Mah Jong Definitions

Relevant Terms


When playing Mah Jong, one will encounter a variety of terminology. Below are explanations for most of it.


Bamboos
n. The most common name for one of the three suits in Mah Jong. Same as Sticks, Bones
Bones
n. Another name for Bamboos
Characters
n. The usual western name for one of the three suits in Mah Jong. Same as Kraks, Ten Thousands
Chow
n. A run or straight of three tiles in the same suit
Circles
n. The usual western name for one of the three suits in Mah Jong. Same as Coins, Plates, Disks, Moons
Coins
n. Another name for Circles
Colors
n. A classification of tiles consisting of three tiles. They are red, green, and white, bearing the characters chung, fat, and bo (or often none at all in the last case), respectively. Generally called Dragons by westerners.
Concealed
adj. Describing a meld completed entirely with tiles drawn from the wall.
Dead Hand
n. A hand in which no one completes a winning hand before all tiles except the Dead Wall have been drawn. The round ends then with no winner.
Dead Wall
n. The last fourteen tiles in the Wall, separated from the rest of the wall. These may not be drawn normally. See also Loose Tile, Dead Hand
Disks
n. Another name for Circles
Double
n. A set of conditions either with respect to how a hand was completed or the tiles within it that entitles the player holding it to double their points. Doubles are cumulative, and can result in ludicrous scores in excess of 25 million, so there is a Limit.
Dragons
n. A western misnomer for the three tiles more correctly classed as Colors. These tiles bear a red chung, a green fat, and the third varies. It is referred to as white, though it can be blank or have a rectangular pattern, and is sometimes known by the character of bo.
Exposed
adj. Describing a meld completed with a tile that another player discarded. Same as Open (preferred).
Flowers
n. Four special, nonidentical tiles, each associated with one Wind. The are set aside as soon as drawn, replaced with a Loose Tile. They are not used in melds, but do give points and possibly Doubles. There exists another set of almost identical tiles called Seasons.
Going Out
n. To win the round by having four Chows, Pungs, and/or Kongs, and a pair of identical tiles.
Honors
n. A classification of tiles consisting of all Winds and Colors (Dragons). Groups of these tiles are generally worth more points.
Kong
n. Four identical tiles. When a player completes a Kong, it is placed on the table, with the two middle tiles face-down if it was a Concealed one. The player then draws a Loose Tile, and discards normally. Open Kongs may be Robbed to complete a winning hand.
Kraks
n. Another name for Characters
Limit
n. The maximum amount of points a player may win in a single round, agreed upon before the game, and typically set to between 500 and 1500. As usual, East can win (or lose!) twice this amount. Some special hands are agreed upon beforehand to be automatically worth the Limit.
Loose Tile
n. The last two tiles in the Dead Wall. When the Dead Wall is set up, six stacks of two tiles each are separated slightly from the main wall. Another stack is taken up, and the tiles are placed on top of the last and third-to-last stacks of the dead wall. Loose tiles are drawn when someone draws a Flower or Season, or completes a Kong. If both are drawn, take up a new stack from the rear of the wall and replenish the loose tiles. Thus, the Dead Wall may have fourteen or thirteen tiles at any given point in the game.
Major Tiles
n. A classification of tiles consisting of all Honors and Terminals. Generally worth more in scoring combinations.
Minor Tiles
n. A classification of tiles consisting of the 2 through 8 in any suit. Also known as Simple Tiles.
Moons
n. Another name for Circles
Open
adj. Describing a meld completed with a tile that another player discarded. Same as Exposed.
Plates
n. Another name for Circles
Prevailing Wind
n. A Wind that starts with East and changes every four hands, once the original East is East again. When the winds have gone around (i.e. the original East is East again, and the prevailing wind is again East), the game ends. (Although addicts are allowed to start up another game, of course!) Tiles of the Prevailing Wind as well as of a player's own Wind are worth more in melds.
Pung
n. Three identical tiles, sometimes transliterated as Pong instead.
Robbing a Kong
v. Taking the fourth tile from an Open Kong to complete a winning hand.
Seasons
n. Four special, nonidentical tiles, each associated with one Wind. The are set aside as soon as drawn, replaced with a Loose Tile. They are not used in melds, but do give points and possibly Doubles. There exists another set of almost identical tiles called Flowers.
Simple Tiles
n. A classification of tiles consisting of the 2 through 8 in any suit. Also known as Minor Tiles.
Sticks
n. Another name for Bamboos
Ten Thousands
n. Another name for Characters
Terminals
n. A classification of tiles consisting of the 1s and 9s from any suit.
Wall
n. The setup of tiles into a four sided square from which they are drawn during play.
Winds
n. A classification of tiles consisting of the tiles bearing the characters representing east, west, north, and south. Each player is associated with a wind, which changes every hand. East is the dealer.


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