Bingo Calls

If you’ve ever played bingo in the UK, you will have heard the caller following up the numbers with distinctive nicknames. You might hear references to little ducks and cups of tea, and wonder where these phrases come from.

How Bingo Began

Bingo has its origins in Lo Gioco del Lotto D’Italia, the original Italian lottery first played in 1530. The game evolved throughout Europe into the 1800s, then travelled over to the United States of America with early migrants, and became popular in the early 1900s.

In 1929, toy salesman Edwin S. Lowe saw ‘Beano’, as it was then called, being played at a carnival in Georgia. Back at home in New York it caught on with his friends. During one particularly exciting game someone called out “Bingo” instead of “Beano” and the name stuck.

The history of bingo calling dates to the re-importation of the game to the UK in the 1950s. Housey Housey, a version of Bingo played by servicemen during World War Two, was very popular, and many bingo call nicknames have origins in military terms, rhymes and slightly bawdy jokes.

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A Complete List of Bingo Numbers and Sayings

Bingo calls are a combination of rhyming slang, puns, and cheeky phrases that relate to particular numbers. Originally the process of drawing out the balls with the numbers on was quite time consuming, so the calls are designed to liven up the process and engage the players in the game, some even have response calls!

Here’s a complete list of bingo calls that you might hear in UK bingo:


NumberBingo Call
1Kelly's Eye
2One Little Duck
3Cup of Tea
4Knock at the Door
5Man Alive
6Half a Dozen - Tom Mix
7Lucky Seven
8Garden Gate
9Doctor's Order
10(Prime Minister)'s Den
11Legs Eleven
12One Dozen
13Unlucky for Some
14Valentine's Day
15Young and Keen
16Sweet Sixteen and Never Been Kissed
17Dancing Queen
18Coming of Age
19Goodbye Teens
20One Score
21Royal Salute - Key of the Door
22Two Little Ducks
23Thee and Me
24Two Dozen
25Duck and Dive
26Pick and Mix
27Gateway to Heaven
28In a State - Overweight
29Rise and Shine
30Dirty Gertie
31Get up and Run
32Buckle my Shoe
33Dirty Knee - All the Threes - Fish, Chips and Peas
34Ask for More
35Jump and Jive
36Three Dozen
37More than Eleven
38Christmas Cake
3939 Steps
40Life Begins
41Time for Fun
43Down on your Knees
44Droopy Drawers
45Halfway There
46Up to Tricks
47Four and Seven
48Four Dozen
50Half a Centry
51Tweak of the Thumb
52Danny La Rue
53Here Comes Herbie - Stuck in a Tree
54Clean the Floor
55Snakes Alive
56Shotts Bus
57Heinz Varieties
58Make them Wait
59Brighton Line
60Five Dozen
61Baker's Bun
62Turn the Screw - Tickety-Boo
63Tickle Me Sixty Three
64Red Raw
65Old Age Pension
66Clickety Click
67Stairway to Heaven
68Saving Grace
69Favourite of Mine
70Three Score and Ten
71Bang on the Drum
72Six Dozen
73Queen Bee
74Hit the Floor
75Strive and Strive
77Sunset Strip
7839 More Steps
79One More Time
80Eight and Blank - Older callers might use 'Ghandi's Breakfast' -"Ate Nothing"!
81Stop and Run
82Straight on Through
83Time for Tea
84Seven Dozen
85Staying Alive
86Between the Sticks
87Torquay in Devon
88Two Fat Ladies
89Nearly There
90Top of the Shop


Funny Bingo Calls

Some bingo calls come from words which rhyme with the number in question.

So number 10 becomes “Boris’s Den” or indeed whoever the Prime Minister happens to be at the time, both rhyming with ten and referring to Number Ten Downing Street, the London address of the UK Prime Minister.

Number 17, Dancing Queen, is not only a rhyme for the number but a reference to the lyrics of the Abba song, Dancing Queen, “You are the Dancing Queen, young and sweet, only seventeen.”

Dirty Gertie is used for the number 30, and refers to a bawdy song, Dirty Gertie from Bizerte, sung by allied troops in North Africa during the Second World War. Some callers might use Burlington Bertie, recalling another song from the Music Hall era, Burlington Bertie from Bow.

Other Interesting Bingo Calls

Some bingo calls are not purely based on rhymes; some bring to mind popular associations of particular numbers.

For instance, 39 Steps, from the 1915 novel The Thirty Nine Steps by John Buchan that has been the basis for several feature films.

Shotts Bus, 56, is perhaps less well known to those outside Scotland, 56 being the one-time number of the bus route from Glasgow to Shotts in North Lanarkshire.

Similarly, Brighton Line is a rhyme for 59. The Brighton Line being the one running to the seaside town from Victoria Station, memorably mentioned in Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest.

Two fat ladies is based on the shape of the number eights that make up 88.

History of Bingo Calls

A number of bingo nicknames have their origins in mid-twentieth century military slang.

Number 9, Doctor’s Orders, supposedly comes from the slang term for a laxative pill given to troops.

Number 1, Kelly’s Eye, has cloudier origins – some sources point to a comic strip in boy’s adventure comic Valiant, published between 1962 and 1976, where the character Kelly possessed a magic amulet in the shape of an eye.

Many of the references come from the 1950s and 1960s. 76 Trombones, after the song from the 1957 musical The Music Man, and 77 Sunset Strip, which name checks the television detective series of that era.

Bingo calls help to clarify all 90 numbers, making it easier to tell numbers apart if you’re far away from the caller.

Bingo Call in Online Bingo

As bingo is played in pubs, coffee shops and online, regional variations in bingo nicknames filter into the game. In online bingo, players are able to chat to each other about the game, and their own original or funny bingo nickname variations are spread and popularised.

Whether you are playing online bingo, in a pub or in a bingo hall, these nicknames help make the game fun to play and it remains one of the most popular gambling games in the world.

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