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Learning a new sport can be daunting. And even as you start to master pickleball basics, you might run into an obstacle of a different kind: pickleball terminology. Once you know the terms used in the sport, learning becomes faster and easier. Here’s your guide to pickleball terms!
From important gameplay terms to pickleball slang, here are the terms you need, organized by topic:
Paddle: This is what you hit the ball with; it’s to pickleball what a racquet is to tennis.
Face: This is the flat surface where the paddle contacts the ball.
Grip: This is either how you hold the pickleball paddle or the material around the handle.
Head: This is the part of the paddle above the handle.
Parts of the Pickleball Court
Centerline: This is the line that runs down the middle of the court between the non-volley zone line and the baseline. It divides the service court into two equal halves.
Cross-court: This is the part of the court diagonally opposite the side court you’re on.
Kitchen: Another name for the non-volley zone, an area extending 7 feet back from the net where players must wait for a bounce before hitting the ball. The kitchen/non-volley zone has many of its own rules.
Midcourt: The part of the court between the non-volley zone and the baseline.
Service Court: This is the part of the court bounded by the non-volley line, baseline, and sideline.
Sideline: The line marking each side of the court.
Types of Pickleball Shots and Ball Hit Terms
Approach Shot: This is when you hit the ball while moving forward toward the pickleball net.
Backspin: If you’ve ever asked “what is a chop in pickleball?” the answer is “backspin.” You might also hear this called a “slice.” Backspin refers to making the ball spin backward as it moves forwards. To do this, you apply spin using a downward motion.
Backhand: A backhand shot is when a player hits the ball on the side opposite their forehand.
Carry: This is a shot where the pickleball doesn’t bounce off the paddle right away. Instead, it’s pushed forward for a moment as the paddle swings forward.
Champion Shot: This is a shot that bounces twice in the opposing non-volley zone.
Chop: This is the same as backspin (see above).
Dink Shot: Often just called a “dink,” this is a soft shot where the ball rises over the pickleball net and lands in the opponent’s non-volley zone.
Double Hit: This is just what it sounds like. In a double hit, one player can hit the ball twice before hitting it to the other side of the court. In doubles pickleball, each player on the team might hit the ball once before hitting the ball back over the net.
Down the Line: This refers to a shot hit parallel to the sideline.
Drive: A drive is a powerful forehand shot that goes toward the back of the court on the opposing side.
Drop Shot: This is a soft shot that flies over the net so the ball lands in the non-volley zone but falls short of the players on the opposing side.
Drop Shot Volley: This is a great strategic use of the drop shot. With this midair pickleball shot, you take the ball out of the air during a volley and effectively turn it into a drop shot.
Drop Spin: This is a very advanced technique where the sin placed on the ball makes it suddenly drop once it clears the net.
Falafel: This refers to a shot where the ball falls short because a player hits it with very little power.
Flapjack: This is a midair pickleball shot hit during the return of serve or the following hit. In either case, players must let the ball bounce before hitting it.
Follow Through: This is the forward motion you make with the paddle as you are hitting the ball.
Forehand: A forehand shot is when you hit the ball with a forward swing on the same side of your body as you hold the paddle.
Groundstroke: This refers to hitting the ball after it has bounced.
Half-Volley: Technically a groundstroke shot, a half-volley is when the paddle hits the ball immediately after it bounces off the pickleball court.
Let: This is a serve that hits the net. Just like with a tennis serve, it lets serves be replayed.
Lob: This is a deep, high hit that makes the receiving team move back toward the baseline.
Overhead Shot: This is a shot where the paddle starts high above your head. An “overhead slam” is a very strong overhead shot.
Passing Shot: This is a shot aimed far from a player with the hope that the player won’t be able to return it.
Put Away: This is a shot that’s impossible to return.
Punch Shot: This is a quick volley shot with the very little backswing.
Serve: This is the underhand stroke performed by the serving team in order to begin gameplay.
Stroke: The forward paddle motion used to hit the ball.
Top Spin: This is a technique where a player causes the ball to spin in its direction of travel.
Volley: This is when you hit the ball in the air before it bounces.
Pickleball Gameplay Terms
Ace: If you’ve just seen your first pickleball game, you might find yourself asking “what is an ace in pickleball?” This is a serve that your opponent doesn’t return. If you hit an ace, then you score a point.
“Bounce It!” This is an instruction you might sometimes hear in doubles. This is asking a player to not hit the ball because it looks like it will hit out of bounds.
Dead Ball: This means that the point is over and the ball is no longer in play. It’s usually called after a fault.
Dillball: This is basically the opposite of a dead ball. It means the ball has bounced once and is in play. In other words, it’s a live ball
Doubles: When playing doubles, two teams of two people each compete. A doubles match can be all men, all women, or mixed doubles.
Double Bounce: This is something you want to avoid! It means the ball bounces twice on your side of the court before you can return it. A double bounce results in a lost point for you.
Fault: This is a rule violation that temporarily stops the game or interrupts continuous play.
Flat Face: This means keeping the face of your paddle parallel to the net as you play.
Foot Fault: A foot fault is when your foot moves in such a way that it causes a rule violation. An example is stepping on the non-volley zone line while engaging in a volley.
Game: This is a series of points played until a winner is determined.
Hinder: This is anything that happens to interrupt or adversely affect continuous play.
Line Call: Line calls are when a player says whether a questionable shot was in or out of bounds.
Open Face: This is when you have your paddle face tilted slightly upward.
Poach: This is when one member of a doubles team crosses into their partner’s side of the court to hit a ball.
Rally: A pickleball rally is a continuous play until a fault happens.
Rally Score System: This is when the side that wins a rally wins the point.
Ready Position: This is where you have your knees slightly bent and your paddle in front of you. You want to be ready to move in any direction.
Shadowing: This is when a doubles team moves in sync about 10 feet from one another.
Two-Bounce Rule: In this rule, the ball must bounce on the serve hit. The serving team must let it bounce on the return, too. The ball can be volleyed after the third shot.
Miscellaneous/Funny Pickleball Terms
Banger: This is a player who consistently drives the ball. This video offers some tips on playing pickleball against a banger:
OPA!: You might sometimes hear someone yell this once the third shot after a serve has been hit. It means both teams can volley freely.
Pickle!: You may hear the serving team yell this to indicate serving has begun.
Volley Llama: This refers to a player hitting a volley shot in the non-volley zone.
Now You Understand Pickleball Lingo!
Hopefully, you’ll now know what another pickleball player means when they mention the double-bounce rule or a dink shot. You should have an easier time learning the sport, and you might even be able to pass down your new knowledge of pickleball terms to even newer players!
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
There are way too many pickleball terms to list in such a short answer! But above, we listed some of the terms you’ll need on the pickleball court.
Technically, there are more than five shots in pickleball. But the basic shot types you should learn are serves, forehand shots, backhand shots, volleys, and dinks.
The pickleball paddle is called just that: a paddle. You might hear some pickleball players mistakenly call it a racquet/racket.
This is one of the funnier-sounding pickleball terms! Falafel is a shot that doesn’t reach its full potential, usually because a player does not hit it hard enough or otherwise makes an error.