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Pickleball Terms & Definitions: A Complete Guide

Struggling to understand the language of pickleball? You’re not alone. Pickleball, an exciting sport with a growing fanbase, has its own unique set of terms and jargon that could stump even seasoned players.

This article is your go-to guide for demystifying all things pickleball – from equipment, names, and scoring lingo to amusing slang used on the court.

Let’s dive into this fantastic world of pickleball terminology!

Understanding the Basics of Pickleball

man in gray crew neck t-shirt and gray shorts sitting on basketball court
Photo by Venti Views on Unsplash

In this section, we’ll dive into the fundamentals of pickleball, first explaining what exactly it is and then taking a look at its intriguing history.

Definition of Pickleball

Pickleball is a racket sport that uniquely blends elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis. It’s typically played on a court similar in size to a doubles badminton court with either two or four players.

The players use solid paddles made of wood or lightweight composite materials to hit a perforated polymer ball over a net at mid-court height. Pickleball competitions often involve quick volleys between the team members as they attempt to keep the other side from returning the ball successfully.

Also read: How To Choose A Pickleball Paddle

Brief History of Pickleball

Three friends, Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum, invented pickleball in the mid-1960s. The aim was to create a fun-filled game to keep their families entertained during the summer of 1965.

Intriguingly, Pickles – a pet dog fond of chasing the ball during gameplay – inspired the name “Pickleball.” Its unique appeal quickly spread across different parts of the United States.

Today, millions worldwide enjoy this engaging sport, affirming its status as a competitive pastime enjoyed by people of all ages—even into their senior years!

Comprehensive Glossary of Pickleball Terms

In this section, we dive into the various pickleball terms, touching everything from equipment and court terminology to gameplay phrases. We’ll break down commonly used serving terms, describe types of shots and rule violations, explore how communication is handled on the court, and categorize players by their playing style.

Equipment Terms

Familiarity with pickleball equipment helps you communicate more effectively during a game.

  1. Paddle: A piece of equipment used to hit the ball in pickleball, usually made from lightweight materials like aluminum or graphite.
  2. Ball: A sphere with holes throughout, similar to a wiffle ball. It’s lighter than a tennis ball and comes in indoor and outdoor varieties.
  3. Grip: The handle of the paddle that players hold onto when playing. It can be customized to fit individual player preferences.
  4. Indoor Ball: A specific type of pickleball designed for indoor play, it has larger holes compared to an outdoor ball.
  5. Outdoor Ball: This version of a pickleball is weighted heavier and contains smaller holes making it suitable for outdoor conditions like wind.
  6. Hybrid Ball: The hybrid ball combines features of both indoor and outdoor balls, offering flexibility for players who play in different settings.
  7. Dillball: A term referring to the pickleball itself, often used humorously among players.

Also read: Best Pickleball Accessories

Court Terms

Learning pickleball terms will unlock a deep understanding of the game and take your enjoyment to new heights. Now, let’s dive into some court-specific terms.

  1. Backcourt: This refers to the area near the baseline at each end of the court.
  2. Baseline: It is the line at each end of the court which signifies out-of-bounds.
  3. Centerline: It divides the service boxes on each side of the court.
  4. Non-Volley Zone (NVZ): Often called “the kitchen,” it extends 7 feet from either side of the net, and volleying within this zone is prohibited.
  5. Midcourt: This term refers to an area roughly in the middle between the baseline and the non-volley zone.
  6. Net Height: In pickleball, it is mandated by rules that net height should be 34 inches in the center and 36 inches at the ends.
  7. NVZ line or Kitchen Line: It’s another name for Non-Volley Line that marks a 7-foot boundary on both sides of the net where volleys are not allowed.

General Game Play Terms

Moving on to general game play terms, these phrases are the backbone of pickleball conversation. They sketch the primary lines of the sport making it easier for everyone to understand.

  • Stroke refers to any hit made with the paddle that pushes the ball across the net.
  • Rally: A rally is a continuous exchange of shots between players or teams without breaching any rules.
  • Bounce It: This term is used when a player allows the ball to bounce once before hitting it.
  • Side Out: When a serving team loses their serve, this change in possession is called a side out.
  • Serve: The action that initiates play at the start of every point.
  • Return of Serve: The shot right after a serve sends the ball back into play.
  • Second Serve: In doubles, each team gets two chances to serve. The second attempt is termed the second serve.
  • Server Number: In doubles play, each player on a team has either ‘1’ or ‘2’ assigned as their server number.
  • Nasty Nelson: An unorthodox legal serve where you intentionally lob the ball into an opponent’s face or body.

Serving Terms

Grasping the different serving terms in pickleball significantly enhances your gameplay. Familiarize yourself with these commonly used serving terms:

  1. Ace: This is a serve that the opponent doesn’t return, thus awarding the server a point.
  2. Second Serve: After a fault on the first service attempt, a player gets another chance to serve; this is known as a second serve.
  3. Server Number: In doubles, each team member serves before service passes to the other team; each server has a number (either one or two).
  4. Return of Serve: The shot made by the player receiving the serve.
  5. Service Court: The area wherein players must serve the ball.
  6. Fault: An unsuccessful or illegal play that ends in losing the service turn or rewarding a point to the enemy team.
  7. Foot Fault: A rule violation that occurs when the server’s foot crosses into the court before striking ball during service.
  8. Serving Outside Scoring Sequence: In doubles, if a player serves out of sequence, it results in a loss of point or loss of serve, depending on the situation.
  9. Nasty Nelson: A controversial yet legal strategy where the server targets the ball at the opposing player closest to the net (‘middle man’), hoping for a missed return due to confusion or lack of communication.

Types of Shots

In pickleball, different shots can greatly impact the game’s outcome. Here are some of those shots:

  1. Approach Shot: A groundstroke hit with enough pace and depth to allow a player to approach the net.
  2. Backhand: A shot hit with the back of the racket hand facing the ball.
  3. Forehand: A shot where the palm of your hand leads the paddle into contact with the ball.
  4. Lob: A high, soft shot, aimed over an opponent’s head forcing them away from their current position.
  5. Overhead Slam: A powerful shot made from a position near or at the net in response to a lob or high bounce that leaves open court space.
  6. Drive: This is a low and hard-hit groundstroke.
  7. Slice: A technique where the player imparts underspin on the ball by hitting it with a brushing action from high to low.
  8. Cross-Court Dink: This slow paced shot is played into an opponent’s non-volley zone, typically diagonally across court, keeping opponents back and creating openings for attack.
  9. Volley Shot: Hit before it bounces while outside of non-volley zone (NVZ), often used for put-aways and quick exchanges at net.

Types of Rule Violations

Pickleball, like any sport, has a set of rules that if broken, result in penalties. These are called rule violations.

  1. Foot Fault: This violation occurs when a player’s foot enters the Non-Volley Zone (NVZ) while volleying the ball.
  2. Service Outside Scoring: A player serves out of turn or from the wrong position.
  3. Double Bounce: The ball bounces twice before being returned by the receiving side.
  4. Two Bounce Rule Violation: The receiver or his/her partner volleys the serve or first return.
  5. Hinder: Any action by a player that distracts an opponent and prevents them from making a legal shot.
  6. Technical Foul: Unsportsmanlike behavior such as cursing, throwing a paddle, or arguing with an official results in loss of point or disqualification.
  7. Carry: When the ball rests on a paddle longer than an instant during a shot.
  8. Non-Volley Zone (NVZ) Fouls: No volley is allowed within NVZ, and no stepping into NVZ immediately after playing a volley shot until you have established position outside of NVZ again.

On Court Communication

Effective communication on the pickleball court is crucial for a successful game. Here’s a list of commonly used phrases and terms that can help you communicate better with your teammates and opponents:

  1. “Opa!”: An exclamation often used when a spectacular shot is made.
  2. “Nice Setup”: This phrase is typically spoken when a player sets up their partner for an easy slam.
  3. “Bounce It”: A useful term to remind players to let the ball bounce before hitting it, especially important due to the two-bounce rule in pickleball.
  4. “Nice Get”: A compliment given to a player who manages to retrieve a difficult shot.
  5. “Nice Rally”: This phrase is spoken when there has been an extended back-and-forth volley between teams.
  6. Terms for Types of Pickleball Players: These include ‘Banger’ (a player that always hits the ball hard), ‘Slammer’ (someone who smashes every possible shot), and ‘Picker’ (a player who excels in playing dink shots).

Terms for Types of Pickleball Players

Different types of players bring unique strategies and skills to a pickleball game, each with their own distinct characteristics. Understanding these terminologies can help you recognize your style and improve your performance on the court:

  1. Banger: A player known for hitting the ball with full force frequently, yet might have difficulty executing the more finesse shots like dinks or drop shots.
  2. Junior: This term refers to young or relatively new players in the world of pickleball who are learning and refining their game play.
  3. Dinker: Dinkers excel at a specific shot called a ‘dink,’ a soft shot that is designed to just clear the net and drop into the non-volley zone or kitchen.
  4. Slammer: Similar to bangers, slammers prefer power over precision, using hard-hitting shots as their primary weapon on the court.
  5. Lobber: These players effectively use lob shots to throw off opponents by sending the ball high into the air and deep into their side of the court.
  6. Poacher: A poacher is an aggressive player who often infiltrates their partner’s side of the court in doubles games to make a volley shot.

Diving into Pickleball Slang

We will explore some fun and amusing pickleball slang terms used within the community, which can add humor and camaraderie to your games.

Funny Pickleball Slang Terms

Pickleball is not just a game, it’s a community filled with enjoyable terms that bring humor and fun to the sport. These terms are not official but are widely used amongst pickleball enthusiasts. Let’s dive into some funny pickleball slang terms:

  1. Dillball”: This term refers to an easy shot that should have been made but was missed.
  2. “Slammers”: Players who hit the ball with full force every time, regardless of strategic value.
  3. “Volley Llama”: A player who loves to volley and tries to do so at every opportunity.
  4. “Pickle”: A situation where a player is caught out of position and unable to return the shot.
  5. “Falafel”: A soft serve that gets devoured by an aggressive opponent.
  6. Flapjack”: A perfectly flat shot that glides over the net like a pancake on a griddle.
  7. “Pickledome”: The area of the court one wants to avoid, also known as No Man’s Land.
  8. “Pickler”: An avid pickleball player who simply can’t get enough of the game.
  9. “Beer Bracket”: A casual round-robin tournament where socializing might be more important than winning!
  10. “Golden Pickle”: The term for achieving the rare feat of winning a game without letting opponents score any points.

Understanding Pickleball Lingo

Get familiar with the unique jargon used on the pickleball court, from common phrases like “Nice setup!” or “Bounce it,” and dig deeper into understanding how this lingo forms an essential part of the overall game culture.

Dive into our guide for a closer look at these terms!

Common Phrases You May Hear on the Court

Whether you’re a pickleball pro or just learning the ropes, there are certain phrases you’ll likely hear during every match. Here is a list of common pickleball phrases that ring across courts:

  1. “Ace” – This refers to a serve that the opponent fails to return, earning the server a point.
  2. “Approach Shot” – Players use this term to describe a shot hit while moving forward towards the net.
  3. “Banger” – This playful phrase describes a player who prefers power over finesse, typically hitting every shot with maximum force.
  4. “Opa!” – A word of joy and encouragement often shouted by players when they win a game or make a great shot.
  5. “Nice Setup” – The phrase is used when one player sets up another for an easy kill shot at the net.
  6. “Bounce It” – A command often heard in doubles play instructing the partner to let the ball bounce before returning it.
  7. “Nice Get” – An enthusiastic compliment paid to opponents or partners after they chased down and returned a tough shot.
  8. “Nice Rally” – Players use this phrase to appreciate extended volleys between both sides resulting in exciting back-and-forth exchanges.

The Use of Pickleball Terms and Phrases in Game Play

Knowing how to use pickleball terms and phrases during game play significantly improves players’ communication and understanding of the sport. For instance, a player might shout “Kitchen!” when an opponent steps into the non-volley zone.

This alert not only communicates a fault but also tells all other players that the point has ended due to this rule violation. Mastery of these terms can heighten enjoyment of the game as it facilitates smooth gameplay with precise instructions and immediate reactions.

For example, using words like “Dink shot” or “Lob” helps teammates coordinate strategies without revealing plans to opponents. As such, Pickleball terminology is more than just words; it’s an essential tool for strategizing, communicating effectively on court, and ultimately winning games!


Grasping the language of pickleball truly enhances your game. With this complete guide to pickleball terms and definitions, you can confidently step onto any court. So pick up your paddle and engage with fellow players using the right pickleball lingo.

It’s time for a fun-filled match!


1. What are some common Pickleball definitions?

Pickleball definitions include terms like Backspin, Double Hit and Drop Spin which refer to different styles of shots and movements within the game.

2. Can you explain scoring in Pickleball?

In Pickleball scoring, a team scores points when serving, with the goal being to reach 11, 15 or 21 points before the opposing team.

3. What’s a “Dead Ball” in Pickleball terminology?

A Dead Ball is one that is not playable due to an infringement of rules such as hitting out of bounds, striking player’s body outside non-volley zone or double hit.

4. Can you describe what Open Face and Overhead Shot mean in pickleball?

Open Face refers to tilting your paddle upwards allowing for more ball lift while Overhead Shot means hitting the ball above your shoulder height similar like taking a smash shot in tennis.

5. How do strategies like ATP Shot and Stacking fit into pickleberry play?

ATP (Around The Post) Shot pass around rather than over net post; whereas Stacking involves tactical positioning where skilled players line up on one side of court during serve.

6. What does “Retirement” mean? Is it related to stopping playing entirely?

No! In pickleball glossary, Retirement isn’t about quitting sport altogether—it simply denotes when a player must quit mid-match due to injury or other unavoidable circumstances.

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