Domino, a word of Latin origin meaning “little table,” refers to small rectangular blocks that are used to play the game of dominoes. These little blocks have anywhere from 0 to 6 dots on each face and, when matched, can create elaborate patterns that are impressive to see when they’re knocked down. These blocks inspire a lot of creativity, and they also inspired the domino effect, which describes any action that causes others to follow suit.

Dominoes are a fun way to pass the time, and they’re popular toys for kids to play with. But they’re also useful for building things that are far more complex and important. For example, some people use them in science experiments to demonstrate the principle of cause and effect. They’re also often used as parts of Rube Goldberg machines, which are designed to show how one simple action can lead to something much more complicated and impressive than the original event.

One of the most famous domino constructions was set up in 1989 by artist and acrobat Salima Peippo. The artist constructed a set of hundreds and even thousands of dominoes that stood side by side, each one placed just so it could fall when the first piece was tipped ever so slightly. The artist’s goal was to show how an event can affect the world around it. Her work was so well done that the New York Times ran a story on it, and the domino effect took off from there.

Writing Tip for Today

When you write, try to keep in mind the idea of the domino effect. A domino effect occurs when an event triggers a chain reaction that leads to other events that run counter to what your reader expects or thinks is logical. It’s the reason why you need to provide a strong enough motivation and/or explanation for why your character does something that goes against societal norms. Without that, the domino cascade fails and your readers won’t follow along.

Dominoes are most commonly played on a flat surface like a table, and the players draw their tiles one at a time, with each player positioning the tiles so that their matching ends touch (unless they’re doubles, which must be played perpendicular to the double touching at its center). Each domino has a number on one of its sides, and the number is either a single number or it shows the total value of a series of numbers.

In the mid-1800s, dominoes became very popular in Europe. They are most likely based on Chinese games, and the markings on the faces of the dominoes, called pips, originally represented the results of throwing two six-sided dice. Today, many dominoes are made with Arabic numerals on the pips so that they’re easier to read and recognize.