Glossary of Juggling Terms

The original rec.juggling FAQ -- from way back in the "piggy" days -- contained a great glossary of common (and not so common) juggling terms and expressions. We're not sure, but it was probably terry jones who wrote most of this originally.

We here at the JIS have recently resurrected this glossary -- eventually we'll get it all gussied up with links and indexes, but it still needs some work to bring it up to date first. Corrections and additions welcome.

A cascade is a juggling pattern in which the objects are thrown from one hand to the other (left throws to right, right throws to left) alternating, with the outgoing throw going under the incoming object. Viewed from the front, the outgoing ball is closer to the center of the pattern than the incoming one. Your right and left hands will be moving in clockwise and counter-clockwise circles respectively.

alternate definition from Francis Favorini: A cascade is the most common juggling pattern. It involves an odd number of objects, each of which is thrown, alternating hands, from one hand to the other (right throws to left, left throws to right). A thrown object travels in a trajectory that goes underneath the incoming object. I.e., the throw is made from a position closer to the center of the pattern than the catch. From the point of view of the juggler, the right and left hands will be moving in clockwise and counter-clockwise circles, respectively.

In a reverse cascade, objects are thrown from hand to opposite hand, as in a normal cascade. The difference is that the thrown object is sent over the incoming one instead of under it. Viewed from the front, the outgoing ball is further from the center of the pattern than the incoming one. Your right and left hands will be moving in counter-clockwise and clockwise circles respectively.
What is a shower?
A shower is a pattern in which one hand throws the balls in an arc to the other hand and the other hand shuffles the objects straight across underneath to the hand throwing the arcs. The pattern forms a shape that looks something like a circle. The Klutz book (See: How do I learn 3 balls?) even goes so far as to call it "circle juggling". Doing a shower is also known as showering. When passing objects, some people also call "everies" a shower. (See: What is everies?).

alternate definition from Francis Favorini: A shower is the most commonly depicted juggling pattern. It is sometimes called "circle juggling" by the uninitiated. Objects are thrown in an arc by one hand to the other, which then shuffles them straight across the bottom of the pattern back to the first hand. Like the cascade, the hands alternate throws. However, the hands do not mirror each others actions. Thus, a shower can be right- or left-handed, according to which hand makes the arced throws.

What is a full shower?
A full shower is another name for a shower.
What is a half shower?
In a half shower, the hand that was doing the straight across pass in a full shower now does a small upwards throw to the other hand. Half shower patterns are slower and easier than full showers.
What is a half reverse cascade?
This is another name for the half shower.
What is the cross?
The cross is a pattern for an even number of objects, in which the right hand throws to the left and the left hand throws to the right. Both hands throw almost simultaneously from close to the center of the body and catch at the outside, so the balls 'cross' in the middle if the pattern is working right and collide if it is not! This is Bruce Sarafian's preferred pattern for juggling ten balls.
What are site-swaps?
Site-swaps are a method of notating juggling patterns. When people refer to a 5551 or a 7333, you can bet they are talking site-swaps. A large body of information about site-swaps has sprung up, as well as programs that allow their viewing on a computer screen. A full description of site-swaps is not possible here. For further information, consult the site-swaps JIS help pages, containing an excellent introduction to site-swaps written by Allen Knutson, as well as many of the original articles written on site-swaps by the inventors of the notation. Programs to view site swaps are available in the JIS programs area.
What is xjuggle?
Xjuggle is an X-windows version of the juggle program to display site-swaps. It is available from the JIS. A version for the IBM PC and the macintosh are also available.
What is a fountain?
This refers to patterns with an even number of objects in which the objects (usually balls) do not cross from hand to hand. The easiest is to have the balls follow inside-outside paths (i.e. left hand throws counterclockwise "circles" and the right hand clockwise), but variations are possible. The balls can be thrown at the same time (synchronous) or staggered (asynchronous).

alternate definition from Francis Favorini: A fountain is the most common juggling pattern with an even number of objects. It is similar to a cascade, but the objects do not cross from one hand to the other. Typically, an object is thrown from the inside of the pattern and caught on the outside, by the same hand. I.e., the right hand moves clockwise and the left counter-clockwise, just like in a cascade. The right- and left-handed throws can be alternating (asynchronous) or at the same time (synchronous).

What are columns?
Columns is used to describe tricks in which the objects are thrown straight up in a set of columns.
What are chops?
Chops refers to an impressive looking trick that is usually done with 3 clubs (though some do it with 3 balls). Each throw is made from underneath the opposite arm. The image presented is often that of a swashbuckling pirate wielding cutlasses. The name comes from the way the clubs are brought swiftly down through the pattern before moving under the opposite arm to be thrown. A chop is also i an overhanded pass, usually done with clubs.
What are flourishes?
Flourishing refers to swinging a club around in one's hand. This is usually done in the middle of a pattern and can look very flashy.
What is club swinging?
Club swinging is exactly that. It is done with one or two clubs (or torches). The clubs are swung very quickly around the body and head. Club swinging clubs usually have a special large knob to make the swinging easier. Club swinging can also be done while juggling of course. Just throw something high and presto, you have time! Club swinging should also usually be done with non-European clubs as it tends to destroy the rubber knobs on European style clubs.
What is contact juggling?
This is a form of juggling in which the ball stays in contact with the body of the juggler. Most people use a single ball. The foremost proponent of this art is undoubtedly Michael Moschen (see Who is Michael Moschen?) who has appeared on TV numerous times doing some amazing routines with crystal balls.

James Ernest wrote the book, Contact Juggling, which describes many contact juggling moves and, many claim, describes Moschen's crystal ball routine movement for movement.

What is Mills Mess?
Mills Mess is a juggling pattern named after its inventor, Steve Mills. The approved spelling does not contain an apostrophe! It is almost certainly the best known of the harder patterns with 3 objects. It can also be done with more than three things (balls usually) - 4 balls Mills Mess is not uncommon, and some people can do 5. I have never heard of more. The pattern was invented around 1973. For more information and a description of the trick, see the JIS Mills Mess help pages. Steve's brother, Rich Mills, is on the juggling network.

Mills Mess cannot be notated with site-swap notation, or I'd happily do so.

What is Burke's Barrage?
Burke's Barrage is a trick named after its inventor, Ken Burke. It is almost as well-known as Mills Mess, though far harder to learn, let alone describe. Many have tried both however. Look in the JIS help pages for some discussion of the trick.

Burke's Barrage cannot be notated with site-swap notation, or I'd happily do so.

What is Rubenstein's Revenge?
Another complicated 3 ball pattern. This was invented by Rick Rubenstein. He attempted to design the hardest 3 ball trick he could. Perhaps this can be done gracefully, but most people who claim to be able to do the trick will show you something that looks horrible, including Rick himself (sorry Rick). There is no description file for this trick available at the moment, despite several people asking for one back in the days of the old listserver. Rick is one half of the Clockwork team that won a bronze medal at St. Louis.
What is Bruno's Nightmare?
Bruno's Nightmare is a 3 person club passing pattern. It can basically be described as a rotating feed in which the the passers also continually weave through the feed. Sort of. Martin Frost described it in, the Fall 1990 edition of Juggler's World.
What is tennis?
Tennis is a simple 3 object pattern in which one of the three is thrown with a reverse cascade throw each time it lands. The other two are thrown with a normal cascade throw. This creates the effect of one object going back and forth over the top of the pattern. Tennis is not just limited to 3 objects, it works very well with all odd numbers (given a good enough juggler). It can also sort of be faked with even numbers.
What are backcrosses?
Backcrosses are throws made behind the back which go across the back and up over the opposite shoulder. A backcross is one such throw.
What are shoulder throws?
Shoulder throws are made from behind the back, like backcrosses, except they come up over the shoulder of the arm that made the throw.
What is the loopy?
The "loopy" is a nickname given to a shoulder throw pass with a club. It was christened thus one night on the Club Renegade stage at the IJA convention in St. Louis, 1991. For days, people walked around saying "the loooopy" in odd voices. It was "invented" by Brian Peebles and Matt Rapport of GRAVITY GONE WILD.
What are flats, halves, singles, doubles, triples, quads and quints?
These refer respectively to club throws with 0, 1/2, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 spins.
What are reverses?
Club throws which are spun in the opposite direction to the "normal" spin direction.
What is clawing?
Clawing refers to catching (usually) balls in a downward fashion instead of the more traditional method of allowing the ball to land in your palm-up hand.
What is a false shower?
In a false shower, the objects (usually 3 balls) describe a shower pattern, except the arcing throws are made with both hands. For this reason, both of the hands have to catch too. There are no straight across throws underneath the pattern - the arms must be moved across and back carrying the balls.
What is meant by asynchronous throws?
In an asynchronous pattern, the hands throw at different times. This term is usually used when talking about patterns that have an even number of objects. Odd numbers are nearly always juggled asynchronously, so no-one bothers with the distinction. All site-swap patterns are asynchronous.
What is meant by synchronous throws?
In a synchronous pattern, both hands throw at the same time. This term is usually used when talking about patterns that have an even number of objects.
What are Alberts or Albies?
Named after Albert Lucas, this trick is where you throw a club from front to back between the legs. Your feet should stay on the ground. Kit Summers came up with this name.
What are Treblas?
These are Alberts in reverse. That is, the throw between the legs goes from back to front. As before, your feet stay on the ground. Trebla is Albert spelled backwards. Kit Summers came up with this name.
What is a box?
Also known as curtains or shower curtains, this deceptively difficult 3 ball trick involves a ball in each hand that is thrown in a column whilst the third ball is thrown back and forth between the hands underneath. Another way to describe it is as a single throw of a shower to the right followed immediately by a single throw of a shower to the left - and repeat. They're not really shower throws though as the balls are supposed to go straight up and down. The box makes a very pleasing box shape, not surprisingly.
What are curtains or shower curtains?
Other names for the box.
What is back to back passing?
Passing (usually clubs) in which the two partners stand back to back and throw over their heads.
What is a line?
A passing pattern with at least three people in which the jugglers stand in a line. Probably the simplest line has three jugglers and nine objects (most commonly clubs) - in it, the front person stands facing the other two. The front person receives from the back person, the middle person receives from the front person and throws back over their head or shoulder to the back person. Generally a line pattern just refers to the line-like formation of the jugglers. The most common and easiest 4 person line has two people facing each direction.
What are feeders, feedees and feeds?
A feed is a passing pattern in which one person (the feeder) passes with (feeds) all the others, usually alternately. The other people (the feedees) stand facing the feeder and (normally) cascade quietly amongst themselves until it is their turn to receive a pass from the feeder. For more fun, mix up the feed order, add more clubs etc etc.
What is a star?
A pattern in which all the participants stand on the vertices of an n-sided polygon (typically 5 or 7). You pass to someone roughly opposite you and receive from someone else who is also roughly opposite you. There are, of course, variations. With 5 people and right-handed passing, you typically pass to the person second on your right and receive from the person second on your left.
What is a dropback?
The simplest sort of dropback is a pass made back over the head or shoulder to a juggler behind you. This is most commonly seen in line patterns. In a more difficult form of dropback, one juggler stands behind another who is doing some pattern (e.g. 3 club cascade, 5 ball shower). The front juggler then throws all the props back over their head/shoulders and the juggler in the back continues with the pattern.
What is a setup?
Setups are normally referred to in passing patterns. A setup is, when passing right-handed, the left hand throw you make after catching an incoming pass. In most passing patterns, there are setups, but in onesies there are none at all. (See: What is onesies?) This terminology appears to be somewhat regional. Some jugglers do not call anything a setup, preferring to just use "self-throw" for what was just described as a setup.
What is a self-throw?
Self-throws are normally talked about only when passing. A self-throw is a right hand throw that is not a pass (i.e. it goes to your left hand). In right handed passing every others (for example), every second right hand throw is a pass and every other is a self-throw. In passing everies, there are no self-throws. (See: What is every others? and What is everies?) Note: depending on who you talk to, you might find people telling you that the left-handed throws in passing everies with right-handed passes are self-throws. By this rule, there are self-throws in everies. No-one disagrees with the statement that there are no self throws in a one-count though.
What is every others?
This refers to passing with the same hand every second time that hand makes a throw. The intermediate throws all go to the other hand. This is also called a 4-count since every 4th throw (counting both hands) is a pass. Compare this with everies.
What is onesies?
Also known as a 1-count, a passing pattern where each throw is a pass. Notice that this means you pass with both hands.
What is everies?
Also known as a 2-count, a passing pattern where each throw from a specified hand is passed. When this is done in passing with one other person it is often also called a shower or full shower.
What does "solid" mean?
Solid usually refers to a trick that is done every throw. For example, in "solid backcrosses", every throw is a backcross. Solid is also used to refer to tricks that have been extremely well learned. Being able to do a trick solidly means being able to do it pretty much every time.
What is a thundershower?
See: What is onesies?
What is a 1-count?
See: What is onesies?
What is a 2-count?
See: What is everies?
What is a 3-count?
In a 3-count passing pattern, every third throw is a pass. This means that passes will be thrown alternately from both hands. This is a good pattern to use for learning to pass with your bad hand - if you have one.
What is a 4-count?
See: What is every others?
What is an n-count?
A passing pattern in which every n-th throw, counting both hands, is a pass. Thus 1-count, 2-count etc.
What is a 3-3-10?
A pattern in which the passing frequency increases. 3 throws are made every third (6-count), 3 throws are then made every other (4-count) and finally 10 throws are made with everies (2-count). The 2-count passes should begin immediately after the last 4-count pass! You may find some people who think there should be an extra beat in there before the first 2-count pass goes out.
What is a 5-4-3-2-1?
A passing pattern in which the passing frequency increases. The number of throws made between passes is constant (normally 3 or 5), but the frequency goes 5-count, 4-count, 3-count, 2-count, 1-count. Your hands will both be passing - sometimes alternating with the other hand, sometimes individually. Once you have the 5-4-3-2-1 down, try coming back up, 1-2-3-4-5 or try starting with two balls in a different hand etc.
What is ultimate passing?
This refers to passing patterns in which both hands make passes. Some people tell me that ultimate passing is another name for onesies (1-count) passing.
What is a flash?
Flashing refers to one round of a pattern. So, if you are trying to learn a 5 ball cascade, you might like to practice flashing 5, which is to say making the initial 5 throws and then doing 5 catches. Flashing X objects means X throws and X catches. Flashes also refer to throwing all the objects up higher out of a standard n-object juggle to create spaces in both hands, thus allowing one to pirouette, clap hands, do a back flip, etc.
What is the 2n rule?
The "2n rule" is a special case of a rule employed by the IJA to determine when a juggler can do a trick. This is basically for the purpose of determining qualification at a certain level in a numbers competition. To qualify for a trick involving n objects, you have to complete 2n *catches*. Some people use the 2n mark as an informal (but easily defined) measure of when they can claim to be able to "do" a trick. The actual rule employed by the IJA is (number of hands) * (number of objects) catches. This makes a difference for passing attempts since there are more than two hands. You also have just 1 minute in which to make a qualifying run by IJA standards.
Head rolls are tricks that involve rolling a ball around on one's head. The balls are often balanced in various locations - ears, eyes, nose bridges, mouths and other bumps and hollows that one might be fortunate enough to possess.
What is bounce juggling?
Bounce juggling involves balls being (deliberately) allowed to bounce. Usually all the balls are sent to the ground, though there are many hybrid tricks that involve balls in the air and balls bouncing. Silicone balls are widely used for bounce juggling. Cheaper alternatives are lacrosse balls and a rubber ball sold by Renegade in the US and Oddballs in Europe.
What is lift bouncing?
Bounce juggling in which the balls are lifted into the air before being allowed to bounce. This is slower and easier than force bouncing.
What is force bouncing?
Bounce juggling in which the balls are thrown towards the ground, rather than being gently lifted as in lift bouncing. This is faster and harder than lift bouncing. Strangely, many good jugglers find they have more control over a force bounce than a lift bounce once they get good with both. It is much faster though so may have less tolerance for error.
A bounce juggling pattern in which the balls bounce in a line, usually bouncing n-1 times each if you have n balls. All the balls (except the one in your hands) should bounce at the same time.
What is combat juggling?
A popular war-like pursuit pursued (Purdued?) by many jugglers. In its usual melee form, all jugglers start at the same time with three clubs and then try to cause the others to drop their clubs. Kicking is not allowed, the most common tactic is to throw a high triple (or similar) and flail about wildly at your opponents before it comes back down - hopefully re-entering your pattern. Stealing other people's clubs is permitted, as are many other devious tactics. Combat is actually endorsed by the IJA and players must use soft clubs. There is a combat competition at the IJA convention each year. Fierce rivalries have sprung up between juggling clubs in several areas. Injuries are not uncommon.
What is multiplexing?
Multiplexing refers to throwing, catching, or holding more than one object at a time with one hand. A throw of two balls at once from the same hand would be a multiplexed throw; a catch of two balls at once with the same hand would be a multiplexed catch.
What are knobs?
The (often) rubber piece on the (thin) end of juggling clubs. Clubs that are all one piece (e.g. Americans) have a plastic knob. Knobs are very important for all body throws. The knob allows a club juggler to always hold the club in the same place on the club when throwing it by providing a sensual indicator of where one is holding the club.
What are tips?
The flat rubber disc on the fat end of juggling clubs. Not found on all-plastic clubs (e.g. cheaper Americans).
What are dowels?
The piece of wood (usually) that is inside juggling clubs. It runs the length of the club, from knob to tip. All plastic one-piece clubs have no dowel.
What is a bell?
The bell is the fat end of a juggling club.
What are clubs?
Clubs, or pins are the bowling-pin-shaped objects that you see people juggling whenever you go anywhere that there are people juggling. Well, almost anywhere.
What are soft clubs?
Soft clubs are made of foam with a wooden dowel. They were designed for use in combat to reduce injuries, though some people use them for learning clubs too - your hands and wrists won't get as beaten up. Soft clubs are available from The Reflection Company (their inventor) and from Jugglebug. The majority of people prefer the Reflection clubs which are undeniably vastly superior in quality. The JIS help pages contain some people's opinions, including an article by Phil SanMiguel that was published in that high quality rag, The Two Ply Press.
What are Americans?
A type of club that is popular for people who like their clubs to look big. The bells are very large and hard to catch for those who are used to juggling Europeans. Many performers uses Americans so that tricks are easier to see on stage. They really hurt when the knobs hit your bones or wrist. In general they are lighter and spin slower than Europeans.
What are Europeans?
A type of club that is very popular. They are made of hard plastic and have bells which are relatively thin. I thought George Strain summed up Europeans well when he said "Two handles are better than one".
Clubs made by the Renegade juggling company. These are the clubs of choice of many superior jugglers. The bell size is intermediate between Europeans and Americans and is made of a soft plastic that is fun to hit yourself on the head with.
A line of juggling props made by Beard. The clubs are exceptionally light and skinny apart from a bulge in the middle of the bell.
What are rings?
Rings are flat circles of plastic, usually with a large hole in the middle for easy catching and to make them fly straight. Something like an Aerobie - if you're familiar with them. Large numbers of rings can be juggled at the same time since they are so thin and you can throw them out a bit and they'll come back in to you, so your pattern can be wider at the top. Some people use rings with a different color on each side and then turn them over when they catch them, thus changing the color of the pattern for those viewing it from the side. This is called color changing, surprisingly enough.
What are torches?
Torches are juggling clubs that have a wick on the end which can be dipped in fuel and then lit.
What is a devil stick?
A stick about two feet long whose ends widen slightly. It is manipulated by means of two thinner handsticks which are used to tap the devilstick backwards and forwards in front of the body. Of course this is the most basic explanation possible - lots of tricks can be done, both handsticks are not truly necessary, and some people even use two devil sticks. Devil sticks are popular at Grateful Dead concerts.
What is a flower stick?
This is a variation on a devil stick, which had a thinner dowel, but with leather or yarn weights on the ends of the stick to make it turn more slowly. They are generally regarded as easier props than devil sticks.
What is a diabolo?
A rubber thing shaped something like a yo-yo. It is manipulated by a string whose two ends are tied to handsticks. It is shaped something like an hourglass )( with a metal axle in the middle.
A free-standing ladder is the kind of ladder one has to lean against a wall to use. If you're a normal person that is. Jugglers use them without a supporting wall, the idea being to walk around using the legs of the ladder and while you're up there, to juggle too. Usually a free-standing ladder is a couple of feet wide and 6 or 7 feet high.
What is a rola bola?
A round tube (PVC pipe works well) and a board (plywood works well). You put the pipe on the ground and the board on top of the pipe. Then you get on the board and balance. Initially this can be dangerous!
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What is a bongo board?
Another term for a rola bola.
What are cigar boxes?
Usually a set of 3 boxes that are manipulated with the hands, one held in each hand and the third being trapped between the other two. The name comes from the fact that the original boxes were in fact cigar boxes. W. C. Fields popularized the use of cigar boxes. Some people use more than 3 boxes. Ben Decker makes good quality boxes. The Jugglebug boxes are definitely to be avoided.
What are shaker cups?
Noisy metal cups that fit inside each other. Usually people do 4 or 6 cups - the more the noisier. A typical move is to throw one or two cups up from inside a third which is held in the hand and then used to catch the thrown cup(s). The incoming cups land in the cup in the hand with a CLANG!
What are silicone balls?
Aah, the joy of silicone balls! Touch them once and you are immediately tempted to fork out 150 dollars for a set of five. Silicone balls are beautifully colored and very bouncy. They are expensive as all hell. Used almost exclusively by bounce jugglers and by those who just love the balls. I am writing an information file about them at present. They are only available from 3 vendors, Todd Smith, Dubé and Frank Radtke (the inventor of silicone balls). The balls will never get dirty, you will be amazed at how you can wash them with cold water and the grease from your bicycle chain just wipes off. The only thing that can stain them (apparently and oddly enough) is coffee! The average price for a silicone ball is about \$30.
What are Koosh balls?
Koosh Balls are like rubberized pompoms. Some people like to juggle them as they are fairly easy to catch, they don't bounce, hurt or make a noise. So-called "real" jugglers do not use Koosh balls.
What are squish balls?
These are nylon covered balls that contain something like surgical gel. Their consistency has been described in more colorful ways. They are fun to juggle, kids love them, but once you start doing 4 or 5 of them, they tend to around in your hands. They also are a little slippery for some and tend to bounce out of your hand given half a chance. They are available in a wide variety of stores, some charging as much as \$6 each. Places like Target (in the U.S.) sell them for about \$3.
What are stage balls?
Brightly colored (glow in the dark too) hollow plastic balls designed for use on stage. They come in sizes that are quite large. They are supposed to be big and visible and have a nice stickiness. They don't bounce, but they do roll. Relatively cheap, around \$5 each depending on size and dealer.
What are Fergie bags?
Good quality round beanbags made by Mike Ferguson. They come in a variety of colors and materials. Mike is a numbers juggler, so his bags tend to be small - his idea of a "extra large" bag is slightly smaller than a tennis ball. The corduroy bags are very popular. Mike's address is available from the JIS vendors area.
How do I learn to ride a unicycle?
Keep your head up, back straight, lean forward and pedal fast. For more information, check out the information in the JIS help pages.
How do I learn to do kick-ups?
The Klutz book apparently has a very good description of how to learn a basic kick-up. For tons of useful kick-ups to work on, refer to the JIS help pages, containing an article by Steven Ragatz with instructions for learning European Kick-ups, American Kick-ups, Toe Kick-ups, Heel Kick-ups, Side Kick-ups and Three Club Kick-ups.
How do I learn to do 3 balls?
Ask another juggler, or buy Juggling For The Complete Klutz which comes with 3 beanbags and is a reasonable starter kit, even if you're not a complete klutz.
How do I learn to do 4 balls?
Do two in each hand, the balls do not cross in the standard 4 ball "fountain". The fountain can be done synchronously or asynchronously. For tricks, see the JIS help pages.
How do I learn to do 5 balls?
Refer to the JIS help pages. This file contains a ton of good advice about learning five.
How do I make my own beanbags?
Opinion seems divided on whether this is worth the time and effort, since high quality cheap (about \$3) bags are available from people such as Mike Ferguson. But if you are after the experience, or the thrill of creation or whatever - go for it. Look in the JIS help pages for some discussion on shapes, fillings, sewing etc.

Glossary of Juggling Terms / Juggling Information Service / help@juggling.org