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Large and miniature Western rubber diabolos. These two models are the Jumbo Harlequin and Arlekino, both manufactured by Swiss juggling company Mister Babache. Wooden sticks with are shown in the background.

The diabolo (commonly misspelled as diablo) is a juggling prop consisting of an axle and two cups or discs. This object is spun using a string attached to two hand sticks. A huge variety of tricks are possible using the diabolo which can include throws, various types of spinning and interactions with the sticks, string, and various body parts. Multiple diabolos can be spun on a single string.

Diabolos come in different shapes and materials.

History and etymology[edit]

1812 illustration of woman with diabolo

Diabolos evolved from the Chinese yo-yo, which was originally standardized in the 12th century.[citation needed] chinese yo-yos have a long thin axle, with disc-shaped wheels, while the western diabolo is more cone-shaped. Diabolos are made of different materials and come in different sizes and weights.

The term "diabolo" was not taken from the Italian word for "devil"—"diavolo"—but was coined by French engineer Gustave Phillippart, who developed the modern diabolo in the early twentieth century,[1] and derived the name from the Greek dia bolo, roughly meaning 'across throw'.

The Greek word "diabolos" means "the liar" or "the one that commits perjury", from the verb "diaballo", which means "to throw in", "to generate confusion", "to divide", or "to make someone fall". Later the word "diabolos" was used by Christian writers as "the liar that speaks against God". From this meaning come many modern languages' words for "devil" (French: diable, Italian: diavolo, Spanish: diablo, Portuguese: diabo, German: Teufel, Polish: diabeł).

Confusion about the provenance of the name may have arisen from the earlier name "the devil on two sticks", although nowadays this often also refers to another circus-based skill toy, the devil stick.


The design of diabolos has varied through history and across the world. Chinese diabolos have been made of bamboo. Wooden diabolos were common in Victorian times in Britain. Rubber diabolos were first patented by Gustave Phillippart in 1905. [2] In the late twentieth century a rubberised plastic material was first used. Metal has also been used especially for fire diabolos.

The size and weight of diabolos varies. Diabolos with more weight tend to retain their momentum for longer, whereas small, light diabolos can be thrown higher and are easier to accelerate to high speeds. Rubber diabolos are less prone to breakage yet are more prone to deformations. More commonly used are plastic-rubber hybrids that allow flex but hold their shape. One-sided diabolos are also available but are more difficult to use. For beginners diabolos of a diameter of min 9 cm are recommended.

Basic principles[edit]

The most basic act of diabolo manipulation is to cause the spool to spin while it is suspended from the string. This is commonly achieved by dragging the string across the axle in such a way that the friction causes the spool to roll. By repeatedly lifting one of the handsticks while providing slack with the other the speed of rotation of the spool can be increased as the spool "rolls" down the string. The lifting hand is typically the user's dominant hand. This method is known as acceleration.

Further increases in speed are obtained by a variety of techniques, including power whips; accelerations, such as Chinese wip thrusts and loop acceleration; power burners; and orbit tricks.

Once speed is built up, the diaboloist typically performs a routine based on various advanced tricks outlined below. The best diaboloists can work these tricks smoothly and also accelerate keeping the diabolo in a constant motion without having to pause to speed up the spin again. The diabolo will stay balanced as long as there is speed.

Tricks and styles[edit]

Fundamental tricks[edit]

The following are considered fundamental/basic Diabolo tricks[citation needed]

Name Description
Toss/High toss The diabolo is thrown (high) in the air and then caught without missing. This trick can be varied in different ways. The diabolist can do a pirouette or a skip over the string while the diabolo is in the air.
Trapeze/stopover The right stick hits the left string making the diabolo swing over the right stick and land on the string.
Cats cradle In this trick, you start with the trapeze, then put your left stick in between the first and third string. Then throw the diabolo in the air, and while you do that the string will form an X. Then you catch the diabolo on the X and then throw it in the air again and catch it on the string.
Backside The diabolo is caught using the "bottom" of the string.
Suicide/stick release The performer temporarily lets go of either stick (depending on their main hand) and spin the stick 180 degrees then catches the stick again.
Grind The diabolo hops on to the stick then to finish the diabolo slowly slides downwards on the stick then down to the string or thrown in to the air and caught with the string.The grind can also lead in to a series of tricks an example would be doing the grind then throwing it in the air and whipping it to end the consecutive tricks .
Sun The diabolo is swung round in a large circle and finishes with a twist of string above the axle. An anti-sun is done in the opposite direction to undo this twist. There are many different types of sun; this is the most basic.
Around the leg Leg is put over strings and diabolo, diabolo is swung under and over the leg.
Cradle/Spiderweb The line is tangled to form a shape and the diabolo itself is tossed on or in the shape.
Orbit The diabolo is tossed and caught repeatedly to make it go round.
Over (bodypart) orbits/satellites These are advanced orbits that go around the neck, shoulders or body. Arm and leg orbits are considered the easiest.
Knot/magic knot The line is tangled so as to create the illusion that the diabolo is jammed. It can usually be released with an upward toss motion.
Elevator/string climb The diabolo "climbs" the string; this is done by wrapping the string around the spool and pulling tight so the friction allows the speed of the diabolo to roll it upwards.
Coffee grinder The diabolo is put on the "backside", then the string is looped over the stick so the diabolo appears to be in open string. From there, the diabolo is tossed multiple times over the stick.
End grind The diabolo is manipulated into an upright position. It is then tossed into the air and caught with the base spinning on the end of the stick. Often a routine closer.
Umbrella The diabolo is swung and jerked side to side, forming the outline of an umbrella.
Spaghetti A wrap of the string on the left side of the stick and under the diabolo and then a wrap of the string on the right side of the stick and under the diabolo. Essentially, a magic knot.
Files The performer puts both sticks in the left hand, swings the diabolo over the finger and back onto the string so there is a trapeze-like tangle, throws the sticks under the finger and catches them again.
Steam engine The performer pulls the string down the side of the left stick and holds it with the left hand, then brings the right stick over the left and inside the loop created. The right stick is moved in a small circle pushing at the loop, which makes the diabolo jump.

Advanced tricks[edit]

There are countless tricks and variations that fall outside the above categories; these are often more difficult and form the cutting edge of modern diabolo routines. Some examples are:

Name Description
Genocide This refers to tricks in which the stick is released, then the diabolo leaves the string and is subsequently caught with the string still in a suicide.
Whip catch The diabolo is tossed into the air and caught with a whipping motion of the string towards the diabolo.
Finger grind The diabolo is caught on a finger rather than on a stick.
Infinite suicides This is a popular trick in which the diabolo appears to be suspended while one handstick orbits it; the diabolo can be either wrapped or unwrapped.
Slack whips The stick or sticks are flicked in such a way that a loop of slack in the string is made; this then passes around the diabolo and/or sticks to attain a range of different string mounts.
Excalibur The cups are rotated so that the diabolo is vertical above the ground.
Backward whip catch The diabolo is tossed into the air and caught with a whipping motion behind one's back.
Integral Both sticks are released and the string is held.
Star Cradle The strings are twisted into a position where the formation looks like a star.

Multiple diabolos[edit]

Diaboloist in Ueno Park performing a 3 diabolo shuffle

Perhaps the most active area of development for diabolo performance involves tricks with more than one diabolo on a single string. When manipulating multiple diabolos "low", the diabolos orbit continuously on the string in a "shuffle." Shuffles are either synchronous (commonly referred to as "sync") or asynchronous ("async"), depending on whether the diaboloist's hands' movements occur simultaneously or not; shuffles may also be performed with only one hand.

Juggling multiple diabolos "high" involves continuously catching and throwing a number of diabolos, never with more than one diabolo on the string simultaneously. Diaboloists have pushed the number of diabolos juggled at once up to six "high" (although there is some controversy as to whether this counts as the number of catches achieved is so small) and four "low."[citation needed] Most diaboloists, however, stick to using only two or three diabolos at once. The introduction of multiple diabolos on a single string allows for many new moves. Many are applications of one-diabolo moves to multiple diabolos. The current world record for multiple "low" diabolos is 4 diabolos for 52 seconds.[3]

The diabolos are accelerated while they wrap and the diaboloist's dominant hand is pulled up in order to gain speed. Doing a Chinese acceleration or shuffling the diabolos very quickly are two other methods of accelerating diabolos.
The diabolos orbit each other inside a closed loop of string.
Two diabolos are bounced up and down on the string.
This is a notation borrowed from toss juggling in which the diabolos are thrown in different rhythms based on a numeric description. However, it uses a different system of numeric rhythms compared to toss juggling as diabolos uses one "hand" as string when toss juggling uses two hands to throw the object juggled.
Two diabolos are spun between the arms in a way which mimics the blades of a fan. While the diabolos rotate they do not switch positions on the string.
The diabolos are swung in a circle.
Multiple-diabolo suicides are similar to one-diabolo suicides, but some tricks are not possible.
Multiple-diabolo knots are similar to one-diabolo knots, but both diabolos are wrapped up.
This is where both diabolos are still spinning but not in shuffle. This allows the diaboloist to do a trick with the other.


Another advanced diabolo style is vertax (vertical axis; also known as "Excalibur"). This is where the diabolo is "tipped vertical" by means of "whipping" and is continually spun in this upright state. The person spinning it needs to rotate their body to keep up with the constant whipping action due to the momentum and centripetal motion at which the diabolo spins. Although the number of tricks seems limited, people are finding more ways to perform with this style, including vertax genocides, infinite suicides, and many suns, orbits, and satellites. It is also possible to have two diabolos in one string in vertax, this feat has been achieved by diabolo duo Tr'espace, and has also been done in the form of a fan. Most of these tricks are accomplished by street performers in competitions, notably the GEDC and the Taipei PEC. Some cutting-edge skilled vertax jugglers include William (Wei-Liang) Lin (in 2006, ranked #1 in the world), Ryo Yabe (multiple diabolos), Higami (a Japanese juggling group, noted for inventing the first 'infinite suicide vertax'), and Jonathan P. Chen (noted for inventing the vertax genocide); these jugglers are former and multiple winners of the above-mentioned cups. Eric and Antonin (France) and Nate and Jacob Sharpe (USA) have contributed greatly to the development of vertax passing techniques.

Contact diabolo[edit]

This is a relatively recent style of diabolo that is gaining popularity. It utilizes the diabolo so that it has little or no spin at all. Then it can be caught and passed and manipulated with different parts of the body instead of just the sticks and string. It has new possibilities and new ideas are arising from this. Examples include catching the diabolo between one's arm and the stick before throwing it back. Tricks with multiple diabolos have also been developed.

Loop diabolo[edit]

Instead of having two sticks connected by a string, the diabolo is manipulated on a loop of string held around the hands. This opens up a variety of new tricks such as suicides, suns, whips, stopovers, trapezes, two diabolos and vertax. Yo-yo type slack tricks can also be performed in a loop.


Monobolo is a variation of the diabolo where instead of having two diabolo cups, there is only one and a weight on the other side. The monobolo can be used in the same fashion as normal diabolos. However, if a monobolo is put into excalibur, or horizontally, monobolos can be manipulated to be like a spinning top. To start a monobolo, twist the string around the axle and then let it gain some speed.


Cirque du Soleil combines diabolos with acrobatics during feature acts in five shows: Quidam, La Nouba, Dralion, Ovo and Viva Elvis.

In 2012 the Viva Elvis Casino show in Las Vegas, added a Diabolo Duet act, which includes Trevor Nassler & Maria Wolf.

In 2006 Circus Smirkus presented a duo diabolo act starring Jacob and Nate Sharpe, with advanced tricks including the first double sprinkler pass in a performance as well as some five-diabolo passing.

diabolo juggling

The diabolo programs of many Chinese schools provide performances during the Chinese New Year or near the end of the school year.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, 1958 ed.
  2. ^ "Diabolo Patent". Retrieved 16 July 2013. 
  3. ^ "Jack Chen of MHD crew from Taiwan 4low Diabolo飛樂鈴揚陳玠竹". YouTube. 2010-08-28. Retrieved 2012-08-13. 

External links[edit]

  • diabolotutorials.com - the biggest collection of diabolo tutorials on the net
  • Diabolo videos - the biggest collection of diabolo videos on the net
  • Diabolo Tricks a growing collection of categorized diabolo tricks, with explanations and videos
  • diabolotricks.com descriptions of a variety of tricks
  • diabolo siteswap simulator on artofdiabolo.com
  • 2diabolo.net describes the basics of two diabolos
  • 2diabolos.com The biggest French diabolo tricks collection is translating to English
  • diabolo.ca the biggest diabolo forum on the net
  • [1] History, exhibition, articles, postcards, arts objects, a little museum about diabolo
  • [2] Российский сайт о Диаболо с обучающими видео