Bingo Calls and their Origins: A Brief History

If you have ever played traditional bingo at your local hall, you will most likely have come across the unique terminology that callers use to announce numbers. From the iconic two fat ladies to two little ducks, there are specific terms applied to each individual number ranging from one to 88 and many of these have become synonymous with the game over time. They also add a unique sense of fun and diversity to the game while driving enhanced levels of interaction.

Bingo Calls and their Origins


While many of these terms may be famous and even feature in modern, urban dictionaries, many of us remain unsure as to how they originated in the first instance. There are a few that have clearly defined beginnings particularly when the word ‘bingo’ itself is shrouded in a little mystery, while others have variable origins according to different sources. In terms of the former, some bingo calls are simply based in rhymes or the shape of a specific number, such as ‘snake’ (due to the physical appearance of number five) and ‘two fat ladies’ (which refers to 88).

It is those with conflicting sources that are truly fascinating, however, as they are often a trigger for debate and discussion. Take ‘Kelly’s eye’ for example, which is used to refer to number one and is often considered to have military origins. More specifically, it is believed to be an example of military slang, which emerged during the First World War among allied troops. There is a counter-argument which suggests that it may originate from the famous outlaw Ned Kelly however, while some even argue that it is taken from the music hall song ‘Has Anybody here seen Kelly?’.

How mysterious Calls drive the Bingo Industry


This type of mystery is central to the long-term success of the bingo industry, as it creates a talking point and offers an entry point through which new players can become engaged. The same can even be said for innovative bingo calls that have clearly understood origins, with the interesting moniker ‘Tom Mix’ used to describe number six and evoking memories of the famous cowboy film star.

So while the precise origins of the bingo remain relatively unknown (apart from the fact that the game first emerged in the backstreets of Italy during the 16th century, its quaint and humorous calls have become a central feature that spark debate, discourse and excitement around the world.

Last updated: Feb 9, 2023

Lillian Grey

183 Articles

Lillian Grey is a long time online bingo and slots player who started putting her thoughts down on digitial paper around 2008. Having been covering the industry for quite some time, she is able to spot the good from the bad when it comes to online bingo. An ever present at indsutry conferences and events, Lillian likes to meet fellow bingo enthusiasts to share stories and ideas, with maybe a glass of wine (or two) involved! When not covering the ever changing world of online bingo, she likes to read a good book and go for family walks in the forest.

Back to top