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Hookah 101:
The Ultimate Hookah Glossary

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A cartoon of a simple hookah with one hose and smoke coming out of it.

If you’re new to hookah smoking, it can be difficult to understand the terminology that’s used. This glossary will help you understand the most common hookah terms used throughout the United States. Learn more about the language and phrasing used by hookah smokers below.


Acrylic: Acrylic is a plastic material that’s durable and known for its clarity and strength. This material can be used to create hookahs, hookah bases, and accessories.

Airflow: Airflow typically refers to the amount of air passing through your hookah pipe. It can be affected by the accessories you use, such as bowls, grommets, hookah hoses, and more.

Air hole: The hole in the bowl of a hookah through which the smoke is drawn.

Aluminum foil: A thin sheet of aluminum used to cover the bowl of a hookah and to reflect heat back to the tobacco.

Aromatics: A type of tobacco product that has been flavored with various spices, fruits, or sugars.


Ball bearing: A ball bearing is a type of rolling-element bearing that uses balls to maintain the separation between the bearing races. In hookahs, the ball bearing seals the hookah when sitting inside a hose adapter or purge valve. The ball can be made of metal, glass, or plastic.

Base: The hookah base is one of the main parts of the water pipe. It’s the vase-like structure that holds the water. This container is under the hookah stem and is typically made of glass, ceramic, or metal.

Base cleaning brush: This hookah accessory is a long metal brush with wide bristles. It’s made to clean the inside of a hookah base.

Base protector: This rubber sleeve is a hookah accessory that’s made to fit over the base of your pipe.

Blonde-leaf shisha: Blonde-leaf shisha is a type of shisha tobacco product that’s light in color. It’s made from a combination of golden and white tobacco, which gives it its unique blonde color. Blonde leaf shisha is popular among smokers who are looking for a milder smoking experience.

Bowl port: The bowl port is the section of the hookah stem that holds the bowl. It’s typically one to three inches long.

Bowl: This hookah component is one of the most well-known hookah terms. It’s the part of the hookah pipe that holds the tobacco.

Buzz: When hookah smokers inhale, they’re taking in large volumes of smoke. This smoke contains high levels of nicotine which is absorbed through the lungs and delivered to the brain especially quickly.


Chamber: Hookahs have a dedicated chamber or a common chamber, which refers to the section of the hookah that leads to the hose port. Tobacco smoke travels through this section when inhaled.

Charcoal: A type of charcoal used to heat tobacco for hookah use.

Clouds: This is a common slang term for puffs of hookah smoke.

Coal: This refers to the piece of charcoal that’s used to heat the tobacco in a hookah. The coals can be made of fossil fuels or natural materials.

Coconut charcoal: This type of hookah charcoal is made of compressed coconut shells and husks.

Combo: A type of hookah that combines a traditional water pipe with a vaporizer.

Concentrate: A type of tobacco that’s made up of high concentrations of nicotine.

Common chamber: The common chamber is a type of hookah chamber that’s completely open. The hose port and purge valve connect to this section.

Coupler: A device that allows two or more hookahs to be connected together.


Dark-leaf shisha is one of the many hookah terms that every beginner should familiarize themselves with.

Dark-leaf shisha: Dark-leaf shisha tobacco is a type of shisha tobacco that is known for its rich, dark color. This type of tobacco is often made from dark burley tobacco leaves, which gives it its characteristic color and flavor. Dark-leaf hookah tobacco is known for being strong and robust, with a slightly sweet and smoky taste. It’s a popular choice for smokers looking for a more intense shisha experience.

Dedicated chamber: This type of hookah chamber has dedicated pathways for airflow in each hose port and purge valve. Dedicated chambers are common with traditional Egyptian hookah pipes like Khalil Mamoon.

Dense pack: When it comes to hookah terms, this refers to a packing method commonly used for dark-leaf tobacco. You press the tobacco firmly into the hookah bowl to ensure tight packing to prepare your hookah.

Diffuser: The diffuser is a hookah accessory that sits at the bottom of a hookah’s downstem. It has small holes and is submerged in the water. The holes break up hookah smoke into smaller bubbles as it travels through to ensure quieter inhalation.

Dokha tobacco: Dokha is a type of tobacco that’s made from finely ground tobacco leaves, herbs, and spices. It’s a popular tobacco in the Middle East and North Africa. Dokha is smoked in a pipe, and it’s also sometimes mixed with coffee or other drinks.

Downstem: The tube that runs from the bowl of the hookah down to the water chamber.

Draw: This is a term used to describe the sensation you feel when inhaling from a hookah or hose. It can be described as “open” or “restricted,” depending on factors like the type of bowl, water level, and hose.


Egyptian hookah bowl: An Egyptian hookah bowl is cone-shaped and has small holes in the center. This type of bowl is designed to produce a strong flavor and is often used for smoking tobacco. They’re commonly made from clay and are included with Egyptian-made hookah pipes like Khalil Mamoon.


Fluff pack: A fluff pack is a tobacco preparation method that refers to gently packing the shisha into the bowl without pressing down the leaves too firmly.

Foil: The term used to describe the thin sheet of aluminum used to cover the bowl of a hookah.

Foil drag: This is one of the hookah terms that refer to the restriction caused by loose or sagging foil blocking airflow channels in a bowl. It can negatively impact your smoking session by restricting the flow of smoke, making it difficult to take long draws from the pipe

Foil poker: A poker is a thin, metal tool that is used by hookah smokers to poke holes in the foil.

Freeze hose: This is a hookah hose with an ice tip or ice capsules in the handle. It’s referred to as a freeze hose because it’s placed in the freezer to cool down hookah smoke.


Gauge: When it comes to the hookah glossary, the gauge refers to the size of the opening found in a hookah downstem, hose, or bowl which can affect the draw. Amira and BYO pipes typically have a wide gauge.

Grommet: A rubber or silicone ring that’s used to seal the downstem in the water chamber.


Harsh: Smokers typically describe shisha as “harsh” to describe the feeling of inhaling burnt smoke.

Heat management device: This hookah accessory is also referred to as an HMD. It replaces the aluminum foil and allows for even heat for the shisha. It also protects the coals for cleaner and better-tasting shisha.

Heel tip: The tip at the end of the hookah hose. It’s plugged into the hose port.

Herbal shisha: This type of shisha is made of fruit or sugar cane instead of tobacco leaves. It’s nicotine-free and tobacco-free.

Honey: Honey is a thick, sweet liquid produced by bees using nectar. This syrup is typically used in shisha tobacco.

Hookah: A water pipe that’s used to smoke flavored tobacco.

Hookah coal: The term used to describe the piece of charcoal that’s used to heat the tobacco in a hookah.

Hookah head: The part of the hookah where the smoker places their mouth. There are many different types of heads, including standard, vase, and mod heads.

Hookah hose: The flexible tube that connects the head to the bowl. There are many different types, including silicone, washable, and disposable hoses.

Hookah lounge: These are public places, such as cafes or hookah bars that allow hookah users to smoke as a social networking activity.

Hookah tobacco: This is a type of tobacco that’s smoked in a water pipe. Hookah tobacco is typically flavored. Alternative hookah terms for this include “shisha tobacco” or “hookah tobacco products.”

Hose adapter: This accessory allows you to increase the number of ports for the hookah pipe.

Hose handle: The handle refers to the piece that’s held onto by the smoker. It’s the second-largest section of the hookah hose.

Hose port: A typical hookah will have a port that connects it to the hose. It’s connected to the hub and more can be added using adapters.

Hose spring: A spring placed outside of the tubing to prevent it from restricting airflow. When the tubing pinches, the spring sits above the heel tip to prevent this.

Hose tubing: The long, flexible tube that connects the hookah hose and heel tip. It’s made of plastic, leather, or silicone.

Hub: The hub is the heart of the stem which typically contains the port, purge valve, and internal chamber.


Ice tip: A freezable attachment for a hookah hose made to cool down smoke as it travels.

Inside fitting: Accessories that are inserted inside of a port or hookah hose. One example is an “inside fitting” mouth tip.


Kaloud Lotus: A heat management device that’s used to heat tobacco in a hookah.


Mixture: This term is one of the most important hookah terms to know. It can be used to refer to the tobacco that’s smoked in the hookah. When blending tobacco, this term is also used.

Molasses: Molasses is a dark, thick, sweet syrup. This byproduct comes from sugar cane or beets.

Mouth tip or mouthpiece: The tip of the hose that allows for inhalation.

Multi-hose hookah: This setup allows you to use multiple hoses at one time. You’ll often find these at hookah businesses to allow a lot of hookah smokers to smoke at once.


Narguile: The Arabic term for “hookah.” The alternative spelling is “narghile.”

Natural charcoal: This refers to any type of hookah coal that’s made of natural ingredients like coconut husks or bamboo.

Nicotine: A compound that’s found in tobacco and is responsible for its addictive properties.


Open system: Open systems are the newest and most advanced type of hookah system. They’re characterized by the fact that the water basin is located on the top of the hookah, rather than at the bottom. This design allows for much more airflow and a cooler smoking experience. Additionally, the water basin is easily accessible, making it simple to refill.

Outside fitting: Hookah accessories that are outside fitting refer to attachments outside of the port or handle. For example, some of the hookah terms you might come across include an “outside fitting” mouthpiece or an “outside fitting” hookah tip.


You'll need to know hookah terms like "pack" to properly prepare your setup.

Pack: This common term describes the preparation of tobacco.

Phunnel bowl: This has a raised center spire with a large hole at the top. The phunnel design is made to prevent the flavor from escaping.

Purge: The act of exhaling from the hose hookah to clear out harsh or stale smoke.

Purge cap: The purge valve’s cap prevents the ball bearing from being ejected.

Purge valve: A valve with a ball bearing that allows stale smoke to be cleared.


Quick-light charcoal: This type of charcoal has a chemical accelerant coating which allows you to light it with a small open flame or standard flame lighter.


Resin: The tar-like substance that builds up in the hookah.


Screen: A common word referring to the mesh screen that replaces the aluminum foil on a hookah bowl.

Semi-dense pack: This tobacco preparation method is between a fluff pack and a dense pack. The packing is only slightly tight.

Shaft/stem cleaning brush: This skinny brush is designed to clean the inside of the hookah’s stem.

Shisha: A type of tobacco that’s smoked in a hookah. It’s a combination of tobacco, molasses, and flavorings.

Smoke: As one of the most basic hookah terms, this refers to the vapor that’s produced when tobacco is heated.

Spire: The raised section of a phunnel or vortex bowl.

Stabilizer ring: The plate or ring that holds the tray.

Stem/shaft: The body of the hookah pipe that’s typically made of metal, silicone, or acrylic.

Super pack: A bundle of hookah products that allows you to select three or four flavors of hookah tobacco at a discount.


Threading: A type of connection that allows you to remove or attach specific hookah accessories and pieces.

Threaded base: The base that provides a secure connection without the use of a rubber grommet.

Tobacco: A plant that’s most commonly used to smoke in a water pipe or pipe.

Tobacco flavor: The flavor of tobacco that’s used in a water pipe or standard pipe. This term is also referred to as the “shisha flavor.”

Tongs: The metal tool used to handle coal on the tray.

Tray: The dish on your waterpipe that holds hot coals.


Unwashed tobacco: A type of tobacco product that hasn’t been washed during manufacturing for stronger nicotine and a more robust shisha flavor.

U-bend: The curved section of a hookah hose that’s used to smoke. This term is one you’ll want to keep in your personal hookah glossary.


Vaporizer: A device that’s used to heat hookah tobacco and other herbs to the point of vaporization.

Vortex bowl: A type of hookah bowl with small holes and a raised center to prevent tobacco flavor from escaping.


Washed tobacco: A type of tobacco product that’s rinsed in the manufacturing process to lower nicotine concentration. It provides a mild flavor and lighter nicotine buzz.

Water level: This term is one of the easiest hookah terms to learn. It refers to the amount of water left in your base.

Water pipe: A water pipe is a device used to smoke tobacco products. It’s a pipe that’s filled with water which helps cool the smoke as it passes through. The water also helps trap the harmful substances in the smoke and reduce the inhalation of these substances.

Wind cover: This cover is used to shield coal from the wind. Because it’s made of metal, it can help increase the heat of the coal and prolong the burn time.

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Last updated on December 5, 2022

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