Historically, the term domino comes from two different meanings. It was first used to refer to a hooded cape worn by monks and priests, but later it was associated with a masquerade mask. The word domino was first recorded in 1771 in the Dictionnaire de Trevoux, a French dictionary. It may have also come from a Latin word, dominus.
When playing a traditional game of dominoes, the players take turns picking dominoes from stock. The number of tiles in the stock depends on the number of players, but the majority of dominoes in the game are double-sided, with each end containing a number. The first domino in the hand is normally a double-six, which can be played in any direction. The next domino is played to the right of a double-six. The fourth tile is played with open ends of a 5 and 4. The fifth is played to the right of a 5-5.
The game has several variations, but the most basic is the block game for two players. In this variant, each player draws seven tiles from a double-six set. In this case, the winner is the team with the least spots on its dominoes. This is achieved by awarding pips to the opposing player’s tiles. Unlike Chinese dominoes, European dominoes do not have suit distinctions. The tiles are made of dark hardwood, like ebony, and are usually ivory or bone. Traditionally, European dominoes have ivory faces.
Another version of the game is the Inuit game, in which the players use animal bones instead of tiles. It may have been inspired by the Western games, as the Inuit also played with bones. This type of game is very similar to the Western dominoes. Unlike the European dominoes, however, Inuit dominoes are usually made with a lighter hardwood like rosewood. The tiles are usually rounded off on one side to protect the tabletop.
The Western dominoes were made of ivory for the rich and bone for the commoner. Because of the ivory trade ban, ivory dominoes are illegal. However, vegetable ivory is made from tagua nut and is considered to be the same material as ivory. Most of the dominoes found in Europe in the 18th century were made of bone. The game spread to France in the mid-18th century. Some scholars believe that French prisoners of war brought dominoes to England.
By the late 18th century, dominoes were popular in England. Some craftsmen of that time abandoned the animal bones for bone material. This was due to the high flammability of the bone material. In the early 1860s, dominoes began appearing in American literature. They were also distributed by tobacco companies. Tobacco companies often gave away sets with their logo on the front.
During the late 18th and early 19th century, dominoes were also made of bakelite. This was made by L.H. Bakeland in 1917. Until the 1950s, bakelite was used for dominoes and chessmen. The material was originally made from albumen from eggs, but later it was made from blood, ebony or rosewood sawdust.