Pickleball terminology can be confusing for many new pickleball players. This list includes easy-to-understand explanations for the most common pickleball terms.
Here are the most common and unusual pickleball terms. Keep reading to see the entire list.
Kitchen – The kitchen is a slang term for the non-volley zone. The slang term for the non-volley zone line is the kitchen line.
Dinking – When both teams are standing by the non-volley zone line hitting the ball over the net so that it lands in the opponent’s non-volley zone. These can be groundstroke shots or volley shots.
Two-Bounce Rule – After the ball is served, each team must hit one groundstroke before they can hit a volley shot.
Erne – This is a volley shot by a player outside the sideline boundary of the non-volley zone. This volley is typically made close to the net.
Bert – A bert is a shot that is made when your partner jumps in front of you, over the non-volley zone to hit a ball out of the air.
Nasty Nelson – A Nasty Nelson is the term used when the server hits the opponent’s receiver’s partner with the ball, before it bounces.
Similar to most racquet sports, it is a serve that your opponent cannot return.
This is a shot that is hit around the post of the net instead of over it. If it lands in bounds, it is a legal shot.
Here’s a great video with Simon Jardim that explains the ATP shot.
This is the general area at the back of the court in front of the baseline. It is more difficult to score points from this area.
A shot where the back of your hand faces the ball when you hit it. Opposite of the forehand.
This is a shot where the pickleball player uses the pickleball paddle to hit the ball in a downward motion making the ball spin backward. The effect reduces the ball’s forward motion once it hits the ground.
A backswing is the act of moving your arm backward in preparation to hit the ball. Backswings may vary depending on the shot you are trying to make.
A banger is a player who almost always hits the ball hard. A banger may have difficulty with spins, drop shots, and dinks.
The baseline identifies the back of the playing area on a pickleball court. It is 22’ from the net on both sides of the net.
A bert is a shot that is made when your partner jumps in front of you, over the non-volley zone to hit a ball out of the air.
A block volley shot blocks an opponent’s volley by moving your pickleball paddle into the path of the ball, just making contact enough to send it over the net. Typically, the ball will land in the opponent’s non-volley zone.
The carry shot is a shot where the ball doesn’t bounce off the paddle immediately upon impact.
Instead, the ball is “carried” as it rolls across the face of the paddle.
The “topspin third shot drop” is an example of a carry shot.
The centerline identifies the center of the pickleball court, 10’ from the sideline starting at the non-volley line to the baseline. It is used as a guide for doubles play.
A composite paddle is made from multiple materials such as fiberglass, carbon fiber, Nomex, aluminum, graphite, and/or polymer.
Pickleball Court Size
A pickleball court is 44’ (13.4m) long and 20’ (6.1m) wide. These are the same dimensions as a badminton court.
This is a ball that is out of play.
A dink shot is a shot that lands in your opponent’s non-volley zone.
A dink volley is a dink shot that is hit before the ball hits the ground.
A distraction is a tactic that some players use to interfere with the opponent’s focus on the ball or the game.
Double Bounce Rule
The double-bounce rule is when the ball bounces twice on one side before it is returned. If there’s a double bounce, it’s a fault and falls under the Dead Ball Rules, Rule 8.E.
The double-elimination method is usually used in pickleball tournaments.
The double-elimination method means that to be eliminated from play you must lose twice. After the first round, the players who lose, play in a consolation group (sometimes referred to as the “loser’s group”). A player that loses in the consolation group is eliminated from play.
A double hit is when the pickleball ball strikes the surface of a paddle twice during the same stroke. This is legal if you are making a single, unintentional, one-direction stroke. It is illegal in other situations and is a fault. This is Rule 11.A in the USAPA Rulebook.
Here’s Rule 11.A, the double hit rule from the USA Pickleball Association Rule Book:
Balls can be hit twice, but this must occur during an unintentional, continuous, single-direction stroke, by one player. If the stroke made while performing the serve or during a rally is deliberately not continuous, or not in a single direction, or the ball is struck by a second player, it is a fault.
Doubles pickleball is two partners of the same sex playing on a team. Similar to tennis.
Drills are practice sessions that use repetition to work on various game play skills.
A drive is a hard, straight shot that goes deep into the backcourt of the opposition.
The drop shot is a soft shot that just makes it over the net into your opponent’s non volley zone in a location where it is difficult to return.
This is a volley shot by a player outside the sideline boundary of the non-volley zone. This volley is typically made close to the net.
The even court is the right side of the court area when facing the net.
A fault is a rule violation that stops play.
The first server is the player on the right of the serving team after a side-out (transfer of serve from the opposing team to the serving team).
First Server Wristband
A first-server wristband is worn in a doubles match by the player on each team who served first for their side.
Follow thru is the forward motion of the player’s paddle during a stroke. The follow-through continues after the ball is hit until the end of the forward momentum.
There are 2 types of foot faults: Service Foot and Non-Volley Zone.
- A service foot fault is when the server’s foot is touching the court or baseline when serving.
- A non-volley zone fault is when a player’s foot is in the non-volley zone or touching the non-volley line when volleying.
This video explains non-volley zone foot faults.
Footwork is the skill of foot placement to be ready to receive returned shots and be balanced to make shots.
A forehand is a shot where the front of your hand faces the ball when you hit it. Opposite of the backhand.
Games are normally played to 11 points; however, a player must win by at least 2 points. In a tournament winner’s match, it’s normally required that the winner(s) win 2 games to win the match. In the loser’s (consolation) match, it is normally played to 15 points.
This describes the way you are holding, and the location of your hand on the paddle.
A groundstroke shot is when the ball bounces once before hitting it.
A half-volley occurs when you contact the ball low to the ground, immediately after it bounces.
International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association.
A kamikaze is a player who quickly runs toward the non-volley zone. Normally this is to get into position while the opposing team prepares to hit the ball.
The kitchen is a slang term for the non-volley zone. The slang term for the non-volley zone line is the kitchen line.
The ladder describes a player ranking system where the top-ranked player is at the top of the ladder, and the lowest-ranked player is at the bottom. The rungs indicate the ranking of the remaining pickleball players relative to each other.
Left Service Area / Odd Court
When facing the net, the odd court refers to the left side of the court bound between the left sideline, centerline, non-volley line, and the baseline.
Just like in tennis, a let is a serve that must be replayed.
This is when a player or line judge calls out loud that a ball has landed in or outside the court lines.
A lob is a long and high ball return that forces your opponent back towards the baseline.
The loser’s bracket is also referred to as the consolation bracket. In a double-elimination tournament play, players who lose their first game move to the loser’s bracket. They will continue to play others who have lost.
Midcourt refers to the area between the non-volley line, the baseline, and the sidelines.
Mixed doubles is team play with a partner of the opposite sex.
A Nasty Nelson is the term used when the server hits the opponent’s receiver’s partner with the ball, before it bounces. This gives the server the point. This can happen if the partner is standing too close to the non-volley line and the center line.
The official pickleball net height is set to 36” at the sidelines and 34” in the middle.
No-man’s land indicates the main playing area on the pickleball court between the baseline and the non-volley line. This is sometimes referred to as the “transition zone” or the “transition area”.
This indicates the beginning of the non-volley zone. It is 7 feet from the net and extends to both sidelines.
The non-volley zone is the area that runs parallel to the net and is 7 feet from the net on both sides. A player can’t stand in the non-volley zone or touch the non-volley zone line and volley the ball. The ball must bounce once.
The Non-Volley Zone (NVZ) is commonly referred to as the kitchen. Sometimes it’s called the no-volley zone but that’s not the correct term.
Overgrip is extra material that’s added over the existing grip material to make the handle larger and easier to hold. It can also have other benefits such as absorbing more shock and sweat.
An overhead shot is any shot where the paddle is above your head when connecting with the ball.
A paddle is used to hit a pickleball. When playing a game of pickleball, you do NOT use a racquet, you use a paddle. And a paddle is not called a racquet! The legal size of a paddle is calculated. The width and length when added cannot be greater than 24”.
The paddle face is the smooth, hitting surface of the paddle.
A paddle tap happens at the end of a game. It’s customary to tap paddles with your partner and/or your opponent at the end of a game.
This is a shot that goes by (passes) the receiver forcing them to chase or miss their return.
Picklebility is a term used to describe someone’s passion, skill, and love for the game.
To poach is the act of a player volleying a ball that was obviously going to their partner. Sometimes the player even runs directly in front of their partner to volley the ball.
Pool play refers to a tournament format that groups players by skill level (or pool). Each level plays the other until a certain number are left. At this point, the winners of the pools play each other to determine the overall winner.
PPA stands for Professional Pickleball Association. The PPA hosts a professional tour for pickleball.
PPR stands for Professional Pickleball Registry. This is one of the top organizations that certify pickleball instructors.
A putaway is a shot that can’t be returned.
A punch volley is a short and quick volley shot typically near the non-volley line, with very little backswing.
A rally indicates the continuous play that occurs from the moment the ball is served until the point is won, or a fault has occurred and the play is stopped.
The ready position is the position a player should stand in to be ready to return the ball. The feet are about shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, paddle held in front of chest with a neutral grip, and weight on the balls of feet.
The receiver is the player who receives the serve. They are diagonally opposite the server. Also referred to as the receiving team.
Right Service Area / Even Court
The right service area of the court refers to the area that is to the right side of the court when facing the net, bound between the right sideline, centerline, non-volley line, and baseline.
A round-robin is a type of tournament play where every player or team plays against every other player or team. It is not an actual round-robin.
The sideline(s) identifies the side boundaries of a pickleball court. The court is 20’ wide and the sideline runs the entire length of the court.
The service court area is diagonal to the server. It’s bound by the sidelines, baseline, and non-volley lines and divided into the left and right service areas by the center line. When serving from their right service area, the ball must bounce once in the service court that is diagonal.
The score is called out at the end of a rally. In singles play it is 2 numbers: the server’s score and the opponent’s score. In doubles play it is 3 numbers: the serving team’s score, the opponent’s team score, and the server number. Read How To Keep Score In Pickleball.
The second server is only in doubles play. Each player has an opportunity to serve once before the ball goes to the opponent’s team. The first player (first server) serves until their team loses a rally, and then the second player (second server) serves until their team loses the rally.
Once both the first server and the second server have served and they’ve lost the rally, the ball goes to the other team.
The server is the player who has to serve the ball and call out the score.
The service motion refers to the entire motion of the server’s arm to serve the ball.
The service number is a term used in doubles play only. Since both players will get a chance to serve, it refers to whether you are the first or second server.
The service team term is only used in doubles play. It refers to the team that is serving.
A side-out is when serving changes from one player to the opponent in singles play or in doubles play, serving goes to the other team.
Singles is when one player competes against another.
Skinny singles is when one player competes against another using only one-half of the pickleball court. This is commonly used by new singles players, or as practice for doubles play.
A slice/chop is a shot that puts a backspin on the ball.
A smash or overhead shot is a power hit where the ball is hit hard from above the player’s head. Sometimes also called an overhead slam.
The split step is a way to transition from running to the ready position. It’s called a split step because from moving forward, you do a short hop, split your legs about shoulder-width apart, then land in the ready position (knees slightly bent, paddle in front, on balls of feet).
Stacking is a strategy used in doubles play. It is where you want to position the players on their strongest side during play. Essentially, if one player is better on the left and the other is better on the right, they move to their strongest side after the serve.
In singles play it indicates the first player to serve. In doubles, it indicates the first player to serve on each team.
The stroke refers to the motion of hitting the pickleball.
Tagging is also called a body shot. Tagging is the act of hitting one of the opposing players or aiming to hit your opponent with the ball. It is a difficult ball to return.
Third Shot Drop
The third shot drop refers to the serving team hitting a drop shot into the opponents’ non-volley zone on the third shot of a rally. It’s called a “Third Shot” drop since it would be the third shot (serve, return, third shot) of the rally.
Topspin is a way to hit the ball, so it spins forward in the direction it is moving. To do this, the ball is usually hit from low to high. It causes a forward and downward momentum which spins the ball.
The transition zone is the center area of the pickleball court between the baseline and the non-volley line. This is sometimes referred to as the “No-Man’s Land”.
Two Bounce Rule
The two-bounce rule means that after the server has served the ball, the receiving side must let the ball once before hitting the ball, and then the server must also let the ball bounce before hitting it. And then either team can volley the ball. USAPA Rule 3.A.7.
Or described as follows:
The two-bounce rule means that after the server has served the ball, the receiving side must hit a groundstroke shot, and then the serving side must also hit a groundstroke shot before either team can volley the ball. Rule 3.A.7. in the USA Pickleball Official Rulebook
A volley is the act of hitting the ball out of the air before it has a chance to bounce.
An unforced error is when a player misses a shot that is completely their own fault, instead of being forced to make a mistake by the opponent who has hit a difficult shot to return.
USA Pickleball is the Official Governing Body of Pickleball in the U.S.