dom·​i·​no | \ ˈdä-mə-ˌnō How to pronounce domino (audio) \
plural dominoes or dominos

Definition of domino

1a(1) : a long loose hooded cloak usually worn with a half mask as a masquerade costume
(2) : a half mask worn over the eyes with a masquerade costume
b : a person wearing a domino
2a : a flat rectangular block (as of wood or plastic) whose face is divided into two equal parts that are blank or bear usually from one to six dots arranged as on dice faces
b dominoes or dominos plural in form but usually singular in construction : any of several games played with a set of usually 28 dominoes
3 : a member of a group (as of nations) expected to behave in accordance with the domino theory

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The History of Domino

The origin of dominoes is rather obscure, and that is as true of the word as it is of the game. Both appeared in France shortly after 1750. In both English and French, domino earlier denoted a long hooded cloak worn together with a mask during carnival season or at a masquerade. It is an even earlier sense, however, that may link the garment with the playing piece. In French, domino originally referred to a cape worn by a priest over his surplice. Domino pieces were once made with ebony blacks and ivory faces, and it has been suggested that the playing piece brought to mind the priest’s black domino contrasting with the white surplice.

Examples of domino in a Sentence

Dominoes is one of my favorite games.
Recent Examples on the Web In a move that could be the first domino to fall for college athletics, the Ivy League will forego sports during the first semester of this year. Spencer Neale, Washington Examiner, "Ivy League cancels fall semester sports due to coronavirus pandemic," 8 July 2020 After some Riverside County residents had gathered with friends for Memorial Day, the socializing phenomenon seemed to domino: case counts continued to rise in connection to Father’s Day gatherings and graduation ceremonies. Kristi Sturgill, Los Angeles Times, "Riverside County surpasses 20,000 coronavirus cases. That wasn’t supposed to happen yet," 7 July 2020 This is perhaps especially true in China, where a single pro-independence domino could set off a cascade of territorial unrest. James Griffiths, CNN, "From the Qing Empire to the People's Republic, China's worries about separatism run deep," 29 June 2020 The 2008 recession set off a domino chain of misfortune in many people’s lives—a preview of the economic devastation the coronavirus pandemic will bring. Kathryn Joyce, The New Republic, "No Money, No Lawyer, No Justice," 22 June 2020 This development, some worry, could cause a domino affect, leading to more commercial uses west of Springmill Road. Kaitlin Lange, The Indianapolis Star, "Proposed development could set precedent for commercial development in west Carmel," 16 June 2020 That sent the final domino crashing into Whitehall - and Pekadills - when Howmet this month announced its layoffs. David J. Lynch, Anchorage Daily News, "Ripple effects of downturn show pandemic’s early economic toll was just the beginning," 15 June 2020 The comics industry operates on a shoestring, where the fall of a single domino can cause untold havoc. cleveland, "‘Insane bombshell’ in comics distribution world: Captain Comics," 11 June 2020 The next domino to fall came at the popular stationery brand, founded by Jen Gotch. Emma Hinchliffe, Fortune, "White female founders face a reckoning over racism," 8 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'domino.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of domino

circa 1694, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

History and Etymology for domino

French, probably from Latin (in the ritual formula benedicamus Domino let us bless the Lord)

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Learn More about domino

Time Traveler for domino

Time Traveler

The first known use of domino was circa 1694

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Statistics for domino

Last Updated

20 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Domino.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for domino


How to pronounce domino (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of domino

: a small flat rectangular block made of wood or plastic that has one or more dots on one side and that is used in playing games
: a game played with dominoes


dom·​i·​no | \ ˈdä-mə-ˌnō How to pronounce domino (audio) \
plural dominoes or dominos

Kids Definition of domino

: one of a set of flat oblong dotted pieces used in playing a game ( dominoes )

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