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Pickleball 101: Pickleball terms & definitions

Pickleball 101: Pickleball terms & definitions


By Jaclyn Brandt

On: 03/20/2024

glossary

terms

Here is our list of some of the most common pickleball terms you would know before your first pickleball play.
Here is our list of some of the most common pickleball terms you would know before your first pickleball play.

If you are learning to play pickleball, there are a lot of definitions and lingo to learn. Here is our list of some of the most common pickleball terms you would know before your first pickleball play:

Ace

A serve that is not touched by the receiver’s paddle.

Approach

A shot hit while the player is moving from the baseline to the kitchen (or non-volley zone) line.

Around the Post (ATP)

A shot that has traveled outside of the net posts, which allows a return below the net height. This is a legal move in pickleball.

Attackable Shot

A shot returned to you that you can hit in a strategic way. This usually means a ball you can volley outside the non-volley zone, or a ball that you can return with a groundstroke.

Backcourt

The area of the court closest to the baseline.

Backhand

Hitting the ball with the back side of your paddle, while the back of your hand is facing the net.

Backspin

Hitting the ball in a way that causes it to spin backward. Also known as a “slice” or “chop.”

Backswing

Swinging your paddle back just before hitting a forehand shot.

Banger

A player who consistently drives the ball or hits the ball hard, regularly choosing power over where they are placing the ball.

Baseline

The lines located at the back of each court. These lines are parallel to, and 11 feet away from each side of, the net.

Bert

An Erne, but done outside the NVZ of your partner’s side of the court.

Body Bag / Body Shot

A shot that hits the body of a player, allowing a point. Players should try to avoid hitting body shots towards their opponent’s head, face, or neck.

“Bounce It”

Common Partner Communication that a ball may be going out and to let it bounce instead of hitting an out ball mid-air.

Carry

When the ball is carried along the surface of the paddle during a hit, in a forward motion.

Center Line

The line that runs parallel to each sideline, at the center of each court. The center line extends from the baseline to the kitchen (non-volley zone) line.

Chop

Another name for a backspin. Applying spin to the ball, causing it to move in a different direction than expected.

Closed Face

Keeping your paddle face angled down when hitting a ball, with the upper edge of the racket angled forward.

Closed Stance

Keeping your body and feet turned toward either sideline and away from the net.

Continental Grip

Holding your paddle like you would hold a hammer.

Cross Court

Hitting the ball from one side of the court to your opponent on the diagonal side of the court.

Dead Ball

A ball that is not in play anymore, either from a fault, a hinderance, or as the result of hitting an illegal object.

Dig

A defensive shot hit with your paddle low and a wide stance. This shot is usually done in the transition zone when the ball is hit close to your feet, and is used so you can reset the ball by returning it to the kitchen.

Dink

A ball hit underhand from (or near) your non-volley zone into your opponent’s non-volley (or kitchen) zone.

Distraction

According to USA Pickleball, “Physical actions by a player that are ‘not common to the game’ that, in the judgment of the referee, may interfere with the opponent’s ability or concentration to hit the ball. Examples include, but are not limited to, making loud noises, stomping feet, waving the paddle in a distracting manner, or otherwise interfering with the opponent’s concentration or ability to hit the ball.”

Not to be confused with a hinder.

Doubles

A pickleball match that has two players on each side of the net. Doubles can be:

  • Mixed: One female and one male on each side.

  • Men’s or women’s doubles: Two males or two females on each side.

Double Bounce (or Two Bounce) Rule

The rule that the receiving team must allow the ball to bounce once before returning it to the server, and the server must then allow the ball to bounce once in their side of the court before they return it. Both sides may then volley the ball if they choose for the rest of the rally.

Double Hit

Hitting the ball twice with the same paddle before it is returned to your opponent. This is not a fault as long as it is part of one continuous stroke.

A double hit can also be used to describe hitting the ball twice by the same team while the ball is on their side of the net. This is not legal.

Down the Line

A ball hit close to the sideline, landing in bounds.

Drive Shot

A groundstroke or volley that is hit low over the net, and fast enough to land near your opponent’s baseline.

Drop Shot

A return shot made after the ball has bounced that lands in or near your opponent’s kitchen (or non-volley) zone.

Drop Shot Volley

A return shot made before the ball has bounced that lands in or near your opponent’s kitchen (or non-volley) zone.

Drop Spin

A pickleball shot that has backspin after it crosses the net.

Erne

A shot hit out of the air next to the kitchen zone by a player standing outside the sideline of the court.

Face

The part of your pickleball paddle that makes contact with the ball.

Fault

Any rule that has been broken that results in a dead ball and ends the rally.

Learn more about all the faults here.

First Serve

The first serve/server after a side out.

Flat Face

Keeping your paddle face parallel to the net, without angling it up or down while hitting the ball.

Foot Fault

A fault caused by your foot stepping in an area where it is not currently allowed. This can include:

During a serve: Failing to keep both your feet behind the baseline, with at least one foot in contact with the floor (when the paddle contacts the ball). Your feet must also be between the invisible extensions of the center line and sideline.

When volleying: Failing to stay out of the non-volley zone, when you hit the ball, or when carried by momentum after hitting the ball. You may step into the non-volley zone before hitting the ball as long as you re-establish both feet behind the kitchen line before hitting the ball.

Follow Through

A continuing forward motion of the paddle when you hit the ball. This should be in the direction where you want the ball to go.

Forehand

A pickleball shot where the face of the paddle is facing the ball and hit parallel to the net.

Fourth Shot / 4th Shot

The shot after the third shot, hit by the receiving team. If the receiving team does not have control of the rally or has not been able to move up to the kitchen line, the fourth shot could be the chance to reset the rally in their favor.

Game

Played either as singles or doubles, usually to 11 points.

Golden Pickle

To win 11-0 (or hold your opponents scoreless) with all serves coming from the first server of the game without ever losing serve.

Grip

How you hold your pickleball paddle (verb), or the material on the outside of your paddle handle (noun).

Groundstroke

A ball that you hit right after it bounces in your zone, and before it reaches its potential bounce height.

Half Volley

A groundstroke that is hit right after it bounces.

Head

The flat area of the pickleball paddle above the handle, meant to be the surface for hitting the ball.

Hinder

According to USA Pickleball, “Any transient element or occurrence not caused by a player that adversely impacts play, not including permanent objects. Examples include, but are not limited to, balls, flying insects, foreign material, players, or officials on another court that, in the opinion of the referee, impacted a player’s ability to make a play on the ball.”

A hindrance may be called by either side, and results in a dead ball. If agreed upon by both sides, the point will be replayed.

Not to be confused with a Distraction.

Hybrid Ball

A pickleball ball that can be used both indoors and outdoors, with characteristics of both an indoor and outdoor ball.

Indoor Ball

A pickleball ball that is designed specifically to play inside, on a basketball court or indoor pickleball court. Indoor balls generally have fewer (usually 26), but larger, holes, and tend to be softer and less durable than outdoor balls.

Kitchen

The 7-foot x 20-foot area on either side of the net. Also called the non-volley zone or NVZ. Players are not allowed to volley the ball while standing in the kitchen.

Kitchen Line

The line at the top of the non-volley zone, NVZ, or kitchen. The line spans 20 feet from sideline to sideline and is placed seven feet from, and parallel to, the net. The kitchen line is considered a part of the kitchen, in terms of whether a ball is in or out of the zone.

Let

A serve that hits the net and lands in the service court. In PPA, the point is replayed. In USA Pickleball, as long as the serve is “in” the correct court zone, the returner must return the ball.

Line Calls

A call made about whether a ball is “in” or “out.” Any part of the ball hitting a sideline or baseline is considered “in” while a ball hitting the kitchen line (during a serve only) is considered “out.”

Lines

The lines of each side of a pickleball court include two sidelines, one baseline, one kitchen line, one center line, and the net.

Lob

Hitting a ball in a high arc back to (and usually over) your opponent with the goal of it landing near their baseline.

Mid Court

The area of the court between the kitchen line and backcourt.

Momentum

The act of your body or feet continuing to move after running or hitting the ball (usually without resetting your feet or making a purposeful move). In pickleball, momentum usually refers to a fault caused by the momentum from a run or hit bringing you into the non-volley zone after you volley the ball.

Nasty Nelson

A serve that intentionally hits the non-returning player of the returning team without bouncing. This play awards a point to the serving team.

Net Height

The pickleball net should be 36 inches wide at the sidelines and 34 inches in the middle.

No Man’s Land (aka The Transition Zone)

The area of the court that is halfway between the baseline and kitchen line. The no man’s land is one of the hardest places to return a ball.

Non-Volley Line (aka Kitchen Line)

The line at the top of the NVZ or kitchen. This line extends 20 feet wide from sideline to sideline and is seven feet from the net, on each side of the net. The non-volley line is considered part of the non-volley zone, or kitchen.

Non-Volley Zone (aka NVZ or Kitchen Zone)

The zone closest to the net, seven feet into the court and 20 feet wide. You may stand in the zone at any time except while volleying the ball, or if momentum from a volley takes you into the zone. If you stand in the zone before a volley, you must establish both feet back into the court before volleying the ball. The NVZ also includes all four lines surrounding it.

Overhead Shot

A shot hit above your head and driven down.

Overhead Slam

An overhead shot that is hit with force.

Open Face

Angling your paddle face upward when you contact the ball.

Out / Out of Bounds

A ball that has hit the ground outside of the sidelines or baseline.

Outdoor Ball

A pickleball ball that is designed to be played outside, on a pickleball court or other concrete. It is generally more durable than an indoor ball, and includes more holes with smaller diameters.

Paddle

The racket, or tool, used to hit the ball back and forth in pickleball. Paddles may not be longer than 17 inches, and the combined width and length of a paddle may not be more than 24 inches. There is no restriction on the thickness or weight of the pickleball paddle.

Painting the Line

A shot that lands right on the line.

Passing Shot

A shot that is hit so that it lands far from the receiving player, designed to make it difficult for the receiver to return the ball.

Permanent Object

Any object near the net that could be hit by a ball, including the net posts, officials, ceiling, or spectators. Hitting a permanent object with the ball will result in a fault.

Pickle

You are “pickled” if you lose a game without scoring any points, generally 11-0.

Pickle Boat

In the world of rowing, a “pickle boat” is a group of leftover rowers. Some of the inventors of pickleball have said that pickle boat crews are where they got the term pickleball, since the sport was pieced together by equipment and rules of many other sports.

Pickled

Losing a pickleball game without scoring, usually 11-0.

Pickler

A pickleball player.

Poach

Taking a shot that is clearly on your partner’s side of the court, or their responsibility.

Point

A score earned by the serving team. In pickleball, the non-serving team does not earn a point.

Put Away

A shot that is out of reach of your opponent (but in bounds), so they cannot successfully counter.

Punch Shot

A quick volley shot with very little backswing.

Racket/Racquet

In pickleball, the racket/racquet is known as the paddle.

Rally

A session of play that starts with a serve and ends with a fault. Points are only earned if the serving team wins the rally.

Rally Score System

A scoring system not traditionally used in rec pickleball. Rally scoring is when a point is earned after every rally, no matter who served.

The more common scoring system in pickleball is called Side Out Scoring.

Rating

A ratings system for individual players, generally spanning from 1.0 to 5.5+.

Learn more about pickleball ratings.

Ready Position

The position you should take when your opponent is about to hit a ball. This position varies, but generally, you should have your feet faced toward them, shoulder width apart, on the balls or front of your feet, holding your paddle at chest height.

Receiver

The person standing crosscourt from the server, who will be receiving the serve.

Regulation Paddle

Pickleball paddles approved by USA Pickleball.

Learn more about all regulation pickleball paddles.

Replays

Any situation where there is confusion or an opportunity that will cause a point to be played over, as outlined by USA Pickleball.

Reset

A defensive shot that is used to disarm your opponent, slow an attack, or regain the advantage during a rally.

Return

A ball hit back to your opponent. A serve return is meant to give you the time to move up to the kitchen line.

Roll Volley / Shot

A volley or other shot where you roll the ball on your paddle to add topspin, either taking it from a low position to a high position or keeping the shot low.

Sandbag

A player who enters a game, league, or tournament at a lower skill than their own with the intent of dominating the game.

Score

The current score of the game that is announced before each serve by the server.

Scoring

The type of scoring used during a pickleball match or in a tournament.

Learn more about scoring here.

Scorpion

An overhand shot done from a squatted position. Usually a defensive maneuver.

Second Serve

The second person on a team who is serving, in doubles. The second server will gain the serve after their team faults during a rally started by the first server.

Serve

Hitting the ball to start a rally.

Learn more about serving rules here.

Server Number

In doubles, the server number is whether you are the first person on your team to serve or the second person on your team to serve. Announced as 1 or 2 at the end of the score.

Service Court

The area of the court that the serve must land in, cross-court from the service side. The serve may land in this zone on the sideline, center line, or baseline, but may not land on the NVZ or kitchen line.

Service Line

Also known as the “baseline.”

Shading

Moving sideways on a court as a team to better cover the center of the court and a specific sideline.

Shadowing

A pickleball playing technique where a team will move in unity, forward or backward, or side to side.

Sideline

The lines representing the outside of the court, perpendicular to the baseline, kitchen line, and net, and parallel to the center line. The sideline is considered “in” during serves and rallies.

Side Out

When the serve moves to the opposite side of the net. Each time the serving team faults after the last server (any server in singles, or the second server in doubles), the serve will move to the other side of the court.

Side Out Scoring

The scoring rules most commonly used in recreational and pro pickleball. Side-out scoring is when only the serving team has an opportunity to score.

Singles

A pickleball match with one player per side.

Slice

Hitting the ball in an undercut motion, causing backspin and allowing the ball to bounce low.

Smash

A shot made from above the player’s head, angling the ball downward. This shot is difficult to return.

Spin

Hitting the ball in such a way as to cause it to rotate in the air after you hit it.

Split Stance

In the “ready” position with your feet apart, facing the net, preparing to return the ball.

Split Step

Bending your knees and landing on the balls of your feet, to prepare you to return the ball.

Stacking

Both members of a team line up on the same side of the court before a serve or return.

Stroke

A swinging motion to return the ball. Examples include the forehand stroke, backhand stroke, or groundstroke.

Switching

In doubles, when one partner makes a call to switch sides with the other partner.

Technical Foul

A point added to a team’s score when their opponent violates a technical rule, including behavioral rules.

Third-Shot

The shot that comes after the serve and first receiving return.

Third-Shot Drop

A shot used by the serving team that is dropped into the NVZ (or close by) of the receiving team, to make it difficult for the receiving team to attack the ball. The shot will allow the serving team to move up to their kitchen line.

Tomahawk

Hitting a backhand shot, but turning the paddle so you can hit with your forehand.

Top Spin

Applying spin to the pickleball ball so the ball spins in a downward direction.

Transition Zone

The area of the court between the kitchen line and baseline. Sometimes called “no man’s land.”

Tweener

Returning the ball between your legs.

Two Bounce (or Double Bounce) Rule

The rule that says during each rally, the receiving team must allow the ball to bounce one time on the serve before returning it, and the serving team must allow the ball to bounce one time on the serve return. After the first two bounces, both teams may volley the ball.

Twoey

Pickleball slang for a two-handed shot.

Unattackable Ball

A ball that does not bounce high enough to be returned.

USA Pickleball

The governing body of pickleball in the United States.

Volley

Hitting the ball in the air before it bounces on your side of the court.

Volley Llama

A shot where a player hits a volley in the kitchen, or non-volley zone. This shot is illegal.

Zero - Zero

The starting score in singles pickleball. The first zero is the server’s score, and the second zero is the receiver’s score.

Zero - Zero - Two

The starting score in double pickleball. The first zero is the server’s score, the second zero is the receiver’s score, and the “Two” is the number of the server.

Although both teammates are allowed to serve on each pickleball, the rule is altered for the serve only, where only Server 2 is allowed to serve.

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