Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Idioms, Wikipedia.


a game in which marbles are rolled at one another, similar to bowls


In past times Ash Wednesday kicked off the English marbles season. Throughout Lent men and boys played competitive marble games with one another. The marbles season ended on Good Friday, which was known as Marble Day in Surrey and Sussex, regions where the game was particularly popular. After that time anyone caught playing marbles might be forced to forfeit them. Some researchers believe that the practice of playing marbles on Good Friday may have come from Holland or Belgium. At least one writer suspects that the game of dice that the Roman soldiers played at the foot of the cross (Mark 15:24, Luke 23:35, John 19:24) inspired the association between marbles and Good Friday.

The village of Tinsley Green, near Crawley in Sussex, hosts a marbles championship every year on Good Friday. The competition dates back to the year 1600, when, according to legend, a local girl convinced her suitors to compete for her favor by playing a game of marbles. Today the tournament winner is declared the "Champion of Great Britain" and receives a silver cup.

Further Reading

Harrowven, Jean. Origins of Festivals and Feasts. London, England: Kaye and Ward, 1980. Hole, Christina. British Folk Customs. London, England: Hutchinson and Company, 1976. Howard, Alexander. Endless Cavalcade. London, England: Arthur Barker, 1964.


(From the mainstream "lost his marbles") The minimum needed to build your way further up some hierarchy of tools or abstractions. After a bad system crash, you need to determine if the machine has enough marbles to come up on its own, or enough marbles to allow a rebuild from backups, or if you need to rebuild from scratch. "This compiler doesn't even have enough marbles to compile hello, world."
References in classic literature ?
This Marble Is here placed by their surviving Shipmates.
I moved along the passage between the dead wall and the black-and- white marble elevation of the staircase with hushed footsteps, as though there had been a mortally sick person somewhere in the house.
An octagonal table, formed altogether of the richest gold-threaded marble, is placed near one of the sofas.
He had not been inside the Museum, actually, since he and Hilda used to meet there; sometimes to set out for gay adventures at Twickenham or Richmond, sometimes to linger about the place for a while and to ponder by Lord Elgin's marbles upon the lastingness of some things, or, in the mummy room, upon the awful brevity of others.
It was nevertheless greatly admired by ignorant travellers of all classes; partly on account of its imposing size, and partly on account of the number of variously-coloured marbles which the sculptor had contrived to introduce into his design.
I traded for postage-stamps, for minerals, for curios, for birds' eggs, for marbles (I had a more magnificent collection of agates than I have ever seen any boy possess--and the nucleus of the collection was a handful worth at least three dollars, which I had kept as security for twenty cents I loaned to a messenger-boy who was sent to reform school before he could redeem them).
Upon the mantels, and on many shelves and brackets and tables, were clustered ornaments of every description, seemingly made out of all sorts of metals, glass, china, stones and marbles.
Cleaned for the first time in her life, fed sufficiently for the first time in her life, dressed in clothes instead of rags for the first time in her life, Mercy's sister in adversity crept fearfully over the beautiful carpet, and stopped wonder-struck before the marbles of an inlaid table--a blot of mud on the splendor of the room.
Not confining himself to theory, or permitting his faculties to rust, even at that early age, in mere abstract speculations, this promising lad commenced usurer on a limited scale at school; putting out at good interest a small capital of slate-pencil and marbles, and gradually extending his operations until they aspired to the copper coinage of this realm, in which he speculated to considerable advantage.
Two thousand summers have imparted to the monuments of Grecian literature, as to her marbles, only a maturer golden and autumnal tint, for they have carried their own serene and celestial atmosphere into all lands to protect them against the corrosion of time.
The peeled white body of the beheaded whale flashes like a marble sepulchre; though changed in hue, it has not perceptibly lost anything in bulk.
Two women-servants came out with pails and brooms and brushes, and gave the sidewalk a thorough scrubbing; meanwhile two others scrubbed the four marble steps which led up to the door; beyond these we could see some men-servants taking up the carpet of the grand staircase.