Traditional bingo calls and their meanings: all the number nicknames and sayings 1-90

Become a bingo caller at home with these traditional bingo calls.

If you don’t know your fat ladies from your two little ducks, eyes down for an education into the meaning and origins of some of our best-loved traditional bingo calls.

Bingo calling is all part of the fun of playing bingo. Experts will know their bingo calls inside out but if you’re a newbie, or just interested in the history behind bingo lingo, we’ve pulled together a comprehensive guide.

Over the years modern bingo calls have been devised, but this is our guide to the classics. Find out the meaning behind your best-loved traditional bingo calls below. If you’re fascinated by the game, you might also be interested to know the first form of bingo was invented in the 1500s in Italy – but rose to popularity across the UK in the 1950s. Nowadays, there are many different types of bingo – and some of the best bingo games can be played online.

Traditional bingo calls: 1-30

1. Kelly’s Eye

Like many slang expressions, the origins of this bingo call is a little uncertain. Some say Kelly’s Eye is a reference to the Australian outlaw Ned Kelly, who some believed only had one eye. In fact, Ned Kelly had two eyes –  something attested to by the death mask taken after his execution, which can be seen on display in the Melbourne Gaol Museum. It’s more likely that this famous bingo call refers to the letterbox metal helmet that Kelly fashioned as part of the makeshift armour his gang used as protection in gun fights with the lawmen. Another theory is that the number one originated from the music hall song , ‘Has Anybody Here Seen Kelly?’, popularised at the turn of the century and incorporated into the St Patrick’s Day celebrations in America.

2. One Little Duck, Me and You, Baby’s Done, Kelly’s Cousin

This is the first of the visual clues, which pop up regularly among the bingo calls. You might have noticed the written number 2 resembles One Little Duck swimming. While this is the most commonly used calls for  this number, other traditional nicknames include Cockney rhyming slang Me and You and Baby’s Done meaning baby’s done a poo, or a number two. Kelly’s Cousin may refer back to Ned Kelly’s cousin Tom Lloyd, who was a staunch supporter of the notorious Kelly Gang.

3. Cup of Tea, Goodness Me, A Flea

It’s hardly surprising, given that a quarter of us get through five or more a day, that the nation’s favourite drink a Cup of Tea remains among our most enduring bingo calls. Goodness Me is a shortening of the saying, “goodness gracious me”, which in term comes from the phrase “God grace me”. While Lady Luck may have a part to play in one’s bingo fortunes, it’s our guess that our Lord may have more important matters to attend to. A Flea is a visual reference. Apparently a flea on its side resembles the number 3.

4. Knock at the Door 

A simple rhyme.

5. Man Alive, One Little Snake

Man Alive” is used as an expression of disbelief or incredulity. It is thought that it originally arose as a nautical cry used by sailors to alert their crew members when finding someone alive in a shipwreck. Much like number 2 being a duck, One Little Snake is another visual reference to the number’s appearance.

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6. Tom Mix, Chopsticks, Spot Below

Tom Mix was a star of the silver screen whose daredevil stunts, handsome good looks and impressive 10 gallon hat made him the first cowboy hero of the silent western movies. Chopsticks is another rhyme, this time with the East-Asian eating utensils or – given the musical tradition of bingo calls – perhaps The Celebrated Chop Waltz aka Chopsticks, the favoured tune first mastered by most beginner piano students. Spot Below refers to the fact that numbers that could be mis-read had a dot or spot underneath to prevent confusion. In this case, so a six isn’t mistaken for a number nine.

7. Lucky Number Seven

The Lucky Number Seven is thought to bring good fortune in cultures around the world, something born out of religious belief and symbolism. In the Judaic religions, God created the world and on the 7th day he rested. Seven levels of heaven are spoken of in the Qu’ran and Hindus believe in seven higher worlds and seven underworlds. In Buddhism, the newborn Buddha rose and took seven steps. In bingo it means one square closer to a full house.

8. Garden Gate, Harry Tate, One Fat Lady

Garden Gate is a simple rhyme. Harry Tate was an old music hall comedian whose name entered the lexicon of Cockney slang, initially meaning late, because of Harry’s repertoire of comedy routines about car breakdowns. By around the mid-1915, Harry Tate began to serve as slang for plate. One Fat Lady is a visual gag referring to the fact that the number 8 resembles the form of an overweight lady.

9. Doctor’s Orders 

Doctors Order is one from military history. Apparently 9pm was when the army medics shut up shop for the night. Another suggestion is that the number nine was army slang for a laxative, which was administered to the troops to help them stay regular.

10. Blind 10, Johnson’s Den, Cock ‘n’ Hen’

The prefix ‘blind’ is also used for the numbers 10, 20, 30 – 90 and is possibly a visual reference to zero looking like a single eye. Number 10 Downing Street remains the inspiration for this enduring bingo call, which changed according to the PM of the day. Cock ‘n’ Hen is Cockney rhyming slang for ten. 

11. Legs Eleven 

A visual joke, which was traditionally greeted with a wolf whistle from the players, something no longer considered PC.

12. One Dozen, A Monkey’s Cousin

This one does what it says on the tin. A Monkey’s Cousin is rhyming slang for dozen.

13. Unlucky for Some 

Just as number seven is feted as the world’s luckiest, so the number 13 is seen as a number loaded with bad fortune, and so Unlucky for Some. Such can be the fear of the number 13, that it is even a recognised phobia known as triskaidekaphobia. 

14. Valentines Day, Lawnmower

February 14th is Valentine’s Day. The meaning behind the bingo call Lawnmower is a bit obscure but apparently, before electric mowers were a twinkle in a Flymo engineer’s eye, the early push-pull lawnmowers operated with 14-inch blades.

15. Young and Keen 

A simple rhyme.

16. Sweet Sixteen, Never Been Kissed

This is one of the oldest bingo calls still in current use, possibly because the song it pays tribute entitled Sweet Sixteen and Never Been Kissed was re-recorded over and over from 1900 to 1981 and performed by the likes of Shirley Temple and Val Doonican.

17. Old Ireland

This refers to St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Old Ireland, which falls on March 17th.

18. Coming of Age 

Voting rights were first established for 18 year-olds in 1970. Prior to that you needed to be 21 to exercise your democratic rights. Nowadays, 18 is seen as a Coming of Age milestone, as it’s the age people can also legally drink. 

19. Goodbye-Teens 

Hello roaring twenties and Goodbye-Teens.

20. Blind 20, One Score 

One Score means 20. The word score was a term once used by shepherds to count their livestock, it’s believe they’d count to 20 and then mark a score on their stick so they wouldn’t lose count.

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21. Key to the Door, Royal Salute

Everyone knows the famous ditty “I’ve got the Key to the Door/Never been 21 before.” Twenty-one was considered the age at which young adults reached maturity and could be trusted with their own set of front door keys. The Royal Salute used to honour The Queen is also known as the 21 gun salute.

22. All the Twos, Two Little Ducks, PC Parker, Dinkie Doo

Two Little Ducks again is a visual call with number 2 resembling a duck. This call is traditionally responded to with a “quack, quack, quack” from players. PC Parker was a favourite music hall character created by comedian Charles Austin who was also known as the “King of Cockney Humour”.  A Dinkie Doo was the name given to concert parties held at the end of a pier.

23. Thee and Me, The Lord Is My Shepherd, A Duck With a Flea, 

Thee and Me is a simple rhyme. The Lord is My Shepherd is the first line of Psalm 23,  while A Duck With a Flea brings together the earlier visual calls.

24. Two Dozen

12 + 12 = 24, literally adding up Two Dozen. This number also used to have the traditional call ‘Pompey’s Whore’ but this reference to prostitutes working the Portsmouth docks has fallen out of favour for obvious reasons.

25. Duck and Dive 

This is a rhyme with a pun with a visual reference thrown in for good measure. The number two is the duck and the number five resembles an upside down duck. To Duck and Dive, like bobbing and weaving seems to have originated in the boxing ring, before moving into the general vernacular to describe someone good at hustling and keeping out of trouble. 

26. Pick ‘n Mix, Half a Crown, Bed and Breakfast

Pick ‘n’ Mix refers to the self service weigh out sweets that became synonymous with high street favourite, Woolworths. Nothing stirs up modern day nostalgia quite like the mention of Woolies and anyone of a certain age probably has fond childhood memories of their first pick n mix encounter. Half a Crown was two shillings and sixpence (two and six) in old money, which was supposedly the price of a night in a Bed and Breakfast. It was demoneterised on 1st January 1970.

27. Gateway to Heaven, Duck and a Crutch

Gateway to Heaven, a reference to the pearly gates, is another straight rhyme. A Duck with a Crutch’ is a visual reference with the number seven being thought to resemble the crutch.

28. Over Weight, The Old Braggs, In a State

Over Weight is both a simple rhyme and a visual gag given that number 8 is affectionately known as the fat lady. The Old Braggs was a nickname given to the 28th North Gloucestershire Regiment of Foot, a military troop that dates back to 1694. Two and eight is cockney slang for “In a State“.

29. Rise and Shine 

A simple rhyme

30. Blind 30, Dirty Gertie, Burlington Bertie, Speed Limit

Burlington Bertie is a famous music hall number. Dirty Gertie from Bizerte who “put a mousetrap up her skirts” was a bawdy song first published in Yank magazine and sung by Allied soldiers during the Second  War. ‘Dirty Gertie from number 30’ was also made famous by Basil Brush, the loveable TV puppet show which ran from 1963 to 1984.  Speed Limit, refers to the thirty mile per hour limit which came into force in built-up areas back in 1935. 

Bing calls

(Photo by: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Traditional bingo calls: 31-60

31. Get up and Run

A simple rhyme.

32. Buckle my Shoe

Another rhyme.

33. Blind Thirty, All the Threes, Three Feathers, Gertie Lee, Dirty Knee, ‘Sherwood Forest’, Two Little Fleas 

Three Feathers refers to the Prince of Wales. Gertie Lee is rhyming slang for 33. Sherwood Forest is a play on words. Said with an Irish accent “All the Threes” becomes “All the Trees”, of which many are to be found in Sherwood Forest. Two Little Fleas is the visual reference of the number three, explained earlier.

34. Ask for More 

A simple rhyme.

35. Jump and Jive 

The Jive, a version of the American jitterbug, became a popular dance craze in the 1940s and 50s. 

36. Three Dozen

3 x 12 = 36.

37. More than Eleven

A simple rhyme.

38. Christmas Cake

A slightly tenuous rhyme.

39. Steps, Jack Benny

Steps is a reference to the John Buchan novel & Alfred Hitchcock film ‘The Thirty Nine Steps’. Jack Benny was a successful American comedian who started out working life as mediocre violin player in vaudeville before carving a successful career in film and radio which spanned over a decade. His running gag was that he was perpetually 39 years old.

40. Blind Forty, Naughty Forty, Life Begins, Two Scores

Life Begins at Forty” is a popular and enduring saying from the 1930s, following the publication of a bestselling American self help book of the same title by university professor W. B. Pitkin.

41. Time for Fun, Life’s Begun

Another further reference to that old adage ‘‘Life Begins at 40″.

42. Winnie the Pooh, The Street in Manhattan

Winnie the Pooh is everyone’s favourite bear immortalised in the classic books by A A Milne. The Street in Manhattan is 42nd Street which was also the title of a 1933 musical comedy starring Ginger Rogers.

43. Down on your Knee

A simple rhyme.

44. All the Fours, Droopy Drawers,

A simple rhyme. Droopy Drawers means your pants are falling down. This could be a bawdy reference to the other bingo call for 44, ‘Aldershot Whores’, which has understandably fallen out of fashion.

45. Halfway There, Cowboy’s Friend 

Halfway There literally means to 90, which is the total of number of squares on the bingo card. Cowboy’s Friend refers to the Colt 45 revolver.

46. Up to Tricks 

A simple rhyme.

47. Four and Seven 

Not a lot of explanation required here.

48. Four Dozen 

4 x 12 = 48

49. Rise and Shine, PC 49, Copper, Nick-Nick

Rise and Shine is a simple rhyme. PC 49 refers to a popular radio show from the 1940s and 50s whose central character was Police Constable Archibald Berkeley-Willoughby – P.C. 49. This is also the source of ‘Copper’, which is a  slang expression for a policeman and ‘Nick-Nick’ is being arrested. Things escalate fast in bingo.

50. Blind 50, Half a Century, It’s a Bullseye

50 being half of 100, is Half a Century – and 50 points being the score for hitting the middle dart board, It’s a Bullseye.

51. Tweak of the Thumb, The Highland Div

Tweak of the Thumb is a simple rhyme which has a similar meaning to “in the blink of an eye”. The Highland Division is a military reference to the the 51st Infantry Division.

52. Weeks of the Year, The Lowland Div, Deck of Cards

Well, we all know there are 52 Weeks of the Year. The Lowland Div, like the call before, refers to the 52nd Infantry Division and there are 52 cards in Deck of Cards.

53. Stuck in the Tree, The Welsh Div

Stuck in the Tree is another straight rhyme. The Welsh Div is the 53rd Army Division.

54. Clean the Floor 

A simple rhyme.

55. Snakes Alive 

If the number five is One Little Snake it’s no surprise that 55 is Snakes Alive, making this the double whammy of a visual gag and a rhyme.

56. Shotts Bus, Was She Worth It

Shotts Bus was the number 56 bus which went from Glasgow to Shotts in Lanarkshire, a town midway between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Was She Worth refers to the cost of a marriage licence which, back in the 1950s, would set you back five shillings and a sixpence.

57. Heinz Varieties 

Heinz 57, also a slang expression for a mongrel dog, refers to the number 57 seen on the brand’s ketchup bottles, which refers to the number of different products in their range.

58. Make Them Wait, Choo Choo Thomas

Make Them Wait is a simple rhyme. A truly traditional bingo call, ‘Choo Choo Thomas’ is a reference to Thomas the Tank Engine, who first appeared in the famous books by the Reverend Wilbert Awdry in 1945. Although modern readers may think of the little steam train as being the number one engine, he actually started his career further down the pecking order as engine number 58.

59. Brighton Line 

Route 59 nine was the train line day trippers took out of London when heading for Brighton and the South Coast

60. Blind 60, Five Dozen, Grandma’s Getting Frisky

12 x 5 = 60. Grandma’s Getting Frisky’ is a simple rhyme but one that may spark alarm in younger bingo players as they cast their eye over their blue rinse competition!

Traditional bingo calls

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Bingo lingo: 61-90

61. Bakers Bun 

A simple rhyme

62. Turn of the Screw, To Waterloo, Tickety Boo, 

Turn of the Screw is a book by Henry James about demonically possessed children. The phrase has a similar meaning to ‘tightening the noose’ (and also rhymes with 62).  To Waterloo is a naval term which, contrary to expectation, does not allude to the famous battle. Instead it refers to the cost of the train fare of 6/2 from Portsmouth to Waterloo station. Tickety Boo is a military phrase which is thought to have come from England’s colonial past in India with the Hindi phrase tickee babu translates as everything’s alright sir”.

63. Tickle Me 

A simple rhyme.

64. Red Raw, Almost Retired

Red Raw is a simple rhyme. Almost Retired refers to the fact that 65 was the age at which men could claim their state pension.

65. Old Age Pension 

Oh the good old days when you could retire at 65.

66. Clickety Click 

A simple rhyme.

67. Made in Heaven, The Argumentative Number, Stairway to Heaven

A simple rhyme. The Argumentative Number comes from the phrase “at sixes and sevens” meaning to be in a state of confusion. Stairway to Heaven is a simple rhyme.

68. Pick a Mate, Saving Grace 

A simple rhyme.

69. Either Way Up, Meal for Two

Bawdy sex position innuendo.

70. Blind 70, Three Score & Ten 

3 x 6 + 10 = 70

71. Bang on the Drum 

A simple rhyme

72. Six Dozen, Par for the Course

6 x 12 = 72

72 is also the standard par for a championship golf course.

73. Queen Bee

A simple rhyme

74. Candy Store 

A simple rhyme.

75. Strive & Strive 

A simple rhyme.

76. Trombones

“Seventy-six trombones led the big parade” according to the famous 1950s Broadway musical  ‘The Music Man’. One of the first traditional bingo calls. 

77. All the Sevens, Two Little Crutches

Another visual reference.

78. Heavens Gate 

A simple rhyme.

79. One More Time 

A simple rhyme.

80. Blind 80, Ate Nothing, Eight & Blank, Gandhi’s Breakfast

Gandhi’s Breakfast is a visual reference. The 8 is supposed to look like Gandhi sitting crossed leg in front of an empty plate alluding to the fact that when he fasted he ate nothing (80).

81. Stop & Run, Fat Lady With a Walking Stick

Stop and Run‘ implies legging it from the police and links with the advice in number 82 which seems to suggests crashing the lights. Fat Lady With a Walking Stick, is a recurring visual joke with the number eight ‘fat lady’ and her walking aid.

82. Straight On Through 

A simple rhyme.

83. Time for Tea, Ethel’s Ear

Time for Tea rhymes, whereas Ethel’s Ear is a somewhat obscure visual gag with the number 8 representing a fat lady, who has been dubbed Ethel, the 3 is meant to resemble her ear.

84. Seven Dozen 

7 x 12. = 84

85. Staying Alive 

A simple rhyme.

86. Between the Sticks 

This one refers to the position of the goalie in football standing between the goal posts.

87. Torquay in Devon 

A simple – and accurate – rhyme. 

88. All the Eights, Two Fat Ladies, Connaught Rangers

Two Fat Ladies is a visual gag to which players are meant to respond: “Wobble, wobble”. The Connaught Rangers were the 88th Army Regiment of Foot.

89. Nearly There 

Just one more to go. 

90. Top of the Shop, End of the Line

And there we have it, the last number on the card.

Got all that? Remember all these bingo calls and your bingo lingo will be world class.

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