A top, or spinning top, is a children's toy that can be spun on an axis, balancing on a point. The top is one of the oldest recognizable toys found on archaeological sites. Besides toys, tops have also historically been used for gambling and prophesy. Some role-playing gamers still use tops to augment dice in generating randomized results.
The action of a top relies on the gyroscopic effect for its operation. Typically the top will at first wobble until the shape of the tip and its interaction with the surface force it upright. After spinning upright for an extended period, the angular momentum, and therefore the gyroscopic effect will gradually lessen, leading to ever increasing precession, finally causing the top to topple in a frequently violent last thrash.
The dreidel is associated with Chanukah. It has four sides: נ (Nun), ג (Gimel), ה (Hey), ש (Shin), and is usually played with coins, chips, or gelt (chocolate coins). Collectively, these letters are interpreted as, "a great miracle happened there," or, without the nikkud,
נס גרול היה שס (hebrew is read right to left)
Before beginning, each player starts with 10 or 15 coins, and then each player puts one in the pot. The dreidel stops and lands with one of the symbols facing up and the appropriate action is taken:
Nun - nischt - "nothing" - the next player spins
Gimel - gantz - "all" - the player takes the entire pot
Hey - halb - "half" - the player takes half of the pot, rounding up if there is an odd number
Shin - shtel - "put in" - the player puts one or two in the pot
The game may last until one person has won everything.