150+ Important Pickleball Terms and Definitions (Complete List)

Est. Reading: 9 minutes

Like other sports, pickleball has its own set of terms and definitions that you should know, especially if you are still a beginner. It includes the names of equipment, playing techniques, gameplays, and even the slang terms invented as the sport progresses. 

So, without further ado, here is the complete list of significant terms used in pickleball:

Pickleball Terms and Definitions (in Alphabetical Order)

  • Ace: A legal serve that the receiver hasn't touched.
  • Approach Shot: Hitting the ball while moving forward and toward the net.
  • APP Tour: Pickleball tour by the Association of Pickleball Players (APP)
  • Around the Post (ATP): A shot around the net post, usually landing near the opposite backcourt line.
  • Backcourt: The back area of the pickleball court near the baseline. It's where you shouldn’t be if you want to win points easily.
  • Backhand: A swing where you use the back of your hand and paddle leading the way.
  • Backspin: When you make the ball rotate backward through the air by hitting it in a high-to-low arc, like a cut or sliced shot.
  • Backswing: The backward swing of your arm just before hitting the ball with the paddle. Keep it short for most shots.
  • Ball: The pickleball ball is made of hard plastic and has holes like a wiffle ball.
  • Ball In Play: The time during a rally, starting from the serve when the ball was hit until it became dead.
  • Banger: Someone who plays aggressively with hard shots.
  • Baseline: The line is 22 feet away from the net and marks the back of the court.
  • Beer Bracket: When you get eliminated early in a tournament and become a spectator.
  • Bert: A playing technique used in doubles. It is when you jump in front of your partner and over the kitchen to hit the ball in the air.
  • Block Volley: A simple volley where you block the ball back into the opponent's non-volley zone, often done with a paddle held perpendicular to the court.
  • Body Bag: Also called a body shot, a shot that targets your opponent's body.
  • "Bounce It": Your partner's call to let a shot go when it's headed out of bounds.
  • Carry: When the ball stays a bit on the paddle instead of bouncing right off.
  • Centerline: A line in the middle dividing the service court from the non-volley zone.
  • Champion Shot: A shot in the non-volley zone that bounces twice.
  • Chop: A downward shot that adds a backspin to the ball.
  • Composite: A paddle made of different parts like the handle and paddle face.
  • Crosscourt: The area of an opponent's court diagonally opposite yours.
  • Crosscourt Dink: A gentle shot from one side of the court to the other, usually into the opponent's non-volley zone.
  • Dead Ball: Play stops after a fault, and the game resumes on the next serve.
  • Dill Ball: A ball in play that has bounced once on the opponent's side.
  • Dink: A soft shot that drops into the opponent’s non-volley zone and is tough to return.
  • Dinker: A player who often hits dinks or soft shots.
  • Dink Volley: Hitting an opponent's dink shot out of the air softly into their non-volley zone.
  • Distraction: When a player or anyone makes an action that messes with the opponent's focus.
  • Double Bounce Rule: When a player fails to hit the ball before it bounces twice. For complete details, read our Double Bounce Rule Guide.
  • Double Elimination: A tournament format where you must lose twice before getting eliminated. This term is more applicable when there are six or more playing teams.
  • Double Hit: When the ball hits the paddle twice in one swing.
  • Doubles: A competition with teams of two players.
  • Drills: Practice games that build muscle memory and improve skills.
  • Drive: A low shot aimed at the opponent's backcourt.
  • Drop in Play: A way to decide who plays next, like laying paddles down in order.
  • Drop Shot: Another soft shot that clears the net and falls short of opponents, often in the non-volley zone.
  • DUPR: The acronym for Dynamic Universal Pickleball Rating, a player rating invented by Major League Pickleball (MLP) founder Steve Kuhn.
  • Ejection: Being kicked out of a tournament for bad behavior.
  • Erne: A shot named after pro player Erne Perry, a volley hit near the net by a player outside the non-volley zone.
  • Even Court: The right-side service area when facing the net.
  • Falafel: Also called “dead paddle,” a weak bounce off the paddle due to lack of power.
  • Fault: When a rule violation ends a rally.
  • First Server: The player in doubles from the right side of the service court gets to serve first. Players shall exchange positions once their team scores a point.
  • First Server Wristband: Helps identify the first server at the beginning of the game.
  • Flapjack: A slang term referring to a shot that must bounce before being hit.
  • Fly Swatter: A slang term for hitting a high ball into the net.
  • Flick Shot: A quick and sharp wrist action used to generate a sudden, unexpected change in the direction of the ball and can catch your opponents off guard.
  • Follow-thru: The part of the stroke that happens as the ball leaves the paddle.
  • Forehand: A stroke leading with the palm while the paddle’s front faces the ball.
  • Foot Fault: A rule violation by stepping over lines during play.
  • Footwork: Preparing your feet for balance and shot execution.
  • Game: Usually played to 11 points with a two-point margin, but some play to 15 or 21 points.
  • Graphite: A strong and durable paddle face material.
  • Grip: The way a player holds the paddle handle. (Continental, Western, or Eastern)
  • Groundstroke: A shot from the back of the court after the ball bounces, either forehand or backhand.
  • Half Volley: A scoop-like stroke shortly after the ball bounces.
  • Hinder: When play is affected by something like weather.
  • Honeycomb Core: A core design that looks like a honeycomb.
  • Junior Player: Players between 7 and 19 years old.
  • IPTPA (International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association): An organization that certifies pickleball instructors.
  • Kamikaze: A player who charges the non-volley line while the opponent hits the ball.
  • Kitchen: Slang term for the non-volley zone.
  • Ladder: A chart showing players' progress in an event or league regarding scores.
  • Let: When a serve or rally has to be replayed after the ball hits the net.
  • Let Ace (or Lettuced): When your serve hits the net but still lands in, and your opponent can't hit it. It's like they've been "lettuced."
  • Skill Level Rating: It's about how skilled players are. Knowing your skill level helps you choose your partner and when and where to play.
  • Line Call: Deciding if the ball landed in or out.
  • Live Ball: The time when the first number of the score is called, either by the referee, the server, or the server’s partner.
  • Lob: A shot that makes your opponent go to the back by hitting high and deep.
  • Loser’s Bracket: In a double-elimination tournament, losing players go here to play others who also lost.
  • Match: Games that decide a winner in a series, often in tournaments.
  • Mid-Court: Also called "no man's land,” the part between the non-volley zone and the backcourt.
  • Mixed Doubles: Playing with a partner of the opposite sex.
  • Momentum: According to the rules, when volleying, you can't touch the non-volley zone, including your momentum.
  • Nasty Nelson: A serve named after Timothy Nelson, a.k.a. Puppet Master. It is a serve that hits the receiver's partner before bouncing, often on purpose.
  • "Nice Setup”: A compliment for moving an opponent and creating a scoring chance.
  • "Nice Get": A compliment for returning a tough-to-reach ball.
  • "Nice Rally": A compliment when both teams have several good shots.
  • No-Man’s Land: This is the area between the non-volley line and the baseline, like a transition area.
  • Non-Volley Zone: Also called “kitchen,” the NVZit is a seven-foot area near the net where you can't volley but can be in it. For complete details, read our Kitchen Rules Guide.
  • Nutmeg or 5-hole: When you hit the ball through your opponent's legs.
  • Odd Court: The left-side service area when facing the net.
  • “Opa!”: An exclamation when the ball is open to volleying after the required bounces.
  • Open Paddle Face: Holding the paddle at a 45-degree angle to help get the ball over the net.
  • Open Play: Like drop-in play, you just show up and play. Everyone is invited to play on the court, regardless of skills.
  • Overgrip: Extra grip over the paddle handle for better hold and comfort.
  • Overhead: Hitting a ball above your head.
  • Paddle: Tool you use to hit the Pickleball, but not a racket.
  • Paddle Face: The smooth part you hit with.
  • Paddle Grip: The handle of a pickleball paddle.
  • Paddle Tap: When you tap paddles with your partner and opponents after a game.
  • Passing Shot: A shot that's tough for the opponent to reach.
  • Permanent Object: Anything near or on the court that can interfere with play.
  • Pickled: When a team loses and scores no points.
  • Pickler: Someone who loves and plays Pickleball.
  • PickleballTournaments [dot] Com: A leading tournament management software for pickleball.
  • Picklebility: Coined by PickleballMAX.com, a term for your passion and skill in pickleball.
  • Plane of the Net: Imaginary vertical planes around the net.
  • Poach: When you move across the non-volley line to volley the ball, even in front of your partner.
  • Pool Play: Tournament where players/teams of similar skill play each other.
  • PPA Tour: A series of pro and amateur Pickleball tournaments by the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA).
  • Profanity: Bad language in tournament play, decided by the Tournament Director.
  • Punch: A short, quick shot with a small backswing, often a fast volley.
  • Punch Volley: Hitting the ball with the paddle face facing the court, like a punch.
  • Put Away: A powerful shot with no chance for a return.
  • Rally: A continuous series of shots between players or teams, from the serve until before a player commits a fault.
  • Rally Scoring: A way of scoring where every side can earn a point, and the winning team of the rally gets the point and serves.
  • Rating: A skill level determined by the USA Pickleball system.
  • Ready Position: An athletic stance with the paddle in front of your body, prepared to react quickly.
  • Receiver: The player returning the serve.
  • Replay: When a rally is repeated for a valid reason.
  • Retirement: When a player decides to stop a match and give a win to the opponent.
  • Round Robin Play: A way for 4 to 8 players to play together, with partners changing randomly after each game.
  • Scramble: Players compete with others of similar skill levels in a division or bracket.
  • Score: In singles, it's your score and your opponent's. In doubles, the three numbers are your team's score, your opponent's score, and the server number.
  • Scorpion: When players drop low, lift their paddle high like a scorpion's tail and use a forehand to counterattack their opponent's shot.
  • Second Serve: In doubles, each team has two serving attempts, with partners switching if the first serve fails.
  • Serve: Also called Service, an underhand stroke that starts a point.
  • Service Court: Bound by the non-volley line, the centerline, the baseline, and the part of the pickleball court where the server should hit the serve.
  • Service Motion: The movement (forward and back swings) of the server's arm when serving.
  • Server Number: In doubles, the server's designated number (1 or 2), depending on the server's team sequence.
  • Service Only Scoring: In formal Pickleball, you can only score if you serve.
  • Service Team: The serving team in doubles.
  • Shadowing: Synchronizing with a partner, sharing space equally.
  • Shake-n-bake: A doubles play where the third shot is driven, and one player rushes the net for a putaway.
  • Sideline: The boundary line on the side of the court.
  • Side-Out: Losing the serve after losing a point.
  • Singles: Two players compete on opposite sides of the net.
  • Skinny Singles: Two players use half the court with the centerline as a sideline. For complete information, read our Pickleball Skinny Singles (Mini-Singles): Rules Guide.
  • Slammers: Players who hit hard and fast.
  • Slice: A shot with a backspin that stays low to the court.
  • Slide Step: A footwork technique at the non-volley line where you step out and slide with your outside leg.
  • Smash: A hard, overhand shot that is usually to counter an opponent's high return or bounce.
  • Split Step: When you make a little hop and land on the balls of your feet for quick movement.
  • Stacking: A strategy in doubles where teammates are on the same side instead of on each side.
  • Starting Server: The player who serves at the beginning of each game.
  • Stroke: The mechanics and technique of a shot.
  • Tagging: Hitting your opponent with the ball, usually intentionally.
  • Tattoo: The imprint of the pickleball ball on your body after it hits you.
  • Technical Foul: A penalty called by the referee during a tournament.
  • Third Shot Drop: A soft, low shot that lands just over the non-volley zone and drops fast, causing the opponent to hit a weak shot,
  • Topspin: A ball rotating in the direction of its flight, created with a low-to-high stroke.
  • Transition Zone: The “No Man's Land” is the area between the non-volley line and the baseline.
  • Two Bounce Rule: The ball must bounce twice (on the serve and return) before hitting. For complete details, read our Pickleball 2-Bounce Rule Guide.
  • Tweener: Hitting the ball through your legs, often when there's no time for a proper shot.
  • Unforced Error: A failed shot but should have succeeded.
  • UTPR: The acronym for USA Pickleball Tournament Player Rating and a player rating system developed by USA Pickleball.
  • Verbal Warning: In sanctioned tournaments, a referee can verbally warn about rule infractions. A second warning will result in a technical foul.
  • Volley: Hitting the ball with the paddle before it touches the ground.
  • “Volley Llama:” A slang term for an illegal shot of a player hitting the ball into the kitchen.
  • WPR: An acronym for World Pickleball Rating, a player rating given to tournament players at Pickleball Tournaments.

There you go, a total of 153 pickleball terms! If you’re a beginner, you don’t have to memorize them. I’m pretty sure you’ll encounter each term as you go along. But if you’re a seasoned player and think we missed something, let us know in the comments below.

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