Pickleball Terms and Definitions: A Comprehensive Guide

Pickleball Terms and Definitions: A Comprehensive Guide

If you're new to pickleball you've probably heard some words used on the courts that you've never heard of before. To help you get started and understand some of these terms, we've put together a comprehensive list of the most common pickleball terms and their meanings.

Basic Terms

Here are some of the most basic pickleball terms that you should know before you start playing:

  • Cross-court: The court diagonally opposite your court.

  • Dead ball: The term used to describe the pickleball ball after a fault is declared.

  • Dink: A soft shot that is intended to arc over the pickleball net and land within the non-volley zone (more commonly known as the kitchen). This is probably one of the most common terms you'll hear. In fact it's so important we wrote an entire article on it!

  • Double bounce: A ball that bounces more than once, on one side, before it is returned.

  • Double hit: One side hitting the pickleball ball twice before it is returned over the net.

  • Fault: Any action that stops play because of a rule violation.

  • First serve: To begin a new game, only one partner from the first serving side is allowed to serve.

  • Groundstroke: Hitting the ball after one bounce.

  • Lob: A shot that returns the ball as high and deep as possible, forcing the opposing side back to the baseline.

  • Non-volley zone ("The Kitchen"): The section of the court adjacent to the net. A player cannot hit a ball while standing within the non-volley zone.

  • Overhead slam/smash: A hard, overhand shot usually resulting from an opponent's lob, high return, or high bounce.

  • Rally: Continuous play that occurs after the serve and before a fault.

  • Service court: The area on either side of the centerline, bounded by the non-volley line, the baseline, and the sideline.

Advanced Terms

In addition to the basic terms, there are also several more advanced terms you may hear less frequently.

  • Carry: Hitting the ball in such a way that it does not bounce away from the paddle, but instead, is carried along on the face of the paddle during its forward motion.

  • Drop shot: A groundstroke shot that falls short of the opponent's position.

  • Drop shot volley: A volley shot that is designed to "kill" the speed of the ball and return it short, near the net, to an opponent positioned at or near the baseline.
  • Erne: A shot by a player who is not in the kitchen, but is next to it, outside the left or right sideline. It allows the player to be near the net, and able to hit a powerful volley.
  • Foot Fault: The server must have at least one foot behind the baseline during the serve and neither foot may touch the baseline or court until after the ball has been struck. If either of these rules is broken, it results in a serving foot fault. Additionally, a player commits a Non-Volley Zone foot fault if they step in the Non-Volley Zone or on its line while volleying the ball.
  • Half volley: A groundstroke shot where the paddle contacts the ball immediately after it bounces from the court and before the ball rises to its potential height.
  • Hinder: Any element or occurrence that affects play.
  • Let: A serve that hits the net cord and lands in the service court.
  • Line calls: If any part of the ball lands on the court lines, it is considered in, except in the case of the non-volley line.
  • Nasty Nelson: a shot in pickleball where the server serves the pickleball to intentionally hit the opposing player nearest to the pickleball net
  • Second serve: A term used to describe the condition when a serving team begins the game or subsequently loses the first of its two allocated serves.

  • Passing shot: A volley or groundstroke shot that is aimed at a distance from the player and is designed to prevent the return of the ball.

  • Poach: In doubles pickleball, to cross over into your partners side of the court to hit a shot.

  • Replays: Any rallies that are replayed for any reason without the awarding of a point or a side out.

  • Side out: Declared after one side loses its service and the other side is awarded service.


Did we miss anything? Call it out in the comments and help your fellow pickleball players :) 

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