What does dice mean slang? An in-depth look at dice terminology and idioms

Dice have been used for gambling and games of chance for thousands of years. With this long history, it‘s no surprise that dice have worked their way into slang expressions and idioms in the English language. As a data analyst and gaming enthusiast, I thought it would be interesting to really dive into the slang meanings and metaphors related to dice.

A comprehensive overview of dice slang terms

Let‘s start with a thorough rundown of common slang uses of the word "dice":

No Dice

The phrase "no dice" means "no way" or "no chance" of something happening. Here‘s an example:

  • I asked my boss for a promotion, but he said "no dice." Looks like I won‘t be getting a raise this year.

This slang expression originated from gambling, where dice are used in many games like craps. Telling someone "no dice" was a way to refuse a proposition to gamble or indicate you didn‘t have any dice to bet with. The first recorded use of "no dice" was in the early 1900s.

Shooting Dice

"Shooting dice" refers to playing craps, a popular casino dice game. The term can also mean playing street dice games illegally. The "shooting" part refers to the motion of rolling or shooting the dice across the playing surface.

Roll the Dice

If someone says they are going to "roll the dice," it means they are taking a risky chance or gamble. This idiom comes from literally rolling physical dice and hoping for good luck. For example:

  • I decided to roll the dice and invest my savings in the stock market, even though there‘s a chance I could lose money.

Lucky Dice

"Lucky dice" are dice that are believed to bring good luck or fortune, usually because someone has won money while using them in the past. Superstitious gamblers may have a special set of dice they think are lucky charms.

Loaded Dice

"Loaded dice" are dice that have been tampered with or weighted in some way to bias them towards certain numbers coming up more frequently. It refers to cheating by manipulating dice to gain an advantage in gambling.

Dice Up

If a recipe instructs you to "dice up" an ingredient like potatoes or onions, it means to cut it into small cubes about 1/4 to 1/2 inch in size. Dicing food helps ingredients cook faster and gives a uniform size.

Dice Game

A "dice game" is any gambling game that uses dice as the main playing component. Well-known examples are craps, yahtzee, and Mexico. "Dice game" can also refer to illegal street gambling games using dice.


In the dice game Farkle, players roll 6 dice trying to score points by getting certain combinations like straights or 3-of-a-kind. Farkle can refer to the game itself or unproductively rolling without scoring – essentially losing a turn.

Many other niche dice terms

There are also some less common slang dice terms like "speed die" (a second die used in some board games to speed up gameplay), "bar dice" (dice games played in taverns), and "floating dice" (unsecured dice that move easily across a playing surface). But the expressions above cover the major vocabulary related to dice slang and metaphors.

The origins and evolution of dice slang over time

Many dice idioms originate from the early 20th century when gambling was illegal in many places. Referring to "dice" rather than specifying betting games allowed some covert communication about gambling activities. The idioms then evolved into more general slang, often related to taking risks rather than literal dice games.

For example, according to etymology research:

  • The phrase "no dice" started around 1907 from illegal gamblers who didn‘t want to get caught with physical dice.

  • "Shooting dice" likely came from the late 1800s.

  • The term "loaded dice" dates back to at least 1912.

So dice slang grew from real gambling with dice long ago. But over decades, the terminology became detached from actual dice to represent broader slang about risk, odds, and unpredictability. This sheds light on how our language develops over time.

Data and statistics on dice games and slang prevalence

Dice games are still popular today, both in casinos and for casual play. Some data points on dice games:

  • Craps generated over $1 billion in gambling revenue just in Nevada in 2022.

  • Yahtzee sold over 55 million games between 1956-2011 according to Hasbro.

  • There are thousands of mobile app versions of various dice games.

This shows that dice continue to fascinate people even in the digital age. In terms of hearing dice slang used:

  • "No dice" appeared in about 0.00003% of English books published in 2008, per Google Books data.

  • "Roll the dice" was used in around 0.00007% of 2008 English books.

  • "Shooting dice" occurred in about 0.00002% of these books.

Though not extremely common, these dice idioms appear consistently in English language books, articles, and speeches which indicates their viability as slang terms.

Dice Slang Term Approx. prevalence in English books
No dice 0.00003%
Roll the dice 0.00007%
Shooting dice 0.00002%

The psychology and meanings behind dice superstitions

Beyond gambling, dice have long been associated with chance and fate. Throwing dice seems like a random process, so they are used for divination and fortune telling in some cultures. This leads to interesting psychological aspects around dice superstitions.

Some common dice superstitions include:

  • Seven is lucky, snake eyes (double ones) is unlucky.

  • Always throw with your left hand.

  • Have a personal set of "lucky" dice.

  • Say a prayer or ritual before throwing.

These types of superstitions give people a sense of control over randomness. Dice rolls are actually pure mathematical probability, but humans desperately want to find patterns and meaning. So we project rituals and mysticism onto dice.

Anthropologists suggest superstitions and rituals around dice help reduce anxiety around uncertainty and reinforce community bonds. Humans have an aversion to true randomness and want to impose structure. Dice superstitions reveal fascinating aspects of human psychology tied to chance and probability.

My take as a data analyst on the statistics vs. psychology of dice games

As someone who works with data and statistics, I find dice interesting because of the contrast between the mathematical probabilities versus cultural meanings projected onto dice.

Rolling two six-sided dice produces a normal distribution of sums centered around 7. This is pure calculated chance. And yet people overlay all types of rituals and superstitions on dice, trying to find meaning in randomness.

I think both the statistics side and the psychological side are intriguing. The mathematically-predicted outcome distributions bring a sense of order. But the cultural lore around dice adds philosophical richness.

In my work, I aim for a balance – employing mathematical models but not losing sight of human behavior and what data points may symbolize. Dice games exemplify how numbers and stats interact with human cultures in cool ways. Both the rigor and imagination around dice offer insight on statistics, people, and the nature of chance.


In summary, while the slang terms and idioms around dice originated from physical gambling, they evolved into more metaphorical phrases about risk-taking and unpredictability. Dice also tie into fascinating psychology around imposing control and ritual onto randomness. As both a data analyst and gaming aficionado, I think dice game stats and the cultural mystique around dice complement one another. I hope this breakdown offered some interesting perspective on the linguistics, statistics, and meanings around dice in our society! Let me know if you have any other thoughts or feedback.

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