What Was The Original Name of ‘Bingo’?

To win a game of Bingo a player must match numbers on a card with numbers randomly called by the caller. It’s a worldwide phenomenon and today, in North America alone, players spend well over $90 million on Bingo each week.

The game we now call ‘Bingo’ originated in Italy in the 16th century and was known as ‘Lo Guico del Lotto D’Italia’.

When the game migrated to France, it was called ‘Le Lotto’. It reached Germany in the early 1800s. Then, it rapidly spread across Europe and the rest of the world.

Worldwide Bingo

Beyond Europe, today, Bingo is played right across the world.

  • The UK has had a love affair with Bingo since the 1950s. In many towns and cities, there are sprawling entertainment venues, known as ‘Bingo Halls’, dedicated to the game. Bingo was sometimes called ‘Housey Housey’ since the covering of all numbers on a card would be called a ‘Full House’.
  • With Italian heritage, it is not surprising that Rome is another center for large Bingo games. Indeed, there are over 300 bingo halls across Italy and the 90-ball version is the most popular format.
  • In Russia, people play Bingo through interactive television from the comfort of their own homes.
  • Chinese Bingo cards use Mandarin or Pinyin characters instead of numbers.
  • Indians call Bingo Housie or Tambola.
  • The Australian Gambling Research Center has reported that Bingo is even more popular than poker across the continent.

Many people choose to play Bingo for the possibility of winning money, but a lot will play simply for the social aspect. Studies suggest Bingo players find that going to a local Bingo hall helps them to feel less bored and socially isolated than staying at home. Moreover, there are health benefits to playing Bingo beyond the social and monetary rewards.

Bingo Wings

The rather derogatory expression, ‘bingo wings’, has become commonplace in the last 30 years.

When someone raises their arm to call ‘Bingo’, the underside of the upper arm may be exposed. Most often the winner will be waving their card and the flesh under the arm may wobble. This flabby flesh is what people refer to as ‘bingo wings’.

Many women now obsess about toning this part of their bodies and personal trainers offer a whole series of exercises specifically targeting bingo wings.

Bingo or Brandy?

Etymology is the study of the history and origins of words. However, there are often conflicting explanations of how words came into our language. The word ‘Bingo’ is an interesting example.

An American dictionary from 1861 suggests the word, ‘bingo’ was slang for liquor such as brandy. A drinking game from around that time supports the suggestion.

In modern parlance, ‘bingo’ is a term often used to suggest a moment of triumph or realization. When a puzzle is solved you will hear people exclaim, ‘Bingo’. Whether that expression was adopted after the game of Bingo became established or before is an unanswered question.


In the US, Bingo was originally known as ‘Beano’. At carnivals and country fairs, a caller would draw numbered discs from a box and players would cover the numbers on their cards with beans. Once all the numbers were covered on a card the player would shout ‘Beano’ to claim their prize.

Anecdotally, it was at a carnival in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1929 that a toy salesman, Edwin Lowe, overheard someone, in their excitement, call ‘Bingo’ instead of ‘Beano’. It may simply be that Mr. Lowe misheard. Nevertheless, the modern game of Bingo was born.

How Edwin realized the American Dream

The son of an Orthodox rabbi, Edwin Lowe was a Polish immigrant to the USA.

After hearing the ‘Bingo’ call in 1929, he paid a Columbia University math professor to help him work on the number combinations on Bingo cards. A year later they had 6,000 unique combinations. This significantly reduced the chances of multiple winners in any game.

Lowe’s company sold Bingo cards across America.

A Catholic priest from Pennsylvania saw the potential to raise church funds through selling Bingo cards. Soon churches all over the country were using Bingo for primary fund-raising. Even in states where gambling was banned, Bingo was allowed as a way to raise money.

By 1934 over 10,000 games of Bingo were being played every week in the US. Today Utah and Hawaii are the only places in the US you cannot play Bingo as they have a ban on all types of gambling.

As well as producing Bingo cards, Edwin Lowe’s company developed and marketed the game Yahtzee. It is said he spotted a couple playing the game on a boat and bought the rights to it from them on the spot.

Edwin Lowe sold his company to the established Milton Bradley family-owned games company in 1973 for $26 million.

? GameBingo
➡️ Original NameLo Guico del Lotto D’Italia
Bingo’s Original Name