A domino is a flat, thumb-sized, rectangular block that has a face divided into two parts, each bearing from one to six pips or dots, as on a die. A domino set consists of 28 such pieces. Dominoes are used for playing a variety of games. Some games involve matching the ends of dominoes; others involve arranging them in lines and angular patterns. Dominoes may be stacked on end in long chains. The first domino to fall in such a chain converts some of its potential energy to kinetic energy, the energy of motion; this energy travels down the line to the next domino and causes it to tip over. The last domino to fall then transmits its energy to the rest of the chain, and so on. This is the basis of the phrase “domino effect,” which means that a small action can lead to much greater (and sometimes catastrophic) consequences.

Dominoes are usually made of a hard material, such as bone, ivory or a dark hardwood such as ebony, with contrasting black or white pips. They may also be made of ceramic clay, metals such as pewter and brass, or even frosted glass. These sets tend to be heavier and feel more substantial than those made of polymer materials. Many of these sets are designed to be aesthetically pleasing, as well as functional, with the choice of material and color contributing to the overall look.

The game of domino came to Britain in the late 18th Century, possibly via French prisoners of war, and became a fad. It was popular in inns and taverns as an alternative to gambling. A form of domino, called domino puzzles, was also produced as an educational aid for learning arithmetic. This was the precursor to modern-day crossword puzzles and jigsaw puzzles.

In recent decades, domino has become a popular toy for children. It is a great way for them to develop motor skills and spatial awareness. It is also a fun way for them to build and create their own structures. Adults also enjoy playing with them, either as a leisure activity or in competitions.

A popular variation on the classic game involves a player matching the number of pips on each domino. A game of domino can also be played with cards. Some domino sets have been printed with numbers instead of pips, which makes them easier to identify.

A renowned domino expert, Hevesh Shabnam, has created some mind-blowing domino setups. She has explained that she follows a version of the engineering-design process when creating a domino exhibit. She starts by considering the theme or purpose of an installation and then brainstorming images and words. She then creates the domino set following these ideas. This allows her to create complex designs, including intricate structures that can be tipped by other people. Some of these structures can be very tall and require the use of mechanical devices to prevent them from falling over.