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Pickleball combines all the best elements of other racket sports from badminton to table tennis. Played with a plastic ball with holes and a wooden paddle, this fast-paced game is growing in popularity.
The rules of pickleball are simple and it is an easy game for beginners to learn. However, if you are new to the sport, some of the phrases can be confusing at first.
We’ve listed the most important pickleball terms and their definitions, so you can hit the court with confidence. From equipment to shots and any slang you may hear during the game, you will soon be fluent in the language of pickleball.
An easy guide to Pickleball terminology
The four essential things you need to play Pickleball are a ball, paddle, net and an understanding of the rules and phrases used on the court. Don’t worry if you can’t remember everything, Pickleball is so popular as it is easy to pick up and a lot of fun. With up to four people crammed into a small court, there will always be someone nearby to consult if you get lost.
Ball: The ball used in Pickleball is a plastic ball with holes or a wiffle ball.
Paddle: This is what you use to hit the Pickleball, don’t call it a racket!
Doubles: A game of pickleball played with four people divided into two teams, with two players on each team.
Singles: A game played with two people, one on each side.
Skinny singles: A game played with two people, one on each side, using only half of the court.
Face: the surface of the paddle used to make shots.
Non-volley zone: This 7-foot section of the court is on either side of the net at the front. Players cannot hit balls out of the air with volleys if standing in this area.
Volley: This shot picks the ball out of the air before it bounces. This move is not allowed when the player is in the kitchen or before the first 3 rallies.
Double-Bounce Rule or Two Bounce Rule: Both teams must play their first shot after letting the ball bounce. The receiving team must let the serve bounce and the serving team must let the return of the serve bounce before playing it.
Centerline: The centerline divides the service court into halves from the non-volley zone to the baseline.
Baseline: The line at the back of the court. A baseline is usually 22 feet from the pickleball net.
Backcourt: The few feet at the back of a courtside near the baseline.
Sideline: The lines on each side of the court.
Serve: An underhanded shot that begins a pickleball rally. In pickleball, you get 2 serves. The player must serve the ball from below the waist level.
Service outside scoring: In pickleball, a player must get the serve to win a point and you can only get a point if you are serving.
Server number: If playing doubles, the server must call their number – either “1” or “2”, depending on whether you served first or second on your side. This number must be called out along with the score.
Ace: A serve that is not returned by the opposing team
Bounce it: Your partner will call this out if they want you to let the ball bounce as it is likely to land out of bounds.
Put away: A ball that the opponent cannot return, therefore a winning shot.
Approach shot: The ball is hit while moving forward towards the pickleball net.
Backhand: Moving the paddle back to prepare for a shot.
Backspin: Hitting the ball with a low-high motion that causes the ball to spin in the opposite direction.
Carry: A shot that does not bounce off the paddle and instead slides along the paddle during a forward swing.
Double hit: When a ball is hit twice by one team player before it reaches over the net.
Forehand: Forehand shot hit on a player’s dominant side, for example for a left-handed player, a ball hit on their left side.
Half-volley: A shot where a ball bounces but doesn’t reach full height before it is hit.
Overhead shot: A shot hit over the shoulder, similar to a tennis serve.
Punch: A quick shot with a low backswing, with a similar motion to stabbing the ball out of the air with the paddle.
Top Spin: A shot with spin caused by hitting the ball swinging low to high.
Cross-court dink: This is a dink that carries all the way from one side of the court to the other and usually lands in the opposite opponent’s kitchen.
Lob: An extremely high shot that goes over the heads of your opponents and into the backcourt. The purpose of this shot is to make your opponents run for the ball and lose their positions.
Slammers: Slammers hit the ball hard and fast. Advanced players claim playing like this demonstrates poor technique as they can run out of energy quickly.
Dink or Drop shot: This is a soft shot that lands in the Non-volley zone.
Poach: Poaching is where one team member will take the shots going towards their partner, instead of letting the partner play. Poaching may happen when one player is on a much higher skill level than their partner.
Funny Pickleball terms and slang you will hear on the court
Pickleball is an extremely social sport, which means it has developed a vocabulary of its own. Now you’re an expert in general on court terms, why not learn some Pickleball slang?
Falafel: No not the middle eastern food! A falafel in pickleball is a shot that doesn’t reach its full potential, due to the player hitting the ball without any power.
Flapjack: A shot that must bounce once before it can be hit.
Kitchen: Slang term for the Non-Volley Zone.
Dead ball: The ball has gone out and the current point is over.
OPA!: A cheer shouted out after the 3rd shot has been hit and open volleying has started.
Pickle!: A player shouts “Pickle!” to let the other players know they are about to serve.
Pickled: If a team scores zero points by the end of the game, they have been pickled. This is what you want to avoid.
Pickledome: The court where the championship match in a pickleball tournament is played.
Pickler: Someone who is obsessed with Pickleball and cannot stop talking about the sport. Are you a pickleball addict?
Volley llama: An illegal move where a player hits a shot into the kitchen.
Nice get: If someone on the court yells “nice get” this means that you hit a ball that was difficult to reach or return.
Nice rally: This is a compliment to all players, meaning there has been a long streak of shots between teams.
Nice setup: This is another compliment. In pickleball, a setup means a player has successfully manipulated a player to move to an area of the court, which leaves an exposed section not covered by the opposing team.