If you’re a beginner in pickleball or even if you’ve been playing for some time, you might be unfamiliar with certain terms in pickleball. Some terms and phrases may be more common in certain parts of the country, at certain clubs, or only used in tournament play.
Admit it. Some terms and slang used in pickleball are funny and strange! No other sport refers to the Sesame Street characters Bert and Erne, or part of their court being referred to as a kitchen.
The following list of 115 pickleball terms and phrases will assist you the next time you venture on the courts. These pickleball terms with their definitions are listed alphabetically. The terms refer to shots, rules, the court, paddles, and more. Enjoy!
(Updated September, 2023)
115 Pickleball Terms and Phrases You May Hear on the Court
– A –
Ace – An unreturnable serve that is not touched by the receiver prior to the 2nd bounce.
Andiamo! – The word professional player, Julian Arnold, shouts on the court when he makes a great play. It means “let’s go” in Italian.
APP (Association of Pickleball Players) – A series of professional, senior professional, and amateur pickleball tournaments sanctioned by USA Pickleball that debuted in 2020.
ATP (Around-the-Post) – A shot that is hit around the net and the net post. Most commonly hit when your opponent pulls you excessively wide with a dink.
– B –
Backcourt – The back part of the pickleball court near the baseline. This is generally a place you do not want to be as points are more easily won at or near the non-volley line.
Backhand – A shot executed so that the “back-of-the-hand” is facing in the direction of the stroke, with the arm across the body.
Backspin – Spin imparted on the pickleball such that once it bounces, the ball “skids” and stays low to the ground. Also known as a slice.
Backswing – A backward swing of the arm just prior to contacting the ball with the paddle. For most shots, you want to minimize the length of your backswing.
Banger – A person who likes to virtually always hit the ball hard. A banger is frequently not very good at hitting dinks or drop shots.
Baseline – The line across the back of the court. It is 22 feet from the net.
Bert – An Erne executed in front of your partner. Occurs when your partner jumps over/through the kitchen and hits the ball out of the air in front of you.
Block Volley – Most frequently hit from the backhand wing, the block volley is a volley that is executed by simply moving the paddle in the path of the ball and deflecting (blocking) it back – typically into the opponent’s non-volley zone. The block volley is executed with a paddle face that is perpendicular to the court.
– C –
Carry – Hitting the ball in such a way that it does not bounce away from the paddle but is, instead, carried along on the face of the paddle.
Centerline – The 15-foot line down the middle of the court going from the non-volley zone to the baseline. It divides the even service court from the odd service court.
Composite – Refers to a paddle made of several different components (handle, core, paddle face, etc.)
– D –
Dead Ball – A ball that is “no longer in play.”
Delamination – When a paddle loses its structural integrity. Specifically, when the carbon fiber plies come apart in the facesheet of the paddle. You can usually tell a delaminated paddle by the popping sound the ball makes off the paddle. This makes for a dangerous pace on the ball.
Dig – A defensive shot taken when your paddle is low and the shot is typically hit at your feet. You may see players crouch low to absorb the power of the shot and try to reset it.
Dink Shot – A shot executed from around your own kitchen line that lands in your opponent’s non-volley zone.
Dink Volley – When you take a dink shot hit by your opponent out of the air and softly volley it back such that the ball lands harmlessly in your opponent’s non-volley zone.
Distraction – Physical action by a player that interferes with the opponent’s ability or concentration to hit the ball.
Doubles – Playing a pickleball game with a partner of the same sex (men’s/women’s).
Double Bounce Rule – A unique rule in pickleball that refers to the requirement that the ball bounces twice (on the serve and also on the service return) before a player is allowed to hit the ball out of the air.
Double Elimination – A popular tournament format in which you have to lose twice before being eliminated from the tournament. After a single loss, players drop to the “loser’s” (consolation) bracket where they’ll continue playing until they lose a second time.
Double Hit – Hitting the ball twice on the same stroke. It’s legal if it’s a continuous, single-direction hit. Illegal if it’s not.
Drills – Mimicking “real” play, drills are games/practice repetitions that build muscle memory and improve your play.
Drive – Typically refers to a (harder) ground-stroke that is hit from the backcourt or midcourt.
Drop Shot – A soft, delicate shot executed from essentially anywhere on the court – but most frequently from around the baseline – that goes over the net and lands “harmlessly” in your opponent’s non-volley zone where they cannot “attack.”
DUPR (Dynamic Universal Pickleball Rating) – A global system that uses an algorithm for rating pickleball players.
– E –
Erne – Named after the player that “invented” this shot, Erne Perry, the Erne is a volley hit close to the net by a player positioned outside the left or right boundary of the non-volley zone.
Even Court – The service area on the right side of the court, when facing the net.
– F –
Fault – A rules violation that results in a dead ball and the end of the rally.
First Server – When playing doubles, the player who serves from the right/even service court after a side out. The person on the right – after a side out – always serves first and is considered the first server.
First Server Wristband – Used to help easily identify the player who, at the beginning of the game, served first for your team.
Flamingo – An offensive shot that is hit with a flamingo-like pose: one leg raised behind and leaning in to hit the ball. The shot is used to balance, counterbalance, and attack.
Follow Thru – The part of the stroke (motion) that occurs as the ball leaves your pickleball paddle.
Foot Fault – Typically service foot faults or Non-Volley Zone foot faults. Service foot faults typically occur when one’s foot is touching the baseline or the court as the ball is struck on the serve. Non-Volley Zone foot faults occur when one’s foot touches any part of the non-volley zone during the act of volleying the ball.
Footwork – Feet preparation for proper balance and shot execution.
Forehand – Opposite of the backhand, the forehand is a shot executed by swinging the paddle across the body with the hand moving palm-first.
– G –
Game – Typically played to 11 points, win by 2. In tournament play – in the winner’s bracket – it typically requires two games to be won to win the match. In the consolation bracket, games are typically played to 15 points.
Graphite – A pickleball paddle face material that is very strong and durable.
Grip – The placement of your hands on a pickleball paddle.
Ground Stroke – Term used when hitting the ball after a single bounce – typically from at-or-around the baseline.
– H –
Half-Volley – A shot that is hit immediately after the ball bounces but before it reaches the apex of its bounce.
Honeycomb Core – A paddle core design/configuration that mimics a honeycomb structure.
– I –
IPTPA (International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association) – Along with the PPR, one of the two leading organizations that certify pickleball instructors.
– K –
Kamikaze – A player who storms the non-volley line full-steam ahead while their opponent strikes the ball.
Kitchen – A slang term for the Non-Volley Zone.
– L –
Ladder – A graphical representation of a player’s ranking over a period of time. The rungs on the ladder represent a player’s current position (ranking) on the ladder relative to the other players.
Let – A serve or rally that must be replayed for any valid reason.
Line Call – A loud word(s) spoken by a player or line judge(s) to indicate to the referee and/or players that a live ball has touched an area outside of the required court space.
Lob – A shot hit over the head of the opponent(s) that is intended to drive the opposing side back to the baseline.
Loser’s Bracket – In a double-elimination tournament, once a player/team loses, they drop to the loser’s bracket where they will play other players/teams that have lost.
– M –
Midcourt – The area of the court between the non-volley line and the baseline.
Mixed Doubles – Playing a pickleball game with a partner of the opposite sex.
MLP (Major League Pickleball) – A professional tournament tour that debuted in 2021 featuring top pros in team play with rally scoring. The teams are owned by influential owners and the players are under contract.
Momentum – With respect to the non-volley zone rules, one cannot touch any part of the non-volley zone – including momentum (which has no time limit) – from the act of volleying.
– N –
Nasty Nelson – A serve that hits the receiver’s partner before it has bounced. Usually done intentionally. Named after Timothy Nelson (Puppet Master).
No-Man’s Land – The area on the court between the non-volley line and the baseline. Perhaps more appropriately named the “transition area.”
Non-Volley Zone – The 7-foot two-dimensional area that extends from both sides of the net. A player cannot hit a ball out of the air while standing in this area. Also referred to as the Kitchen.
– O –
Odd Court – The service area on the left side of the court, when facing the net.
Open Paddle Face – Positioning the paddle such that it is at about a 45-degree angle to the court. When dinking it’s important to open the paddle face to help get the ball over the net.
Overgrip – An extra layer of grip that goes over the original grip of the pickleball paddle. Used to make the grip size larger and preserve the original grip as well as to absorb sweat and provide additional cushioning.
– P –
PPA (Professional Pickleball Association) – The PPA is a series of professional and amateur pickleball tournaments that debuted in 2020. The professionals are signed to exclusive contracts.
Paddle – What you use to hit a pickleball. It’s called a paddle, not a racket.
Paddle Face – The smooth, hitting surface of the paddle.
Paddle Tap – In a show of sportsmanship – tapping the butt of your paddle handle with your partner and the other player/team after concluding a game.
Pancake – A shot using the Western grip. It looks like flipping a pancake with a spatula. Professional player Riley Newman is known for using this.
Passing Shot – A drive (groundstroke) that passes your opponent who is positioned at or near the Non-Volley line.
Pickleball Brackets – Pickleball tournament management software.
Picklebility – Coined by PickleballMAX.com, picklebility is “an embodiment of one’s passion, ability, and addiction to pickleball.”
Pickled – A term used to describe a team that lost without scoring a point. They were pickled. The term can also be used to describe a shot that goes between their opponent’s legs.
Poach – When at the non-volley line, a poach is the act of moving across (and sometimes in front of your partner) to volley the ball out of the air.
Pool Play – Tournament format in which similarly skilled players/teams are grouped together in different buckets, or pools. Each pool typically plays round-robin matches against the other players/teams in the same pool. Finally, the top “X” finishers in each pool compete against each other to determine an ultimate winner.
PPR (Professional Pickleball Registry) – Along with the IPTPA, one of the two leading organizations that certify pickleball instructors.
Put Away – Hitting a shot that isn’t returned.
Punch Volley – Hitting the ball with a paddle face that is perpendicular to the court, perhaps slightly open, in a forward “punching” motion.
– R –
Rally – The continuous play that occurs after the serve and prior to a fault.
Rally Scoring – Differing from traditional pickleball scoring, a point is awarded to whichever team wins the rally – be it the serving team or the non-serving team.
Ready Position – Your body position as you wait for your opponent to hit their next shot. A good ready position is one in which you are standing with your feet approximately shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and paddle out in front of your body.
Receiver – The person returning serve.
Reset – A soft, defensive shot that lands harmlessly into the opponent’s non-volley zone such that the opponent can no longer exert offensive pressure without significant risk.
Round Robin – Tournament format in which each player/team competes against every other player/team.
– S –
Sandbag – Refers to players who play a tournament at a lower level than what they are officially ranked.
Score – In doubles, the 3 numbers that are called out after each rally – your team’s score, your opponent’s team score, and the server number. In singles, only 2 numbers comprise the score – your score and your opponent’s score.
Scorpion – A counter-attack shot in which the attacked player (positioned at the non-volley line) squats low to the court, raises their paddle above their head, and smashes the ball back at their opponent’s feet or into the open court.
Second Server – When playing doubles, the second of the two players to serve after a side out.
Server – The player who serves the ball and calls out the score on their turn.
Server Number – In doubles, both partners get a chance to serve and score points before relinquishing the serve to the opponents. The server number can be a 1 or 2. The first person serving after the side out is server number 1. The second person serving after the side out is server number 2.
Service Court – The part of the court in which the server has to hit the serve. The service court is bound by the non-volley line, the baseline, and the centerline.
Service Motion – The movement of the server’s arm (includes both backswing and forward swing) to serve the ball.
Service Team – In doubles, the team that is serving.
Sidelines – The two lines down either side of the court from baseline to baseline. Each sideline measures 44 feet.
Side-out – Term used to describe the “transfer” of serve from one player/team to the other player/team.
Singles – Format of one player competing against another single player.
Skinny Singles – A pickleball drill/game that is played using half-the-court against one other person. Skinny singles is great practice for doubles.
Slice – A swing/shot that imparts backspin with the ball staying low to the court.
Slide Step – Footwork technique at the non-volley line in which you lead with your outside leg and step out and slide. Slide stepping is typically more effective than crossing over with your feet.
Smash – A hard, overhand shot.
Split Step – A short, little hop to get on the balls of your feet (with your feet about shoulder-width apart) so that you are balanced and can quickly move in any direction. It’s imperative to split step as you transition from the baseline to the non-volley line.
Stacking – A strategy in which you position the stronger shot of each player “in the middle.” Stacking is especially effective when partners are right and left-handed.
Starting Server – The player who begins the game serving for each team.
Stroke – The mechanics and technique of a particular shot.
– T –
Tagging – Refers to hitting your opponent with the ball – typically, intentionally.
Tattoo – The “imprint” of the pickleball on your body after getting hit with the ball.
Third Shot Drop – Drop shot that is frequently hit from the serving team (as they have to stay back and let the ball bounce) that lands harmlessly (is unattackable) into the opponent’s non-volley zone.
Topspin – Word used to describe the forward (and downward) rotation of the pickleball.
Transition Zone – The area of the court between the non-volley line and the baseline. Sometimes referred to as “no man’s land.”
Tweener – A shot hit between the legs. Players will use this from time to time in order to return the ball from an awkward position. However, some players will do it to provide a show. Pro player Christian Alshon is dubbed the Tweener King.
Two-Bounce Rule – A unique rule in pickleball that refers to the requirement that the ball bounces twice (on the serve and also on the service return) before a player is allowed to hit the ball out of the air.
– U –
Unforced Error – A missed shot that is entirely the fault of one’s own blunder and not the result of the opponent’s skill or play.
UPTPR (USAPA Tournament Player Rating) – A player rating based exclusively on an individual’s win/loss match results in comparison to the relative strength of their opponents.
USA Pickleball – The national governing body for the sport of pickleball in the United States. Previously referred to as USAPA.
– V –
Volley – The act of hitting the ball out of the air before it bounces.
– Y –
Yips – The term used to describe someone who can’t get their serve in the service box.
Dictionary of Pickleball Terms
There you have it – a dictionary of pickleball terms and even a little slang! Hope this helps as you navigate the pickleball court!
Are there any other pickleball terms that you use on the court that aren’t mentioned in our list? Be sure to add them in the comments below.
See you on the courts!