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29 Pickleball Terms You Need to Know

A senior citizen playing pickleball double outdoor.

Start Your Pickleball Game off Strong by Understanding these Key Terms!

Pickleball is a fantastic method for managing discomfort and keeping your body functioning at its peak levels. Try pickleball if you’re searching for a fun approach to getting your body moving and/or keeping active. It is one of the sports in the United States that is expanding the quickest, with more than 2.8 million players.

Never played pickleball before? No fret! Pickleball is simple to learn and simple to play. It is a great way to pick up a new interest and keep your body limber. So, give this new sport a try! We’ve compiled a list of terms to consider while playing pickleball, so you’ll have all the information you need before getting started. Follow along below!

Related To: Types of Pickleball Paddles | Is Pickleball a Professional Sport? | Pickleball Rules Explained

“Pickleball is a great way to pick up a new interest and keep your body limber.”

Most Common Pickleball Terms

1. Backhand

Middle-aged lady playing pickleball while stepping on line.

There are two main types of shots when it comes to pickleball: the forehand shot and the backhand shot. Backhand is a term used to describe a shot a player makes with his or her non-dominant hand. Therefore, if you’re right-handed, you would make a backhand shot with your left hand, and if you’re left-handed, you would make a backhand shot with your right hand.

2. Backspin

A backspin is a fairly advanced type of serve, but we are confident you could learn it with general ease. You may also hear a backspin referred to by its slang terms, “Slice” or “Chop.” Essentially, a backspin is carried out by striking the pickleball with both high and low motion, thus allowing it to spin and causing it to go in the opposite direction from its original path.

3. Backswing

An old man making a backswing on pickle ball.

A backswing is a term used to describe the shot you make from your ready position. For a successful backswing, you should swing your paddle back from the ready position and then follow through with a foreword swing.

4. Bounce It

This is a term that pickleball partners may say to each other while playing the game. The term “bounce it” essentially tells your partner to wait and let the ball bounce before taking a swing. This can be done to enhance hits to make sure you are hitting the pickleball in a way to get (or stay) in the lead.

5. Carry

An old person playing pickleball wearing blue shirt.

This is a common technical term used in pickleball. It refers to an action where the pickleball fails to bounce directly off of the paddle and is instead “carried” along the face of the paddle while making the forward swing.

6. Centerline

The centerline is the line that divides the pickleball court in half. It extends from the Non-Valley Zone to the Baseline, creating equal halves of the court for each team to play.

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7. Double Bounce

A double bounce is exactly what it sounds like – it occurs when the pickleball bounces twice or more on one side of the net between one team, before being returned back over the net. A double bounce is a type of foul within the game of pickleball, which will ultimately result in a lost point for your team.

8. Double Hit

A pickleball player catching a ball on air.

This is a term used to describe the action of one team hitting the pickleball twice before returning it back over the net. This may happen when the same player hits the ball twice in a row before returning it, or when each player on the same team hits the ball before returning it.

9. Drop Shot Volley

This is a technical term for a type of volley that is done with the intention of taking the speed of the pickleball and returning it short, so it lands near the net when your opponents are on the baseline. This type of shot can be most successful when played out near the non-volley line.

10. Flabjack

This is an advanced type of technical shot that is done while the pickleball is in mid-air. With a flabjack shot, the pickleball must bounce once before it can be hit, and can then be hit during one of the first two shots of any point. Alternatively, the pickleball can also be hit on a serve return. After the third shot, no bounce is necessary to complete a flabjack shot (i.e., you can let the ball volley after three rounds).

11. Foot Fault

A pickleball player preparing a hit on the ball.

A foot fault is a term used to describe a rule that has been broken during a pickleball play. When you serve the ball, you must always have at least one foot behind the baseline and neither foot should come in contact with the baseline or court until after the serve occurs. If you step inside the baseline or court during your serve, this results in a foot fault. Something called a “Non-Volley Zone Foot Fault” can also occur when a player steps into (or on the line of) the Non-Volley Zone while volleying the ball.

12. Follow Through

A “follow through” is essentially just a term meaning to finish out your swing. When you swing your paddle to serve, or to return a serve, make sure to continue the forward motion following your backswing in the direction you intend the pickleball to move. By continuing the motion in the intended direction, you are “following through” with your swing.

13. Forehand

Double pickleball and a woman with forehand strike.

A forehand is a type of paddle stroke that is played out on the same side of the body as your paddle-holding hand. For example, a right-handed player would begin their forehand paddle stroke with their right hand, following-through across their body, while a left-handed player would begin their forehand paddle stroke with their left hand, following-through across their body.

14. Game

The term “game” refers to a pickleball match that has been completed. Someone may yell “game” once their team has accumulated enough points to win the game. A pickleball game may last for three different lengths of time: a team can either win by reaching 11 points (noting that there must be at least a 2 point win), 15 points (noting that there must be at least a 2 point win), or 21 points (noting that there must be at least a 2 point win).

15. Half-Volley

Pickleball double and a half-volley play.

A half-volley is a type of ground stroke. It occurs when the paddle and the pickleball come in contact with one another immediately after the ball bounces from the court. You can carry out a successful half-volley when hitting the pickleball while it is still low, before it has bounced to its highest extent.

16. Head

You may hear a pickleball player refer to the “head” of their pickleball paddle. This refers to the part of the paddle just above the handle, including the face of the paddle (i.e., the hitting surface, where you serve the pickleball). So, if you hear someone say “aim for the head,” they’re talking about the screen of your pickleball paddle – not an actual head!

17. Kitchen

This is a term that may leave you scratching your head if you haven’t heard it previously, but it has a very simple meaning. Kitchen is just a slang term for the Non-Volley Zone on the pickleball court. So, if you hear an opponent or teammate talking about “going to the kitchen,” they’re not saying they want to take a lunch break!

18. Line Calls

An example of line call in pickleball matches.

A line call is a term referring to a call either team can make during a play to indicate whether the pickleball is in bounds or out of bounds. The player will either call “out” or “in” to indicate where the ball is going. It is typical that a player will only make this call for their own team, rather than having opposing teams call out where the ball is going.

19. Lob

This is another term you may not get right away if you’re not an avid pickleball player – but, again, the definition is a simple one. Essentially, if you “lob” the pickleball, it means to return the shot as high and deep as you possibly can, thus pushing your opponents back to their respective baseline.

20. Non-Volley Zone (NVZ)

The Non-Volley Zone is a 7-foot section of the pickleball court on either side of the centerline. You may also hear players refer to it as “NVZ” or newfound slang term, “Kitchen” (see above). As stated by the name, players are not allowed to volley the pickleball while standing in the Non-Volley Zone. This also refers to all other lines within the area of the Non-Volley Zone.

21. Open Face

When you are holding your pickleball paddle “open face,” it means you are holding it with a slightly upward tilt, ready to strike.

22. Overhead Shot

A woman smiling while making an overhead shot.

An overhead shot is a common technique used in pickleball. An overhead shot refers to any shot done overhead – i.e., while the pickleball paddle is overhead, and is then driven downward during the serve. Many people relate an overhead shot in pickleball to that of the motion seen in a tennis serve.

23. Permanent Object

A permanent object refers to any stable structure on the pickleball court that could interfere with the route of the ball during a serve. This may include, but is not limited to, any bleachers, nets, net posts, walls, fences, lights, light fixtures, and spectator seating.

24. Pickleball (game)

Of course, it’s important to describe what exactly the game is. A pickleball court most closely resembles that of a badminton court. It is frequently described as being a combination of table tennis, badminton, and tennis. Pickleball games typically last 12 minutes, so you can get your cardio in and then unwind in between games. Pickleball can increase energy, burn calories, and strengthen muscles.

25. Pickleball (ball)

Now, let’s define the ball used to play the game. A pickleball is similar to a tennis ball in size, although it is much lighter. A pickleball is served underhand and then batted back and forth between opponents. This game is ideal for players of all ages and athletic abilities due to its simple nature, the light weight of the ball, and the ease of batting between players.

26. Ready Position

An old woman with Ready Position for pickleball match.

The ready position is the stance you should take when receiving the pickleball for return. For optimal play, make sure you’re standing with your paddle out in front of your body, right about at chest height. You should be holding your paddle with a neutral grip, in order to prepare for either a forehand or backhand return.

Make sure you are balancing your weight evenly between your feet, with your weight mostly in your toes for ease of movement. Your knees should also remain slightly bent while you’re in the ready position, allowing you to move quickly in whichever way the pickleball is served.

27. Shadowing

A two on two pickleball match up.

Shadowing is a term used in pickleball to describe someone moving in tandem with their partner while playing. While shadowing, make sure to continue keeping at least 10 feet between one another, to avoid getting in each other’s volley space. When teammates are shadowing one another, they will move laterally with each other, approaching the net together and also retreating from the net together.

28. Technical Foul

Three people playing pickleball outdoor.

A technical foul essentially occurs whenever a standard rule of the game is broken. When players are competing in pickleball tournaments, a referee may call a technical foul and add a point to a team’s score if they notice said rules being violated. Technical fouls may include heckling opponents or conductive unsportsmanlike conduct, as sour play is highly frowned upon within the game of pickleball.

29. Two Bounce Rule

The two bounce rule is a foundational part of pickleball play that occurs post-serve. Basically, after the ball has been served, the opposing team must let the ball bounce once before returning the serve. Similarly, after the ball has been returned the first time, the team that originally served the pickleball must also let it bounce once before returning the serve. After the ball has been hit three times, however, the two bounce rule is no longer intact and either player can volley the pickleball (i.e., hit it while it is still in mid-air, without letting it bounce first).