Bamboos  A suit of tiles showing 1 to 9 bamboos, although the number one tile is often depicted by a picture of a rice-bird or sparrow.

Base/Basic score

 The score for one hand which is obtained by adding together the points allocated to each set, pair, bonus tiles and (if applicable) for going Mah-Jong.


British Mah-Jong Association. Founded to halt the proliferation of “home rules” and establish an authoritative yet familiar code of play. This is described in “Mah-Jong (Know the Game)” by Gwyn Headley and Yvonne Seeley.

Bonus tiles

A collective term for the Flower and Season tiles. Bonus tiles are not used in play, but merely enhance the score.


A full set of Flower or Season tiles. A player who holds such a set in his hand doubles his score twice.


When a player only requires one more tile to finish he must declare “one for Mah-Jong” and is said to be “fishing” or “calling”.

Calling hand

A hand where the player only needs one tile to go Mah-Jong.


A suit of tiles showing the Chinese symbol for the number of the tile (1 to 9) and another symbol for 10,000.


A run of three tiles in the same suit. Chows are not scored.


Box used to contain Wind discs and to indicate prevailing Wind. Also called Tong box.


A suit of tiles showing 1 to 9 Circles.

Clean hand

A Mah-Jong hand that is made up of just one suit, with some honour tiles.

Concealed set

A concealed set is one that has not been placed face-up on the table as a result of someone calling “Chow”, “Pung” or “Kong”. During play it may be held in the hand or placed face-down on the table. A concealed set is worth double its exposed version.

Dead tiles

Tiles which have been discarded and not claimed. They are laid face up and play no further part in the game.

Dead wall

Another name for the kong box.

Dirty hand

A completed hand which has sets from more than one suit. This is often frowned upon, but “going out dirty” is sometimes the only option.


There are 3 sets of Dragon tiles: Red Dragon, Green Dragon and White.


An important part of the scoring process. A basic score may be doubled for various reasons (e.g. having a set of Dragons).

Exposed set

An exposed set is one that has been placed face-up on the table as a result of someone calling “Chow”, “Pung” or “Kong”. An exposed set is worth less than its concealed version.


When a player only requires one more tile to finish he must declare “one for Mah-Jong” and said to be “fishing” or “calling”.


Bonus tiles each with a picture of a Flower: Plum, Orchid (Lily), Chrysanthemum and Bamboo. The depiction varies between sets.


A form of play after a drawn game involving the use of “wild” tiles or jokers.

Honour tile

A Dragon or a Wind. These have a doubling potential.

Intrinsic value

The value of a special hand (or one where you are fishing) which is calculated using the method used for a non-special hand (sometimes it can be greater).


Tiles introduced to replace the 2 Bamboos in a special form of the game known as the “goulash”. Jokers are “wild” (i.e. can stand for any tile).


A set of 4 identical tiles.

Kong box

A portion at the end of the wall reserved for replacement tiles for kongs, Flowers and Seasons. Starts out as 14 tiles.

Letting off a canon

A playing mistake, where someone discards a tile which is obviously wanted by someone who is fishing.


The maximum score that can be made by any one player. Usually set to 1,000 points.

Live wall

The part of the wall from which tiles are drawn in the normal course of the game. It comprises the whole wall, minus the kong box (or dead wall).

Loose tiles

The two tiles which are lifted onto the end of the wall and which are taken, in turn, when someone makes a kong or picks up a Flower or Season tile.


Mah-Jong in Chinese literally means “the game of the sparrows”.

Major tile

A Wind, Dragon or a suit tile numbered 1 or 9.

Minor tile

A suit tile numbered 2 to 8. It scores less than a major tile.

One for Mah-Jong

When a player only requires one more tile to finish he must declare “one for Mah-Jong” and is said to be “fishing” or “calling”.

Original call

A term used to refer to the rare occasion when a player finds after his first discard that he holds a calling hand – one that is one tile away from Mah-Jong. If he does not alter his hand after this time (apart from taking the required tile) he is allowed an extra double.


Called by East Wind to stop the shuffling (or “washing”) of the tiles.

Prevailing Wind

The prevailing Wind always starts as East Wind and changes to South when every player has had a turn with it. If the game lasts long enough it eventually changes to West then North. Having a pung or kong of the prevailing Wind doubles your score.


A set of 3 identical tiles.

Robbing the kong

Where a player takes a tile from the wall and makes a kong from an exposed pung, another player can “rob the kong” in order to go Mah-Jong.


Bonus tiles each usually with a picture relating to a Season, though the depictions vary hugely between sets.

Seat Wind

The Wind belonging to the player sitting in a given position.


A chow, a pung or a kong. Four sets are required to go Mah-Jong.

Special hands

A set of Mah-Jong hands which are unlikely combinations of tiles, some not conforming to the usual 4 sets and a pair. Because they are difficult to get they attract a very high score, usually 500 or 1,000 points. The British game recognises 19 special hands (more than the traditional Chinese game).


There are 3 suits of tiles: Characters, Bamboos and Circles. Each suit consists of 36 tiles numbered 1 to 9, with 4 tiles for each number.


Special tokens used to keep track of the number of points each player has and exchanged at the end of each session.


The 1s and 9s of the suits.


144 in a Mah-Jong set and traditionally made from ivory or bone, dove-tailed into bamboo. There are sometimes an additional 4 spare tiles and sometimes 4 joker tiles.

Tong box

Box used to contain Wind discs and to indicate prevailing Wind. Also called chuang-tzu.


The stack of unused tiles. The wall is built at the beginning of the game and tiles taken from it in a clockwise fashion.


The shuffling of the tiles before the walls are built.


When no player is able to go Mah-Jong by the end of the game. The ‘goulash’ is then played next.

Wind of the round

Also known as the prevailing Wind. A pung or kong of this Wind will double your score.


There are 4 sets of Winds: East Wind, South Wind, West Wind and North Wind.