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Introduction to Pickleball Terminology

Pickleball is a great athletic pastime, with a combination of ping pong and tennis with additional characteristics of enthusiasm, socialism, and fun!


Many of the terms in pickleball are similar to the other net-racket-ball games, but there are a few new terms and some distinctions. Here’s the complete list you need to sound like a pickleball pro next time you take the court:

Court and Paddle Terms


Backcourt: The back few feet of a courtside near the baseline.


Baseline: The line forming the back of the court. A standard baseline is 22 feet from the pickleball net.


Centerline: The centerline divides the service court into halves from the kitchen (non-volley zone) to the baseline.


Face: the surface of the paddle used for making shots.


Paddle: The thing you’re hitting a pickleball with. Don’t call it a racquet. The right term is pickleball paddle.


Kitchen (or “Non-volley zone”): The kitchen (or non-volley zone) is at the front of the net. Players cannot pick balls out of the air with volleys if standing in the kitchen.

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I think I have a dinking problem.

Shot Terms


Ace: A serve that isn’t returned by the receiving player, immediately scoring a point for the server.


Approach Shot: A shot hit while a player is moving towards the net.


Backspin: Spin created on a ball by slicing or chopping at it. Shots with backspin do not spring forward, stopping much closer to where they land. Effective when the opposing player is playing back too far.


Backhand: A type of shot created by hitting the ball on the side across the body from where they carry the paddle. For a right-handed player, a backhand shot hits a ball on the left side of their body.


Carry: A normal pickleball shot bounces off the paddle. A carry slides along the paddle during a forward swing.


Dink or Drop Shot: A soft shot, generally landing in the kitchen (non-volley zone). Also called a drop shot. A “drop shot volley” is a volley that is not smashed, but is gently played over the net in front of the opposition.


Double Hit: When a ball is hit twice by one team (one player) before it is returned over the net. Generally occurs when a ball accidentally hits twice off a paddle in a single swing. Results in a lost point for the player who committed the foul.


Drive or Forehand: Forehand shot hit on a player’s dominant side. For a right-handed player, the forehand is a ball hit on their right side. It usually generates topspin and stays low.


Half-Volley: A shot where the ball bounces but doesn’t reach its full height before it is struck. A half-volley “picks” the ball off the bounce.


Lob: A high return shot, effective against opponents who are crowding the net.


Overhead Shot or Slam: Shot hit over the shoulder, in a tennis serve motion. Often performed to return a ball that is lobbed or a ball that bounces above a player’s shoulder.


Punch: A quick volley shot that features little backswing or follow-through, the equivalent to stabbing the ball out of the air with the paddle.


Serve: An underhanded shot that begins a pickleball rally. You get 2 serves in pickleball, unlike tennis. You must serve the ball from under the waist level.


Top Spin: Spin by hitting a shot swinging low to high. Top Spin causes a ball to jump forward when it lands.


Volley: A shot that picks the ball out of the air before it bounces. Illegal shot type in the kitchen, or before the ball has been rallied 3 times (double bounce rule).

To bounce or not to bounce. That is the question.

Strategy and Rules Terms

“Bounce it” or “Let it bounce”: A phrase used by a teammate who thinks that a ball is about to land out of bounds, and so you shouldn’t volley it out of the air. If the ball lands out of bounds, you score the point.


Double Bounce: It has two possible references. Pickleball has a “double bounce” or “two bounce rule” that prevents the ball from being volleyed before it has been hit 3 times in a rally. Alternatively, a double bounce refers to a ball that has bounced twice on a side before being returned. If a ball bounces twice before being returned over the net, the other team scores a point.


Doubles: A pickleball game played with 2 players against 2 players on each side.


Let: A serve that touches the net before landing in the appropriate square. The receiver calls “let,” and the server serves again without taking their second serve.


Pickle!: Word called out by server to alert all players that they are about to serve.


Replay: If teams disagree about who should be awarded the point on a play (it landed close to the line, possible volley from the kitchen) they may elect to replay a point without awarding it.


Pickled: Losing 11-0. (similar to getting skunked in ping pong)


Rally: Consecutive hits over the net until the play ends in a point being awarded from a fault.

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