This is intended as an exhaustive dictionary/glossary of pickleball terms. If you think I should write a definition for an additional term or you have other suggestions, please drop me a note—I do update this list as new terms are coined and gain widespread use.
AAU: See “Amateur Athletic Union”.
ace: A legal serve that is not touched by the receiving team.
Amateur Athletic Union: One of the largest non-profit volunteer sports organizations in the USA and is dedicated exclusively to the promotion and development of amateur sports programs which, in 2018, officially began to include pickleball. [website]
ambassador: An official volunteer representative of the USAPA charged with promoting the game of pickleball in a given region.
approach shot: A shot made while moving up to the net.
around-the-post: A legal shot whereby the ball is returned from outside the court and into the opposing team’s court, never passing over the net. May pass below the level of the top of the net.
ATP shot: An abbreviation for an around-the-post shot. (Popularized by Kyle Yates.)
backcourt: The last third or so of the court furthest back from the net.
backhand: A shot made with your paddle arm across your body.
backspin: Spin applied to the ball by hitting it while the paddle is moving from high to low, causing the bottom of ball to rotate away from the hitter while in flight. A ball with backspin will have a tendency to slow—or even stop—forward motion once it contacts the ground.
backswing: Moving the paddle backward away from the ball while preparing to hit it.
bagel. A slang term for a completed game in which the losing team failed to score even a single point. Also known as being or getting “pickled”.
“Ball on!” A shout indicating that an errant ball has entered the court, typically while some players are unaware.
banger: A player who typically hits every possible shot very hard, often from the baseline.
baseline: The furthermost parallel line to the net from which the ball is served.
blended court: A tennis court that is additionally striped in the same color family as the court surface to accommodate different court configurations such needed for pickleball.
block: A shot, typically made from near the non-volley zone, whereby a player returns a hard-hit ball by simply holding up his/her paddle versus having to swing.
“Bounce it”: Communication from one partner to the other when one partner feels that the ball in flight may—but may not—land out of bounds; most common with lobs or other slower shots.
calling the score: The announcement required prior to each serve, by the server or referee, composed of the serving team score, receiving team score, and lastly the server number, such as “5, 8, 2”. In a singles game, the last number (server) is omitted.
carry: Paddle contact with the ball whereby the ball doesn’t immediately leave the face of the paddle during the hit but instead the ball and paddle remain in contact during a significant part of the stoke.
centerline: The line equally dividing the two service courts and stretches from the non-volley zone line to the baseline.
challenge court: During social play or a large group practice, a court where the winner(s) of a match stays and takes on the next challenger(s). Since there is no rule regarding this, variations abound, such as limiting a player to a set number of games on the challenge court.
chicken wing. Positioning your paddle arm with your elbow pointed up but your paddle down in an attempt to hit a ball coming to toward the vicinity of your same-side armpit.
chop: Swinging the paddle down to put backspin on the ball.
closed face: Having the top of the paddle face tilted forward toward the net.
crosscourt shot: To hit the ball to the opponent’s portion of the court diagonally opposite from your own.
dead ball: Once a fault or hinder occurs, the ball is declared dead and action on the point is over.
dedicated court: A court that is striped and set up for only a single sport.
Dingles: While there are a number of versions of this dinking drill game, it typically involves play using only the non-volley zone as the legal court area. In one variation, initially two balls are only dinked crosscourt and once a fault occurs, a player yells “Dingles” and the entire court comes become the legal playing surface. Other variations include serving crosscourt simultaneously and working toward the net then using only the NVZ until one ball faults.
dink: A soft and low shot over the net intended to land in the opponent’s non-volley zone, made from near one’s own kitchen line.
distraction: An illegal attempt to get the attention of an opponent about to take action on the ball.
doubles: A game of one team of two players versus another team of two players.
double bounce rule: After each serve, the ball must bounce once on each side of the net before it can legally be volleyed.
double elimination: A team must lose twice to be eliminated from a tournament.
double hit: A ball that is hit twice before returning over the net by either one player or both partners. Generally illegal, permitted only when the ball is unintentionally—and almost instantaneously—struck twice by one player in a single stoke motion.
down the line: A shot hit directly ahead of the hitter, usually along a sideline.
draw: The determination of who a team/player will play as their opponents in a tournament.
drop flight: A tournament format where players move down a level/bracket each time they lose.
drop shot: A soft ground stroke made from back in the court that gently sails just over the net and lands in, or very close to, the opponent’s non-volley zone.
drop shot volley: A shot made on a ball before it bounces and gently sails it just over the net; typically made while close to the net.
edge guard: Tape that is applied along the edge of a paddle for protection and/or to increase weight of the paddle head.
Elo Rating System: The underlying method used to help determine official USAPA player ratings. Named after professor Arpad Elo, this algorithm was originally developed to rank chess players. A player’s rating rises or falls based on his/her game performance considering the strength of his/her opponent. See “USAPA Tournament Player Rating”.
erne: A volley from immediately left or right of the non-volley zone (outside of the court). Coined by Jeff Shank after Shank first saw this technique used by Erne (pronounced “Ernie”) Perry at the 2010 Nationals.
equipment timeout: A 2-minute stoppage of play allowed by the referee when it is determined that an equipment repair/replacement is necessary for fairness or safety.
fault: Any rule violation that results in the stoppage of play—such as hitting the ball out of bounds or into the net, serving a ball that doesn’t land in the correct service court, hitting the ball twice, etc.
figure 8 drill: Typically done with two players. One player is designated to only hit the ball diagonally to the other player, while the other player only hits the ball straight ahead. After a period of time, the players switch up. With modification, may be done with four players. Called “figure 8” due to the path of the ball when viewed overhead.
flat face: When the hitting surface of the paddle is kept parallel to the net and perpendicular to the ground.
flying erne: Similar to a standard erne shot, but volleying while leaping across the NVZ instead of from an established position to the left or right of the NVZ.
foot fault: When a player’s foot illegally touches the non-volley zone while volleying or when both feet are not fully behind the server’s service court during the serve.
golden pickle: Winning a game using solely the very first service, with the opposing team never serving.
groundstroke: A long (non-lob) hit made after the ball has bounced. (As opposed to a volley.)
half volley: Hitting a ball almost instantaneously after it bounces and well before it reaches its full bounce height. Sometimes called a “short hop”.
hinder/hinderance: Some outside interference that affects the game, such as a ball that rolls into the court or an animal or person that violates the court space. Instances of a hinder are declared a let and are replayed. Wind is not considered a hindrance. (Sometimes confused with “distraction” which is an illegal action by an opponent.)
IFP: International Federation of Pickleball.
injury time-out: The old name for a “medical time-out”. See “medical time-out”.
International Federation of Pickleball: The IFP officially established its Constitution, Bylaws, and Officers in 2015 with inaugural member countries of the USA, Canada, Spain and India. ifpickleball.org.
International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association: An organization established to certify pickleball instructors to consistent standards. IPTPA.com
IPTPA: International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association.
kitchen: A very commonly used nickname for the non-volley zone.
kitchen line: A commonly used nickname for the line parallel to the net separating the non-volley zone from the rest of the court.
ladder: A tournament held over the course of a number of weeks where players move up and down in ranking depending on play against other players in the tournament. Ladder tournaments can be indefinite or have a set time limit with winners determined at the end.
let: A point that is to be replayed. Often refers to a service let, but can also refer to any point that is replayed due to a hindrance.
line call: A determination if a ball landed within the court (contacted the paint of the line or therein) or landed outside of the court (fault). Calls made before the ball contacts the ground are considered “player communication” and are not valid line calls.
line judge: An official charged with determining if a ball lands legally in the court or not.
lob: A shot high over an opponent’s head, forcing him or her back from the net.
lobster: A slang term for a player who relies heavily on lobbing during games.
Lobster Pickle: A brand of pickleball ball feeder machine used for practicing. Made by Lobster Sports. [website]
majors: The three premier tournaments (“majors”) typically recognized in pickleball are the U.S. Open, USAPA Nationals, and the Tournament of Champions.
MD: An abbreviation sometimes seen for men’s doubles.
medical time-out: A time-out called by a player to recover from a temporary injury. The player is allowed up to 15 minutes by the referee after which time the match is forfeited. This timeout cannot be called during action, regardless of severity of the injury. (Prior to January 2018, called an “injury timeout”.)
mixed doubles: A doubles game whereby each team is composed of a man and a woman.
MXD. An abbreviation sometimes seen for mixed doubles.
Nasty Nelson: Serving into the body (or paddle) of the unsuspecting doubles partner of the receiver which results in a point for the server due to interference rules. Coined by Scott Lipitz after Timothy Nelson, who was known for using this against unsuspecting opponents.
Nationals: The USAPA national championship started in 2009.
net. A mesh strung cross the center of the court, dividing the opponents. 36″ high at the sidelines, 34″ high in the middle.
no man’s land: A space of particular tactical disadvantage where a player is situated partway between the non-volley zone line and the baseline
Nomex: A resin-infused honeycomb paper core used in some pickleball paddles. Lightweight and strong.
non-volley line: The line parallel to the net that spans from sideline to sideline, indicating the start of the non-volley zone.
non-volley zone: The seven-foot deep area, the width of the court, adjacent to the net within which you cannot volley the ball. Also called the “kitchen”.
normal time-out: A 1-minute stoppage of play called by a player. Teams are allowed 2 timeouts, unless the game is to 21 points when 3 timeouts are permitted instead. Also see “medical time-out”.
not-ready signal: Given by a receiver to delay service. Indicated by raising a paddle, or free hand, or by turning one’s back. Such signals given by the receiver’s partner are not considered valid.
NSGA: National Senior Games Association.
nutmeg: A hit that passes between an opponent’s legs for a winning shot. Derived from soccer and hockey. Believed to have originated in Victorian times when the term meant “to make someone look foolish”.
NVL: Non-volley line.
NVZ: Non-volley zone.
open face: Having the top of the paddle face tilted away from the net.
open play: Games where players of any skill level are welcome to play.
over and back shot: When a hit ball has so much spin that after bouncing on the opponent’s side of the net, the ball returns back over to the hitter’s side of the net. If the ball is untouched by the opponent, the shot results in the hitter’s point. This shot is the only instance where the opponent is allowed to legally reach across the net and contact the ball. (The best shot for the opponent is to hit the ball back toward himself/herself into the net, thereby winning the point.)
overhead slam: See “smash”.
overhead smash: See “smash”.
overgrip: Material wrapped around the handle of a paddle to thicken the handle and otherwise improve the grip
paddle: A hard flat surface with a handle used to hit the ball. Originally of plywood, are now constructed of a variety of durable light-weight materials.
paddle head: The large flat area of a paddle above the handle that is intended to contact and strike the ball.
pantry: A lesser-used term to describe the space outside the court immediately left and right of the kitchen.
panty dropper: An around-the-post shot hit behind the back. Coined in 2017 by Kyle Yates and other pickleball youngsters.
passing shot: A low shot that passes outside the reach of the opposing player and bounces inbounds.
PB: An abbreviation of “pickleball”.
permanent court: A court that is permanently striped with a permanently mounted net.
permanent object: Any and all permanent fixtures in and around the court, including net posts, lights, seats, etc.
pickle: The definition of a ‘pickle’ varies significantly and it appears that there is no consensus on the term. For some, it’s a shot between the legs. For others, it’s holding the opponent to no score in a game. A very small number of clubs yell out “pickle” when a ball rolls onto an unsuspecting court, instead of the far more common “ball on!”. Yet others have different uses of the term.
picklebacks: The matches that occur in the losers/consolation bracket of a standard double elimination tournament. Derived from the term “wrestlebacks” in the sport of wrestling.
pickleball: 1) A game played as singles or doubles on a badminton-sized court in which players hit a hard ball over a net using paddles. 2) A hard perforated plastic ball used in the game of pickleball.
Pickleball Tutor: A brand of pickleball ball feeder machine used for practicing. Made by Sports Tutor. [website]
pickled. A slang term describing the action of when a losing team failed to score even a single point. “We got pickled.”
Pickles: The name of the dog belonging to one of the inventors of pickleball to whom the name of the game is accredited. (It’s also been said that the wife of one inventor claims the game is named after the “pickle boat” in rowing, so there is some debate.)
player communication: Any verbal communication on the court other than calling the score and line calls. Can even include the words “out” or “in” prior to a ball touching the ground, but once the ball bounces, these words are construed specifically as line calls.
poach: To hit a ball that is expected to be the partner’s responsibility.
point award: A tournament format where a point is awarded for each win. Teams/players winning the first two games of a match receive an extra point.
pool play: A tournament format where teams/players are divided into two or more groups (pools) which then play round robins to determine who will advance.
PPF: Professional Pickleball Federation. (Disbanded.)
PPR: Professional Pickleball Registry.
Professional Pickleball Federation: Founded in 2016, an association of players 4.5 or 5.0 who pay the annual fee to join. This group advances opportunities for professional players. This group ceased operations at the end of 2017. Its website was pbfederation.com.
Professional Pickleball Registry: The Official Education and Certification Partner of USAPA, a subsidiary of Professional Tennis Registry (PTR). PPR began serving members on June 21, 2018 with the goal of fostering coaching certification. pprpickleball.org
Professional Tennis Registry: The parent organization to the Professional Pickleball Registry. The largest global organization of tennis teaching professionals and coaches. ptrtennis.org
PTR: Professional Tennis Registry.
put away: To win a point by hitting the ball in such a way as your opponent cannot hit it.
rally: A longer sequence of back and forth shots between opposing teams during a single point.
rally scoring: Under this unsanctioned game variant, the team that wins a rally gains a point, regardless of whether they served or not. This is not common for pickleball and is not found in the IFP rules. A game played under rally scoring will typically be completed 2 to 3 times faster. Rally scoring can tip the balance of the game in favor of the receivers.
ratings: See “USAPA Tournament Player Ratings”.
readiness: A state in which a receiver is properly prepared and expecting to receive a serve. It is illegal to call the score and serve when the receiver is not ready. In refereed play, the referee calls the score when the receiver is determined to be ready or should be ready.
rec play: An abbreviation of “recreational play”.
receiver: The player diagonally opposite the server.
recreational play: Any non-tournament game. Also called “social play”.
replay: A point that is played over, typically due to some interference to the game.
resetting the point: Successfully moving from a position of tactical disadvantage during a rally to one of neutrality.
ripcord: A nickname for the cable that runs along the top of the net and supports it.
roof shot. A formerly legal technique of while standing to the left or right of the court while on the opponent’s side of the net, holding one’s paddle over over the ball thus preventing the opponent from properly hitting the ball back over the net. The rules have been changed to prevent this.
ROS: Return of Serve.
round robin: A tournament format where all players (singles) or teams (doubles) rotationally play games against all the others to determine the winner.
sanctioned tournament: A tournament that meets the criteria to be formally recognized by the governing pickleball association. For example, in the USA, the tournament fulfills the USAPA requirements for referees, ball type, and rules of play.
sanctioned tournament tier levels: The USAPA assigns sanctioning fees based on specific tournament criteria such as the number of competitors, the amount of the prizes pool, whether there will be national television coverage and other metrics. The largest tournaments are assigned “Tier 1” and the smallest tournaments are “Tier 5”. [website]
second serve: When a team loses its first service and serving passes to the other partner. Technically, can also refer to the very first service of a game when a team only has one allocated service and that score is called “0-0-2”.
self-rating: Under the UTPR, a temporary initial two-digit rating—such as “2.5”—supplied to the association by the player that is supplanted over time with adjusted ratings after each qualifying tournament.
serve: The first hit on the ball to start action on a point.
serve motion: The forward arm swing used used to serve the ball.
server: The player about to hit the ball to start action on a point.
server number: In a doubles game, the number distinguishing between the first or second server, either “1” or “2”. Prior to the serve, this number is announced immediately after the scores of the two teams, e.g., “4-5-2” would indicate the second server is serving.
service court: The area on either side of the centerline between the baseline and the non-volley zone. There are four service courts on a pickleball court.
service let: A serve that contacts the net but still lands in the correct service court. A let may be replayed. A specific type of let. Also see “let”.
service motion: The swing of the server’s arm backward or simply forward to contact the ball for service.
SGA: State Games of America.
short hop: See “half volley”.
side out: The switch of serve from one team to the opposing player(s).
sidelines: The two long lines perpendicular to the net marking the perimeter of the court.
Simon: A brand of pickleball ball feeder machine used for practicing. Made by Big Whale Promo. [website]
single elimination: A team must lose only once to be eliminated from a tournament.
single elimination with consolation: Any team after losing once may still play in the consolation bracket for the 3rd place/bronze medal. A second loss will result in elimination from the tournament.
skinny singles: Playing a game of singles using only the right or left side of the court. Typically used for practice or drills and never used in a tournament.
slice: Hitting the ball with a downward stroke to impart backspin on the ball.
smash: A hard overhead shot intended to end the point. Also called an “overhead smash” or “overhead slam”.
social play: Any non-tournament game. Also called “recreational play” or “rec play”.
soft game: The portion of a match that includes non-drive shots, such as drops and lobs.
spiking: An alternative name for a smash.
spin: Rotation imparted to the ball to alter its behavior in the air and/or after contact with the ground/paddle. See “topspin” and “backspin”.
split step: Standing with both feet approximately shoulder width apart and parallel; it is a very temporary stance while preparing to hit or deciding where to move to next.
SSIPA: Super Senior International Pickleball Association.
stacking: Whereby doubles partners maintain their court positions throughout the game aside from their required service positions, in which one player always assumes position on the right side of the court immediately after service, and the other on the left.
State Games of America: A multi-sport event for amateurs held in the USA every two years and is organized by the National Congress of State Games. Athletes qualify by medaling in their respective State Games in the previous two years. Includes pickleball events. stategamesofamerica.com
Super Senior International Pickleball Association: A group to “support the growth of pickleball around the world, through a social, competitive environment for players of all skill levels ages 60 plus”. ssipa-pb.org
TD: An abbreviation for “tournament director”.
technical foul: Called by a referee when he or she feels a player is abusive or is otherwise not following the rules, adding a point to that player’s opponent’s score. Two technical fouls on one team/player results in a forfeiture of the match.
technical warning: A warning given by a referee if he/she feels that a technical foul is not warranted. Typically given prior to calling a technical foul, but a warning is not required.
tier levels: See “Sanctioned Tournament Tier Levels.”
ten second rule: The server has 10 seconds to initiate a point once a referee has called the score in a game. A delay will result in a fault. (Prior to January 2018, it resulted in a warning, then a foul.)
third shot drop: A soft shot made by the serving team immediately after the service return with the intention of dropping the ball shallow into the opponent’s kitchen thus allowing the serving team time to advance to their own kitchen.
timeout: A stoppage of play called by a player. See “normal timeout” and “injury timeout” and “equipment timeout”.
TKR: Total Knee Replacement, a surgical procedure.
TOC: Tournament of Champions.
topspin: Spin/rotation applied to the ball by hitting it while the paddle is moving from low to high, causing the top of ball to rotate away from the hitter while in flight. A ball with topspin will have a tendency to accelerate forward motion and stay low once it contacts the ground.
tournament director: The top/lead organizer for a tournament.
Tournament of Champions: An annual tournament held in Utah.
tournament tier levels: See “Sanctioned Tournament Tier Levels.”
tracking: Shifting left or right with the ball along the non-volley line to help prevent a passing shot.
triple crown: Winning gold in singles, doubles, and mixed doubles at a single tournament.
tweener: A slang term for a ball that is returned between the hitter’s own legs, sometimes while the hitter has his or her back to the net.
underhand serve: The only legal serve in pickleball, whereby the ball is contacted below the server’s navel by an upward motion paddle positioned fully below the wrist.
unforced error: A critical mistake made on a shot that is not considered difficult to execute.
USAPA Tournament Player Ratings: A player rating system released on July 9, 2018. Under the old system, players were rated solely as 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, 4.5, or 5.0. Under UTPR, using a semi-dynamic automated system—using an implementation of the Elo Rating System—players are assigned a four-digit rating, such as 3.123, which is used for seeding at tournaments. A player’s two-digit abbreviated rating is determined by rounding his or her four-digit rating down to the nearest “.0” or “.5” to a maximum of 6.0. Under UTPR, new 5.5 and 6.0 ratings were added.
UTPR: See “USAPA Tournament Player Ratings”.
Villages: The Villages, a retirement community in central Florida covering 32 square miles. A very popular spot for pickleball featuring approximately 200 dedicated courts. Hosted large national tournaments back in 2001-2002.
volley: To hit the ball out of the air before it has a chance to bounce.
WD. An abbreviation sometimes seen for women’s doubles.
WPF: World Pickleball Federation.
winner: A clearly successful shot ending a point. Such as, “They dinked at least a dozen times before she had a clear winner and took it.”
World Pickleball Federation: Founded in February 2010 with the expressed goal of qualifying pickleball as an Olympic sport. The initial two member countries with governing bodies were the United States and Canada.
WOSPB: World Series of Pickleball.
World Series of Pickleball. A pro-am event held in 2017 to benefit charities, promoted by Chris Allen of the podcast, The Pickleball Show. Official web pages for this event are defunct.
yips. A state whereby a routine muscle-memory action consistently fails with no explanation. Typically, in reference to serving. Such as, “He’s got the yips and is missing all of his serves.”
© 2017-2019, Andrew T. Lenz, Jr. All rights reserved.
“Link. Don’t illegally copy.”
(This page will continue to be updated with new terms as well as reflect rule changes.)