically as a kitten watches a pin-ball.

  • Aunt Louise made a nice little dressing-case of bronze kid, lined with silk, and Grace made a pretty pen-wiper and pin-ball.

    Captain Horace

    Sophie May

British Dictionary definitions for pin-ball



  1. a game in which the player shoots a small ball through several hazards on a table, electrically operated machine, etc
  2. (as modifier)a pinball machine
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 pin-ball

as a type of game, 1907, from pin (n.) + ball (n.1). Originally of types of open-air bowling and basketball variation where the goal was to knock down a pin or pins. Earlier still it meant "pin-cushion." The tabletop pin-ball machine is attested from 1937.



also pin-ball, game played on a sloping surface, 1911, from pin (n.) + ball (n.1). Earlier it meant "a pincushion" (1803).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper