Pickleball Glossary – The Terms You Need to Know to Sound like a Pro, Even If You Don’t Play like One
Many pickleball terms might seem familiar to you as it uses some of the same terminology also found in other sports. For instance, an ace means the same thing in tennis and pickleball. The same thing for the phrase “approach shot”, which is found in pickleball, tennis and golf. As far as pickleball is concerned, it is far from the only sport or physical activity with its own unique terminology. Golf has “birdies”, and American football has “quarterbacks”, “nickel backs” and “dime coverage”. Basketball has “double dribble”, which doesn’t refer to twin toddlers drooling. There is baseball, with “a can of corn”, “ducks on the pond”, “a frozen rope” and probably more one-of-a-kind phrases than any other sport.
In some cases, as with “dill ball” and “flabjack”, you would be hard-pressed to find any sport other than pickleball which uses those terms. This means in many ways, pickleball has a very unique and specific language. If you want to be able to speak pickleball like a veteran pickler (pickleball addict), add the following must-have pickleball words and phrases to your verbal repertoire.
Pickleball Terms in Alphabetical Order
Ace: This refers to a serve that is not returned by the opposing team, awarding a point to the serving team.
Approach Shot: Any ball which is hit while you are approaching the pickleball net.
Backcourt: This is not a clearly defined area, but rather the general area on the pickleball court the first few feet inside the court from the baseline.
Backhand: This shot is made with the back of your hand towards the pickleball net, in a cross-body motion.
Backspin: This is the name of both a stroke and the action put on the pickleball. Instead of hitting the ball solidly, you chop or slice down and under the ball at an angle to get it spinning in the opposite direction from its flight path. The ball is hit towards your opponent, but it is spinning towards you.
Backswing: The motion of bringing your arm back from the ready position before following forward with your swing.
Ball: The pickleball.
Baseline: The end line, located 22 feet from the pickleball net on either end of the court.
“Bounce It”: This advice tells your partner to allow the ball to bounce before striking it, because you believe the ball may be headed out of bounds.
Centerline: This line divides the service court area into two equal rectangles.
Champion Shot: This is a well-placed pickleball shot, one which bounces twice in the Non-Volley Zone.
Chop: The motion of slicing from high to low with the bottom of the paddle tilted forward, in order to put backspin on the ball.
Closed Face: The angle of your paddle when the top of the paddle faces forward and down about 30° from the vertical.
Cross-Step: Crossing one foot in front of the other from the ready position.
Cross-Court: The area across the net diagonally opposite from your side of the court.
Danger Zone: This is a nickname for the no-volley zone.
Dead Ball: This is declared after a fault by the serving team.
Deep: Near the baseline of your opposition.
Dill Ball: This is simply another name for a live, playable ball.
Dink Shot: A shot that is softly hit, falling barely over the net and into the opposing non-volley zone.
Doubles: Pickleball game played between 4 people (2 on each team).
Double Bounce Rule: On the first and second shots after the serve, each team must let the ball bounce once before hitting it.
Double Hit: This is when the ball is hit twice by one team before hitting it over the net, which is a penalty.
“Down the Line”: One of the pickleball terms describing a shot traveling parallel and close to the sideline.
Drive: A forehand shot which it is straight, low and deep.
Drop Shot: This shot drops suddenly soon after clearing the net.
Drop Shot Volley: This shot during a volley is placed just over the net, when your opponents are close to their baseline.
Drop Spin: A drop shot with pronounced backspin, very difficult to return.
Erne: A volley hit near the net by a player positioned outside the court or in the process of leaping outside the court. A legally executed erne shot allows a player to hit the ball closer to the net without stepping in the non-volley zone.
Face: Either side of the pickleball paddle.
Falafel: A shot which goes short because little power is transferred from the paddle to the ball.
Fault: Any action which results in a stoppage of play because of a rule violation.
Flabjack: This term refers to a shot that is hit in midair, when it should have been allowed to bounce first to be a legal shot.
Flat Face: When the paddle surface is parallel to the net.
Foot Fault: When volleying, stepping into the non-volley zone. This also occurs on the serve, when one or more of the server’s feet contacts or passes over the baseline.
Follow-Through: The forward motion of your hand through a shot.
Forehand: A stroke made on the same side of the body as your paddle hand.
Game: Usually a contest played to 11 points, with at least a 2-point advantage. Sometimes 15 or 21 points in tournament play.
Grip: This is how you hold the paddle, and also refers to the material on the handle of the paddle.
Groundstroke: A groundstroke is the action of hitting the ball after it bounces once.
Half-Volley: This is a groundstroke executed low to the ground, immediately after a ball bounces.
Head: The paddle face and edge, the area above the handle.
Kitchen: The area in the no-volley zone.
Let: A serve that lands in the service court after hitting the net. These serves are always replayed.
Line Calls: This is a call made when the ball bounces on or very close to a line, legally in or out of a boundary area.
Lob Shot: Usually played near the baseline, a lob shot is hit high and deep.
Midcourt: The middle area of the court between the baseline and the non-volley zone.
Non-Volley Zone (No-Volley Zone): Also known as the kitchen, this is the area extending 7 feet on either side of the net. With one or more feet in this zone, a player must allow the ball to bounce before returning it.
Overhead Shot: A shot which starts high over your head and drives downward.
Overhead Slam: A powerful overhead shot intended to make a return difficult.
Opa!: Originally a Greek term meaning “Oops!” or “Whoops!”, opa is used in pickleball after the third opening shot to indicate that volleying is now legal.
Open Face: Leaning the top of the paddle backwards.
Paddle: What you use to strike the ball.
Passing Shot: This can be either a ground stroke or volley, intended to land past a player and aimed to prevent a return.
Permanent Object: Any permanently-fixed object which may interfere with where the ball travels.
“Pickle!”: This announcement indicates the server is about to serve.
Pickled: If you get beaten without scoring a point, you have been pickled.
Pickledome: In tennis this is referred to as the center court, the court in which the championship match of a tournament is played.
Pickler: Someone who is addicted to pickleball.
Poach: This is a doubles pickleball term, referring to the act of stepping into a partner’s side of the court to “steal” a shot.
Put-Away: A shot which is impossible to return.
Punch Shot: A rapidly played volley shot with little to no backswing or follow-through.
Racket/Racquet: The paddleball paddle.
Rally: A long series of shots which lasts from the serve until a point or fault is scored.
Rally Score System: Usually, the team that does not serve cannot score a point. However, using the rally score system, whichever team wins a rally scores a point and gets to serve.
Ready Position: The “perfect” physical stance for returning a shot. Your shoulders and feet are parallel to the net, knees slightly bent, your upper body is bent forward and the paddle is held in front of your chest.
Receiver: This is the opposing player who returns the serve, located diagonally opposite the server.
Replay: This occurs after a let serve. It can also take place without points awarded, whenever both sides cannot agree on the outcome of a previous shot.
Scoring Sequence: This refers to how the server must announce the score, which has to take place before each serve, or the receiving team can refuse to accept service. The serving team’s score is announced first, followed by the receiving team’s score.
Second Serve: This happens when a team or individual faults on the first serve.
Serve: This places the ball in play, and is only legal when the server contacts the ball below waist level.
Service Court: The area between the non-volley zone and the baseline is divided into two equal service courts.
Service Out Side Scoring: The most commonly used paddleball scoring system where a team must serve to score a point, as opposed to the rally score system.
Shadowing: This is when you shadow the movements of your team partner. Whether moving laterally, forward or backward, you and your partner move in sync.
Sideline: The line on either side of the pickleball court which separates an out of bounds area from the court.
Side-Out: When the serving team loses the serve, and it is awarded to the opponent.
Singles: Pickleball game played between 2 people.
Slice Shot: A shot which places backspin on the ball.
Smash Shot (Slam Shot): A powerful shot where the ball is hit from above the head with a downward follow-through, like a serve in tennis.
Split Stance (Split Step): The arrangement of the feet in the ready position.
Stroke: The action of striking the pickleball with your paddle.
Technical Foul: This foul can only be awarded by a referee. A technical foul results from a player violating other than standard rules of play, such as when a player uses abusive language or engages in unsportsmanlike conduct.
Top Spin: Striking the ball from a low to high position, with the top of the paddle angled forward. The ball spins in the same direction as the ball flight.
Two-Bounce Rule: The two-bounce rule declares that the receiving team must allow the ball to bounce on the ground before returning the serve. Then the team that served must also allow the ball to bounce before returning, and the 3rd hit after the serve may be a ground stroke or volley.
Volley: A volley occurs when you hit the ball in the air before it bounces.
Volley Llama: This happens when a ball is illegally hit by a player in the non-volley zone, who strikes the paddleball before letting it bounce.