any of various games played on a sloping, glass-topped table presenting a field of colorful, knoblike target pins and rails, the object usually being to shoot a ball, driven by a spring, up a side passage and cause it to roll back down against these projections and through channels, which electrically flash or ring and record the score.
as a type of game, 1907, from pin (n.) + ball (n.1). Originally of types of open-air bowling and basketball variation where the goal was to knock down a pin or pins. Earlier still it meant "pin-cushion." The tabletop pin-ball machine is attested from 1937.
also pin-ball, game played on a sloping surface, 1911, from pin (n.) + ball (n.1). Earlier it meant "a pincushion" (1803).