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Learn The Pickleball Lingo: Key Terms And Phrases Explained

Pickleball Lingo and terms

Understanding the pickleball lingo is essential for both novice and experienced players alike. Whether you’re perfecting your dinks, mastering the third shot drop, or strategizing with your doubles partner, fluency in pickleball terminology enhances your gameplay and builds a deeper connection to the sport. So, try to learn the language of pickleball to elevate your skills and enrich your experience on the court.

Pickleball has taken the world by storm, captivating players of all ages with its unique blend of tennis, badminton, and ping pong. As more people discover the joys of this fast-paced and accessible sport, it’s essential to become familiar with the terminology that peppers the pickleball court.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned player looking to brush up on your knowledge, understanding the lingo can enhance your enjoyment and skill level on the court. In this guide, you will explore the key terms and phrases that every pickleball enthusiast should know.

What are the Common Pickleball Lingo, Terms and Phrases

Take note of the following lingos below and get to know pickleball more.

Ball In Play

It is the time that a rally is played, beginning with the hit of the ball to create the serve and continuing until the ball is no longer functional.

Carry

Keeping the ball from bouncing off the paddle and instead having it follow the path of the paddle when you strike it.

Coaching

Any verbal, nonverbal, or technical information from a person other than a player’s partner that a player or team can use. That way, they can gain an advantage or avoid a rule offense is a rule breach.

Court

Location contained by the outside dimensions’ sidelines and baselines.

Cross-Court

This refers to the court that is diagonally opposite the court from which the ball was most recently struck.

Dead Ball

The ball in question is out of play at this point.

Dink Shot

A gentle shot that nevertheless manages to cross the net and ends up in the other team’s NVZ or non-volley zone.

Distraction

If a player does something physically uncommon to the game, the referee might rule that it could distract the other team or make it harder for them to hit the ball. The following are just a few instances of disruptive behavior:

  • Rumbling and squawking
  • Kicking the floor
  • Using a distracting paddle swing or doing anything else that makes it hard for the opponent to focus or hit the ball

Double Bounce

This is the procedure wherein the ball is sent bouncing back and forth between two surfaces. 

Double Hit

Giving the ball two strikes before passing it back to the player.

Drop Shot

A delicate stroke that goes over the pickleball net but misses the opposing team’s players.

Drop Shot Volley

This volley shot is done by using the speed of the ball and returning it short, near the net, while the opponent is positioned at the baseline. The optimal target for this shot is the line that is not used for volleying.

Ejection

The Tournament Director has the authority to remove a player from the competition due to an egregious breach of tournament rules. Even though the player can’t participate in any more matches, they are free to remain at the venue.

Expulsion

The player’s actions have been so severely punished that the Tournament Director has banned them from participating in any bracket of the event, both current and future. In addition, the player is enjoined to vacate the premises without delay and shall not reappear throughout the competition.

Fault

A violation of the rules leads to the accumulation of a dead ball and/or the end of the rally.

First Server

In doubles, the player who will serve from the right or even service court following a side out is determined by the score of the team for that particular match.

Forfeit

Egregious behavior violations or technical warnings and/or fouls that award the opponent a game or match fall under this category.

Groundstroke

A striking of the ball that occurs after the ball has rebounded.

Hinder

Anything temporary that has a bad effect on a play is not the player’s fault, excluding permanent items. Things that could be considered obstructions by the referee include but are not limited to the following:

  • Balls
  • Insects in flight
  • Foreign objects
  • Other players or officials from another court

All these factors could have affected a player’s ability to control the ball.

Imaginary Extension

A line’s predicted length beyond its existing endpoint is referred to as its extension. Referees and players should estimate the line’s potential extension beyond the playing area borders.

Kitchen

Slang name for the Non-Volley Zone (NVZ).

Left/Odd Court

If you’re facing the net, the service area is over on the left side of the court. Serving first in a doubles or singles match with an odd score should be done from the left side of the court.

Let

If you serve the ball, it should hit the net cord and drop on the service court. Just like in tennis, let serves are replayed.

Line Call

A player or line judge may use loud words to alert the referee and other players that a live ball did not land in the designated court space. The preferred term to indicate a line call is “Out.”

Line calls can be accompanied by distinct hand signs. Acceptable words include “wide”, “long”, “no”, and “deep.”

Live Ball

The referee or server announces the score.

Lob

Sending the other team back to their baseline is the goal of a high-and-deep return shot.

Momentum

Momentum refers to a body’s ability to continue moving after contacting a ball, such as during a volley. Volleying generates momentum, which ends when the player regains balance and control or stops heading towards the non-volley zone.

Non-Valley Zone (NVZ)

The area at the net that is designated for NVZ faults, measuring 7 feet by 20 feet and belonging to each team’s end of the court. The NVZ encompasses all lines that define its perimeter. The NVZ doesn’t go beyond the playing field because it is two-dimensional.

Officiating Team

The Tournament Head Referee supervises personnel on and off the playing surface, including:

  • Lead and Second Referees
  • Tracking Referees
  • Video Replay Referees
  • Line Judges

Overhead Slam

A powerful overhand shot struck downward. Typically used on the return of a lob or high-bounce shot.

Paddle Grip Adjustments

Non-mechanical devices that alter the grip size or stabilize the hand on the grip.

Paddle Head

The paddle itself excludes the handle.

Passing Shot

A groundstroke or volley shot that is directed away from the player to stop the ball from returning.

Permanent Object

Anything on or around the court, particularly anything dangling over it, that could get in the way of play. Permanent objects on the court include the following:

  • Roof
  • Walls
  • Fencing
  • Lighting equipment
  • Net posts and legs
  • Spectator stands and chairs
  • Line judges
  • Referees
  • Spectators in their designated positions
  • Other surrounding things

Plane of the Net

Imaginary vertical planes on all sides extend beyond the net system.

Playing Surface

The defined playing area includes the court and its surroundings.

Profanity

Common or uncommon words, phrases, or hand gestures are deemed unsuitable in “polite company” or around children. Four-letter terms are commonly employed as expletives or intensifiers.

Rally

The term rally refers to the uninterrupted play that occurs following a serve but before a fault.

Receiver

The player across from the server takes it upon themselves to return the serve. Depending on the team’s score, the player returning the serve may not be the intended receiver.

Replay

Without changing servers or assigning points, any rally restarted.

Retirement

A player’s or team’s decision to end the match and give it to the opponent.

Right/Even Court

Towards the net on the right side of the court is where you’ll find the service area. The right court, or even court, is where the beginning server for both the doubles and singles matches should be when the score is even.

Second Serve

When a serving team fails to win the first of their two designated serves in doubles, the term is used.

Second Server

In doubles, the first server is partnered. When the first server fails to serve, the second one takes over.

Serve

The first strike of the ball with the paddle initiates the rally.

Server

A player who starts a rally. Depending on the team’s score, the player who serves may not be the appropriate one.

Service Court

The NVZ is not included in the area that is immediately adjacent to the centerline, which also covers the sideline and baseline.

Serving Area

Past the baseline and within the imaginary lines that link the court’s midline to each of the four corners.

Side Out

When one side of a doubles or singles match loses the serve, the other side gets the ball.

Starting Server

For each doubles team, the selected player serves first at the start of the game. As decided by the Tournament Director, the opening server in a doubles competition must wear a visible form of identification.

Technical Foul

A referee’s assessment of a behavioral violation leads to a one-point deduction from the offending team’s score unless their score is zero. In this case, a point is added to the opposing score. A technical foul may be imposed if a previous warning has been issued and a second warning is necessary, or if the referee deems it necessary due to a player’s or team’s actions.

Technical Warning

The referee issues a warning to an individual or group for inappropriate behavior. All technical warnings have the same effect on point totals.

Verbal Warning

Referee’s warning for a behavioral breach. Teams may receive a single verbal warning per match.

Volley

To stop the ball from bouncing during a rally, you must hit it.

Wheelchair Player

Anyone, regardless of disability, who uses a wheelchair to play the game. The wheelchair is considered a part of the player’s body. This can be a player with a disability or anyone who wants to play from a wheelchair.

Withdrawal

A player or team can request to be removed from an upcoming bracket play.

Tips for Learning Pickleball Lingo

As you can see, there are many words to familiarize yourself with as you play pickleball. The key to knowing pickleball terminology is immersion, not just memorization. Here’s how:

Engage with the Community

To pick up tips and tricks from other players, join a pickleball club, either online or in person.

Listen and Learn

Listen up during games and don’t be shy about asking questions if you don’t understand something. You get a glimpse of the language in its native environment and an opportunity to learn it with every encounter.

Practice Makes Perfect

Make extensive use of the phrases, particularly while playing games. Incorporate phrases such as “nice dink!” or “kitchen fault” into your practice games as the opportunity presents itself.

Take a Lesson with a Pickleball Coach

Pickleball jargon can be learned and used more quickly with a one-on-one coaching session. To help you incorporate pickleball lingo into your game, coaches may give you immediate feedback, show you how words like “kitchen” and “dink” work, and more.

Unlock the Pickleball Lingo Terms!

Becoming fluent in pickleball jargon can help you play the game better and will also bring you closer to your other players. Learning the lingo of pickleball may enrich your time spent on the court, whether you’re playing doubles or just watching the game from the sidelines.

So, get your paddles ready and practice those dinks and drops! Check out our membership options and immerse yourself in the world of pickleball.

pickleland membership

If you need more tips, read these helpful references to jumpstart your practice:

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