I was reading an article Euroland: Will the Netherlands be the next domino to fall? and got surprised by the usage of domino in the title, since it is used to mention a single piece of this game.

I had always assumed that domino is the game, while every piece of it is called domino tile.

Dictionaries say:

domino. noun, plural dominoes.

1. a flat, thumbsized, rectangular block, the face of which is divided into two parts, each either blank or bearing from one to six pips or dots: 28 such pieces form a complete set.

2. dominoes, (used with a singular verb) any of various games played with such pieces, usually by matching the ends of pieces and laying the dominoes down in lines and angular patterns.

So both definitions seem to be valid. However, is there any "default" meaning of it or will it be determined by the context?

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    This US English speaker has always thought of the individual piece as a domino and the game as dominoes, which seems to match what you found in the dictionary, although it's possible the usage differs in other dialects. Domino tile seems stilted and overly formal. – stangdon Mar 9 '17 at 13:20
  • @stangdon I was probably influenced by my mother tongue, Spanish, where domino just refers to the game, while domino in the sense of pices are called "pieza de dómino" (that is, domino piece). Thanks for your insight! – fedorqui Mar 9 '17 at 13:54

Domino tiles are frequently referred to just as dominoes and a single tile as a domino. It's a common verbal shorthand.

As you are probably aware, it is possible to set up long lines of dominoes, with the tiles standing on edge, close to one another - and then, by knocking over an end tile, to cause all of the other tiles to collapse in sequence - the so-called domino effect.

The decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union is regarded by some people as the toppling of the end domino. It's not necessary to speak about the first domino tile. Domino is adequate for understanding.

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