Mahjong Heaven

Mahjong Terminology

Etymology of the name

There is a theory about the etymology of the name Mahjong that the first name for Mahjong in Chinese was sparrow (麻雀, máquè). This was because the sound of tiles during the shuffling resembles the chattering of sparrows. Another theory is that the name comes from the card game Madiao, on which the mahjong tiles are based.

Mahjong is pronounced as maa·jaang in US English, and as maa.zhong in British English.

Mahjong vs Mahjong Solitaire

The original Mahjong game is a tile-based multiplayer game for 3 or 4 players that originated in China. The tile-matching games on our website use the same tiles but they are for one player only. That's why they are referred to as Mahjong Solitaire games. Another name for Mahjong Solitaire is Shanghai Solitaire.


Shisen-Sho is a Japanese tile-based game, also using the Mahjong tiles. It's also commonly referred to as Mahjong Connect, because its main game mechanic is connecting pairs of similar tiles.


At the start of a Mahjong game, the 144 tiles are laid out in a certain multi-layer arrangement called a layout. There are many arrangements possible, each having a different difficulty. The most used layout is the Turtle layout, which resembles a pyramid.

Mahjong Turtle Layout
Mahjong Turtle Layout.


Once the tiles are dealt, you can start matching pairs of identical tiles that are open.

Open and blocked tiles in Mahjong
Illustration for Open tiles (green) and Blocked tiles (red).

Game features

Computerized versions of Mahjong often include various features such as a time limit and the ability to shuffle the board.