Cubing Terminology Abbreviations and Commonly Used Expressions

Any hobby has quite a few phrases and terms used and known only by the hobbyists themselves. Cubing is also one of this with its own Cubing Terminology. There are several phrases, abbreviations or inside-jokes used commonly in the cubing world that common people might not understand. Some are fairly obvious and/or used in other hobbies, most are unique to speedcubing. Such jargons are as under

PB    (Personal Best)

As in any other sports, if a cuber solves a puzzle faster than they have ever done before, it is known as a PB or personal best. Most speedcubers have a text document or Excel spreadsheet somewhere with their PB’s for every event. These can be PB Single (best individual solve ever) or for one of the averages listed below.

Ao5, Ao12 etc. (Average of …) and Mo3 (Mean of 3)

Single solves in speedcubing can be lucky. Therefore, most of the bragging rights within the community go to the best averages solvers can achieve. An Average of 5 (Ao5) is counted using any five consecutive solves. The fastest and slowest times in the average are removed (to remove any ridiculously fast or slow solves that may have occurred and would bring the average higher or lower) and then a mean is calculated with the final 3 solves. The Average of 12 is calculated the same way, with the middle 10 solves being used. A Mean of 3 is generally used in competitions for puzzles that take even the fastest solvers several minutes to complete. This is similar to the average of 5 concept, however only 3 solves are performed and, regardless of the standard deviation, a mean is calculated with those three solves.

Rubix cube cubo virtual Cubing terminology
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Friedrich method (Cross/Plus, F2L, OLL, PLL)

The Friedrich (or CFOP) method is widely used speedsolving method because it is efficient, simple and low-algorithm usage. Cross is the first step in this method where four edges are placed intuitively on the correct face. F2L stands for First 2 Layers. This step involves inserting “pairs” of corners and edges into the spaces around the four edges dependent on the centres. OLL stands for Orientation of the Last Layer. Once the first two layers are solved, only the top faces’ pieces will remain. Orientation involves using a previously memorised algorithm to get the same colour facing up on every piece. PLL stands for Permutation of the Last Layer, and this simply involves performing another algorithm to move the pieces around on the top layer whilst maintaining the colour on top, solving the puzzle.





CFOP is the most popular method, it is the only one every solver knows about.

Look-Ahead cubing terminology
This is a common expression used as advice to everyone who wants to get faster at solving the puzzle. The F2L stage in Friedrich solve method is move intensive and time sending stage. Therefore, this is the main area that speed cubers try to improve (OLL and PLL are simply memorizing algorithms into muscle-memory and the cross is fairly simple and not too time consuming). Looking Ahead refers to building the pairs of edges and corners to be inserted around the cross, and how efficiently this can be done. Since there are four pairs to be made, general advice is to be looking for the next edge and corner piece that you’re going to build as you’re inserting the one that you have just built. It sounds very difficult but over time, speed cubers will memorize most F2L cases and be able to execute them without a second look.

Color Neutrality cubing terminology

This is a fairly phrase that refers to which color the solver begins their cross on. Mostly speed cubers stick to one color only, because it makes recognition easy. Color neutrality means that the solver would be able to create the cross on any color, and therefore has 6 different options for cross to pick from.

Event Acronyms (BLD, OH, FMC)

These acronyms refer to events hosted by the WCA (World Cube Association) in competitions. BLD stands for Blindfolded. As name suggests the solver memorizes positions of pieces on a puzzle before donning a blindfold and solving the puzzle. 4BLD and 5BLD are similar, but with 4×4 and 5×5 cubes respectively. OH stands for One Handed. FMC stands for Fewest Move Count

Scramble (and simple cubing notation) cubing terminology

A scramble is a simple term that stands for a 3×3 cube, consists of 20 randomly generated moves in standard notation. It will leave the cube in an unsolved state ready for a solver to attempt. Cubing Notation involves the letters R, U, L, D, B and F to refer to the different faces of the puzzle (Right, Up, Left, Down, Back and Front respectively). Any of these letters (I’ll be using R as an example) can come in three forms – R, R’ or R2. The letter on its own refers to a clockwise turn of that layer 90 degrees. The apostrophe after it refers to a counter clockwise turn by 90 degrees. Finally, the number 2 after the letter refers to a 180 degree turn in either direction (the result will be the same). This same notation is used in both FMC and solve reconstructions to show how the solver got from an unsolved state to a solved one.

Computer generated puzzle scrambles on official competitions are widely used to provide equal chances to the competitors.


These acronyms stand for the different records available to speedsolvers in official competitions. NR is for National Record, CR for Continental Record, and WR for World Record. UWR is an Unofficial World Record, because for a solve to count as a World Record, it has to be done in controlled conditions (a WCA competition). A division of UWR’s is the YTWR, where the fastest unofficial time for an event was recorded and uploaded to YouTube.

WCA Events / Non-WCA Events and cubing terminology

These are events held in official competition by the World Cube Association, and therefore are events that the above records are set in. A WCA event is one of the 18 events hosted by the WCA, and a Non-WCA event is either a different handicap when solving a puzzle or just a different type of puzzle in general (like mirror blocks)

Advanced Cubing Terminology

More Expressions and Unofficial Events created by the community

Viewing a competition or the Speedsolving forums really emphasises the frequency of some of these phrases. But there are a lot more that are still relevant and widely understood regarding different WCA events, different types of puzzle and pseudo-events created by the community to challenge one another.

Sub-X solve or average, and Speedcubing barriers 

It is not used as often as some of the other vocabulary discussed. It simply means a single-solve or average that is under a certain time. The most common targets for the 3×3 cube are sub-1 (or sub-60) meaning one minute, sub-30, sub-20 and sub-10. As a speedcuber gets faster, they will find it much more difficult to improve. Over time with lots of practice their solves will improve, but these targets are often seen as barriers. People often struggle to get under the sub-20 barrier and few succeed to get under the sub-10 barrier (this one is less frequently discussed as very few people in the world actually average under 10 seconds).

Advanced puzzle notation cubing terminology

Every puzzle has different notation. For example, the Rubik’s Clock has a completely different notation needed to be learnt if you intend to speedsolve the puzzle. However, sticking with NxN puzzles, there are more letters that are used to describe slice moves, rotations and multiple layer turns.

M: Middle layer like left face clockwise

There are three different slice turns that can be performed, but two of them are only ever used for Fewest Move Count. M moves are like L moves, but with the middle slice. If you wanted to perform an L’ move, you’d turn the left face counter-clockwise 90 degrees. For an M’ move, you do the same but with the middle slice.

This isn’t the only middle slice. There are also E and S moves (these are the two only used for FMC). An E move follows the D layer in the same way that an M move follows the L layer, and an S move follows the F layer. The animations show and E’ followed by an E move and an S’ followed by an S move respectively.

In cubing terminology rotations are marked by the axis the entire cube will be rotated by. Imagine a 3D axis. Y is represented by a vertical line, X by a horizontal line, and Z by a horizontal line perpendicular to X. Therefore a y rotation will rotate the cube around the top and bottom, x around the left and right, and z around the front and back. These rotations follow the U, R and F faces respectively, with y’ following a U’ move etc.

“Wide” moves are used on larger NxN puzzles with more than three layers. They follow the exact same format as standard 3×3 notation, except with a lower case W following the move, for example Rw. Using this example, an R move would be performed on the two right-most layers. The same applies for the largest move notation used by the WCA for 6×6 and 7×7 scrambles. 3Uw’ would represent a U’ turn on the three upper-most layers of the puzzle.

All of the above moves can be expressed either on their own, inverse (with a ‘ following it) or double (with a 2 following it).

Roux Method sub-steps (First Block, Second Block, CMLL and L6E)

Roux method is second only to CFOP. Roux uses different steps and algorithms to CFOP. It is not really necessary for you to know. As long as you are vaguely familiar with them, you won’t get confused when you see them mentioned.

Cubing terminology and Inspection
Cuber will be allowed to inspect at the start of any official competition. The solver is allowed 15 seconds to inspect the puzzle.

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