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How to Play Pickleball: First Learn the Pickleball Terms

by Pickleball Superstore March 11, 2022

pickleball terms you'll hear around and on the pickleball courts

New to pickleball?  If so, I'm sure you have questions about this "new" vocabulary.  Here is a long list of terms you’ll hear around the pickleball court. 

And this is not all of the pickleball terms, we're sure.  So enjoy and email us if you have any that we missed! 

Basic Pickleball Terms

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! 

Face: The surface of the paddle used to make shots. 

Grip: Refers to how a player holds their paddle (e.g., western or continental grip).  May also refer to the material wrapped around the paddle handle (e.g., the cushioning).  

Shot-Related Pickleball Terms

Ace: A serve that is not returned by the opposing team.  The serving term earns a point for an ace.

Approach Shot: Ball is hit while moving forward towards the pickleball net.  The goal is to get your team to the Non-volley zone / kitchen line.

Backhand: Moving the paddle back to prepare for a shot. 

Backswing: Motion of swinging the paddle back from the ready position and before the forward swing and follow through.

Backspin: Hitting the ball with a low-high motion that causes the ball to spin in the opposite direction.  Also referred to as a “slice” or “chop”.

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. 

Carry: A shot that does not bounce off the paddle and instead slides along the paddle during a forward swing. 

Champion Shot: A shot that bounces twice in the Non-volley zone.

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.

Dead Ball: A ball after a fault and the point is over.

Dead Dink: A dink shot which does not move your opponent or allows your opponent to attack the dink.

Dinkor Drop Shot: This is a soft shot that lands in the Non-volley zone / kitchen. 

Drop Spin: A shot that is chopped or sliced which causes the ball to sharply drop after it crosses the net.  This is an advanced pickleball shot.

Double Hit: When a ball is hit twice by one team player before it reaches over the net. 

Down the Line: When a ball is hit down the sideline of the court.

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. 

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. 

Overhead Shot: A shot hit over the shoulder, similar to a tennis serve. 

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.

Punch Shot: A quick shot with a low backswing, with a similar motion to stabbing the ball out of the air with the paddle. 

Put Away: A ball that the opponent cannot return, therefore a winning shot. 

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.

Shake and Bake: This shot sequence has become much more popular as the game has become more aggressive.  Basically, the serving team drives the third shot (many times down the middle).  The non-driving player moves quickly towards the net looking for a pop-up fourth shot to put away (5th shot smash).

Third Shot: When the serving team returns the ball after it has been return by the receivers once. In other words, this is the first time the serving hits the ball after serving.

Third Shot Drive: When a serving team player hits a hard shot after a return of serve.

Third Shot Drop: When a serving team player hits a drop shot after a return of serve.

Top Spin: A shot with spin caused by hitting the ball swinging low to high. 

Volley: Hitting the ball out of the air before it bounces. This is not allowed when the player is in the Non-volley zone / kitchen or before the first 3 shots.

Player / Game Pickleball Terms

Doubles: A game of pickleball played with four people divided into two teams, with two players on each team. 

Mixed Doubles: Doubles but with one male and one female player on each side.

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. Can be played on or in some cases people like to play diagonally.

Slammersor Bangers: Slammers or Bangers hit the ball hard and fast. Advanced players claim playing like this demonstrates poor technique as they can run out of energy quickly. 

Stacking: Refers to a strategy where players desire to play each point keeping the same player the same side of the court and not switching sides based on the score.  This happens in more advanced play and can be an advantage to have a player with a strong forehand in the center of the court.  It’s important to understand the rules and the score to be successful with stacking.

Pickleball Rule Terms

Double-Bounce Ruleor 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.

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. 

Foot Fault (serve): During a pickleball serve, at least one foot must be behind the baseline and neither foot may come in contact with the baseline or court until the ball is struck.

Foot Fault (kitchen): During a rally, neither foot may come in contact with the kitchen line unless the ball first bounces in the kitchen.  If the ball goes into the kitchen a player can enter the Non-volley zone to hit the next shot, however that player must exit the kitchen quickly. 

Court-Related Pickleball Terms

Non-Volley Zone (NVZ) or the Kitchen:  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.

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. 

Midcourt: The middle area of the pickleball court, between the baseline and the Non-volley zone. 

Plane of the Net: The imaginary vertical planes that extend beyond the net system on all sides.

Pickleball Etiquette Terms

Nice Get: Said to a player when 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: Another compliment. 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.  Usually a “nice setup” ends with a team hitting a winner to end the point / rally.

Retirement: This is said when you have decided to stop the match and award the point to your opponent.

Ejection: When a player is prohibited from participating in a tournament by Tournament Director due to unacceptable behavior.

Profanity: Any words, phrases or gestures that are considered too impolite to use around children or in polite company. Using a profanity may go against pickleball etiquette!

Paddle Pickleball Terms

Elongated Pickleball Paddle:  This type of pickleball paddle is longer and usually has a longer grip length. The CRBN1 and CRBN1x along with the VELOZ Ellipse are examples of this type of standard pickleball paddle.

Standard Pickleball Paddle: This type of pickleball paddle is more square and has a wider sweet spot.  The CRBN2 and CRBN2x along with the VELOZ Quadra are examples of this type of standard pickleball paddle.

Extended Pickleball Paddle: This type of pickleball paddle is longer and thinner than the other pickleball paddles.  It's not as common, but is used by some players for single pickleball play.

Pickleball Paddles for Beginners: here is a link to help with options

Pickleball Paddles for Tennis Players: here is a link to help with options

Funny / Random Pickleball Terms

Falafel: This does not refer to middle eastern food! A falafel 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. 

Golden Pickle: This is when you win (or unfortunately lose) a game 11-0.  Kinda embarrassing but it happens.

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. Basically, you lose 11-0.

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.

Volley Llama: An illegal move where a player hits a shot in the kitchen. 


Pickleball Superstore
Pickleball Superstore