Essential Pickleball Terms and Lingo To Add To Your Vocabulary!


Pickleball Terms and Lingo
Essential Pickleball Terms and Lingo To Add To Your Vocabulary!
Table of Content

Pickleball Terms

First off, I’d like you to meet 2 sets of players:

  1. Terri and Chandra versus Dwayne and Pat
  2. Bobbi and Lori versus Paul and Javier

Picklers to the end, that love to slice, smash, lob, and even Nasty Nelson. Read on to hear about their exploits as you also learn the key terms of Pickleball:

Ace: A serve that is not returned by the service return team, leading to the point being won by the serving team.         

  • “The spin server frustrates a lot of service receivers and good ones can rack up a lot of aces and expletives.”

Approach Shot: An offensive / aggressive shot where the player hits the ball, allowing them to move up to the non-volley zone.

  • “Terri ripped her approach shot, down the line, keeping Pat pinned down at the service line.”

ATP: An ATP or Around the Post is a shot where you return the ball into your opponent’s court, but without crossing over the pickleball net. The ball is hit around or to the side of the net post and into the opponent’s court.

  • “Paul loved picking on the wide dinks because whenever he had a chance, he would go for the ATP.”

Backcourt: The area near the baseline, typically considered to be a few feet inside the court from the baseline. See “No Man’s Land”        

  • “Chandra’s deep returns kept Paul in the backcourt during his serves.”

Backspin: Backspin is a shot that applies backspin to the ball, making it spin in the opposite direction of it’s flight. See also “Slice” or “Chop”. 

  • “The best way to hit Lori’s shots that stay low is to hit them back with a backspin slice.”

Backswing: The backswing is a motion where the player swings the paddle back, in preparation to strike the ball. ​       

  • “Hey Dwayne, you don’t need a lot of backswings when you hit punch volleys!”

Backhand: The backhand is a stroke where the paddle travels across the player’s body, hitting the ball with the palm facing towards the chest and the back of the hand moving towards the opponent on the follow-through. 

  • “Hey Bobbi, Terri’s approach shots are driving me nuts, so let’s try to keep it to her backhand.”

Baseline: The line at the back end of the court. 22 feet on either side of the pickleball net. ​

  • “Paul, you have to get your butt to the NVZ if we want to have a chance of sticking it to Chandra!”

Bert: A Bert is a shot where a player leaps over the kitchen on the opposite side of the court they are playing in, to volley a ball. It is similar to an Erne, but becomes a Bert when the player crosses in front of his partner and over the kitchen to hit the ball.

  • “Pat must have been feeling extra fast today when he tried to perform a Bert by jumping in front of Dwayne to hit that winner.”

Bounce or Bounce It: A call/exclamation made by Pickleball players, reminding their partner to let the ball bounce before hitting it. Typically, the call is made when the ball is heading out.

  • “Dwayne’s slams always sailed out, so he was given the nickname ‘Bounce it’.”

Carry: A carry occurs when the ball, in the course of a single, continuous swing comes into contact with the paddle more than once. Carrys are legal in Pickleball, as long as they occur in a single, continuous swing.

  • “Man, the way Terri hit that carry today, she must have hit the ball 17 times in one swing!”

Centerline: The line that extends from the Non-Volley Zone to the Baseline and divides the service court into two equal halves. ​This line is considered “in bounds” on services if the ball lands on it.

  • “Lori called the serve out as it hit the centerline, but her partner Bobbi countered, calling the serve in.”

Chainsaw Serve: The chainsaw serve is when a player uses their paddle to generate spin on the ball as it is tossed into the air.

The serve was first performed by pro pickleballer Zane Navratil while experimenting with different types of spin using the paddle face, paddle hand, and tossing hand.

Champion Shot: A shot that bounces twice in the non-volley zone either from a dink, net court, or soft volley.​

  • “Dwayne hates when Chandra drops the championship shot on him as she approaches the net. He always claims his hips can’t support those shots”

Chicken N’ Pickle: Chicken N’ Pickle is a unique, indoor/outdoor entertainment complex that includes a casual restaurant, sports bar, pickleball courts, and a variety of yard games. The Chicken N’ Pickle franchise has locations in Arizona, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas

  • “Paul loved the San Antonio Chicken N’ Pickle complex, for their draft beer and open courts, in that order.”

Chop: A ball hit with a backspin or slice, causing the ball to not bounce or bounce very low when it hits the court.

  • “Paul’s backspin chop serve, comes in low and stays low, so be ready.”

Cross-court: The court area diagonally opposite from a player’s side of the court.

  • “Terri loved to hit deep cross-court returns on Pat’s serves.”

Dead Ball: A dead ball stops play and means there is no more play on the ball. Dead balls can be called for several reasons:

1. One of the players commits a fault

2. The ball hits a permanent object, or a hinder is declared.

3. When a player commits a fault

4. A hindrance is called

  • “Lori’s return struck the net post and bounced into the kitchen and a dead ball was immediately called, giving Paul and Javier the point.”

Dill ball: A dill in pickleball is a live ball. A ball that has bounced once and is “in play”.​

  • “Come on Dwayne, we have to stop hitting into the net and start hitting some dill balls!”

Dink Shot or Dink: A soft shot that clears the net and falls into the opposing team’s non-volley zone.

  • “Nice shot Javier! Lori is having a really hard time with your backhand dinks. Keep em going!”

Doubles: A game played between 4 people (regardless of gender), with 2 on each side of the court.

  • “Dwayne and Pat always paired on for Doubles because they knew each other’s games very well.”

Double Bounce: A ball that bounces more than once, on side of the net before being returned, which results in a lost point.

  • “Dwayne complained a lot about his old legs, but mostly when he tried to run down shots that had double bounced.”

Double Hit: A ball that is hit twice by different players on the same team before returning over the net. Double hits are legal if the same player hits the ball twice, in one continuous motion (a Carry).

  • “Bobbi’s cross-court drive glanced off Lori’s paddle causing Lori to yell ‘Double hit’!”

Down the Line: A shot that travels close to and directly parallel to the sideline.

  • “Terri has a wicked hard backhand that makes her the queen of down the line shots in Boston.”

Drive: A shot that is hit straight, deep, and low into the opposing team’s backcourt.

  • “Chandra loves to drive Pat’s floating serves directly back at Pat.”

Drop Shot: A short shot that clears the net and then falls in front of the opposing players.

  • “Terri’s drop shot was known to make opposing players have to lunge and sprint forward to reach them.”

Drop Shot Volley: A volley that places the ball well in front of the opposing players, normally absorbing the original pace of the ball and softening to fall just past the net.

  • “The slice that Lori added to her drop volleys, made the ball jump to the side, confounding Paul, every time.”

Drop Spin: A drop shot that is hit with spin and will either not bounce or bounce to one side or the other

  • “The slice that Lori added to her drop volleys, made the ball jump to the side, confounding Paul, every time.”

DUPR: DUPR is an acronym that stands for Dreamland Universal Pickleball Rating and is owned by fellow pickleball-addict Steve Kuhn. The DUPR is a rating system that can be used by anyone, from amateurs to professionals, and can be used for everything from local games to PPA tournament play.

  • “Bobbi had played in several regional tournaments, so had her DUPR rating.”

Erne: The Erne is a shot where the player hits the ball either in the air as they jump over the non-volley zone or after running around or through the Kitchen and re-establish their feet out of bounds, just to the side of the Kitchen.

  • “After a brief dink battle with Dwayne, hit her last dink to Dwayne’s backhand and then jumped over the NVZ and smashed the ball, Erne style, for a winner.”

Face: The face is the flat, hitting surface of the pickleball paddle

  • “Pat used the Head Radicle paddle, and the paddle face was much more narrow than other paddles.”

Falafel: A falafel in pickleball is a drop shot made by absorbing all of the opposing player’s power and just dropping it over the net.

  • “Come on Paul, be a man and hit the ball back, not just your falafels!”

Fault: A fault is anything that violates the game’s rules and forces play to stop.

  • “Chandra’s habit of stepping on the baseline while serving, allowed Pat to call a fault on three of her serves.”

Flapjack: A Flapjack in pickleball is a midair pickleball shot that must bounce once before it can be hit during one of the first two shots of any point (the return of serve or return of the serve return). After the third shot no bounce is necessary and can volley (hit in midair without bouncing). ​

  • “Paul loved the Flapjack rule, because he know his deep loopy returns, and kept the server at the baseline.”

Foot Fault: Foot faults are rules enforced on the service and at the non-volley zone during a point:

On Serve: when a player servers the ball:

  – At least one of the server’s feet must be touching the surface of the pickleball court; and

   Their feet must:

        1. Be within the area inside of the imaginary extensions of the sideline and the center line

        2. Not be touching the pickleball court on or inside the baseline

Non-Volley Zone, during the point:

   – Players cannot step into the non-volley zone, which includes the on-volley zone line, in the course of hitting a volley (a ball that has not yet bounced)

   – A player’s paddle, attire, or other equipment cannot touch the non-volley zone

  • “Terri was fuming after Chandra’s third foot fault on her serve.”

Follow Through: The follow through is the part of the swing that occurs after the player hits the ball and is where the paddle goes and ultimately points to after contact with the ball.

  • “Lori attended a pickleball clinic that helped her improve her follow through and now her servers come across with a lot more topspin.”

Forehand: The forehand is a stroke in tennis where the player swings the racket across their body with the hand moving palm-first. Right-handed player’s swing will move from right to left, while a left-handed player’s forehand will move left to right.

  • “Pat loved to drill short shots right down the middle with her forehand”

Game: The term Game has 2 definitions in pickleball:

1. A pickleball game is a series of points played until one team has reached 11 points. Note, upon a tie at 11, the first team that scores 2 more points (winning by 2), wins the game. There are some variants, where games are played to 15 and 21, rather than 11.

2. Game meaning the player has skills and abilities that make them a good player

  • “Paul picked Javier as his doubles partner because Javier has game!”

Grip: Grip has two meanings in Pickleball (and most paddle/racquet sports):

1. The way the paddle handle is held by the player

2. The material that is wrapped around the paddle handle to protect it and provide cushioning and “grip” for the player’s hand.

  • “Dwayne liked to thicken the grip on his paddles by adding a tacky over-grip wrap.”

Groundstroke: A groundstroke is any shot made by a player after the ball has bounced once.

  • “Chandra kept the other team at the baseline with her deep shots, allowing them to only hit groundstrokes.”

Golden Pickle: A golden pickle is when a team wins a pickleball game using their first serve, never allowing the opposing team to score a point, or even serve the pickleball.

“Paul and Javier were on fire today. They had a golden pickle against Bobbi and Paul!”

Half-Volley: A half-volley is a type of groundstroke shot, where the player’s paddle hits the ball right after it bounces off the court.

  • “Bobbi had to resort to a half volley reset when Paul hit one at his feet.”

Head: The head of a pickleball paddle is the portion above the handle that includes the paddle face (hitting surface and paddle edge). ​

  • “Javier does not like the new Z5 widebody because he felt the head size was too big.”

Hinder: A hinder or distraction is an event that occurs during a point that interferes with play or that affects play.

  • “Dwayne called a hinder, when Lori ran onto the court, after hitting an ATP.”

Kitchen: The kitchen is another term for the non-volley zone.

  • “Javier loves to play right at the kitchen line, hoping for an easy put-away.”

Junior: In pickleball, a junior is any player between the ages of 7 and 19.

  • “Terri’s son was competing in the Southside Pickleball Junior champions for ages 12 and under.”

Let: A let is a serve that hits the net cord and lands in the service court, beyond the non-volley zone. When this occurs, the ball is in play and there is no replay of the point.

  • “Bobbi hates the new rule where let’s are in play on the serve.”

Line Calls: A line call or calls are the verbal indications by the players indicating if the ball landed in or out of bounds on the court during a point.

  • “Bobbi always made his line calls loud and immediate to make sure his opponents knew if the ball was in or out.”

Lob: A lob is a high shot made by the player, intending to force the opposing side back, deep in the court.

  • “When Dwayne played against Terri, he would always play a few steps back from the non-volley zone, because Terri loves to lob.”

Midcourt: The midcourt is the mid-section/area of the pickleball court, between the non-volley zone and the ​baseline.

  • “Chandra’s serves were not deep enough and whenever Terri tried to get to the non-volley zone, she would be caught midcourt and have to dig out tough shots at her feet.

Nasty Nelson: A Nasty Nelson is a shot in pickleball where the server serves the pickleball to intentionally hit the opposing player nearest the net, specifically the opposing player that is not receiving the serve. If successful, the serving team wins the point.

  • “Pat was so upset by the last line call, that he forgot to drop back to the baseline on the serve and Dwayne hit him with a Nasty Nelson.”

No Man’s Land: No Man’s land is an area on the court, within the mid-court itself, roughly a few feet behind the non-volley zone and a few yards in front of the baseline.

  • “Terri loved to catch Dwayne off guard every once in a while, catching him with a drive at his feet, when he hovered in no man’s land, waiting for a lob.”

Non-Volley Zone (NVZ): The non-volley zone, also known as the Kitchen, is the 14-foot area in the middle of the court that spans the width of the court. The non-volley zone extends 7 feet from either side of the pickleball net. It is also known as The Kitchen or the NVZ.       

  • “Javier had quick hands, so the faster he makes it to the non-volley zone, the better his chances of winning the point.”

Overhead Shot: Any overhead shot is a shot made by a player, where the paddle starts above the player’s head and drives the ball downward, into the court.​

  • “Dwayne loved to catch a short lob and snack an overhead for a winner.”

Overhead Slam: An overhead slam is a type of overhead, but typically a strong downward stroke.

  • “Terri’s lob was much too low and too short, but Dwayne’s overhead smash caught the net and Terri won the point.”

OPA!: An OPA is a word sometimes exclaimed by players after the 3rd shot has been hit, indicating the open volleying has begun. ​

  • “Paul’s third shot, after his serve barely dribbled over the net, to which he screamed ‘OPA!’”.

Open Face: Open face is a way a player holds the paddle, having it paddle tilted slightly upward.​

  • “Chandra could hit killer volleys because she used an open face shot to dampen the ball and put a lot of backspin on it.”

Paddle: The pickleball paddle is the implement used to strike the ball during a point/game.

  • “After Bobbi’s third service return into the net, she looked at her paddle like it was at fault.”

Passing Shot: A passing shot is either a volley or groundstroke, hit to “pass” the opponent, or at the least, preventing them from returning the ball.

  • “Javier drove Lori’s deep service return, down the line past Bobbi for an easy passing shot.”

Permanent Object: A permanent object is any object on or around the pickleball court that could interfere with the flight of the ball. Examples would be items such as net posts, fences, lights, bleachers or benches, spectators, and all objects on or around the court.    

  • “When playing indoors during the rainy season, Terri always had to take into account the roof on her lobs, because it was considered a permanent object.”

Pickle!: The word pickle is sometimes shouted by a player to indicate that they are about to serve the ball.

  • “Paul seemed to be staring at the match going on next to them, so Lori yelled ‘Pickle!’ right before she served.”

Pickled: The term pickled indicates that a game occurred and one of the players/teams did not score any points. The final score during a pickled game is 11-0.

  • “I have never seen Pat so frustrated after they were pickled by Terri and Chandra yesterday.”

Pickledome: The Pickledome is a nickname for the court where the championship match tournament is played.

  • “The banner above the main court, for the championship match read: Welcome to the Pickledome”.

Pickler: Pickler is a nickname for someone who loves and is addicted to pickleball.

  • “Chandra plays every chance she gets and is one of my favorite picklers.”

Poach: To poach or poaching in pickleball is a shot made in doubles, where a player crosses over into their partner’s side of the court to hit a shot.

  • “Pat was always on the lookout for a shot he could poach, on Dwayne’s deep serves.”

Put Away: A put away is a shot made where there is no chance of being returned.

  • “Hitting a high, deep dink to Javier’s forehand almost always resulted in a put away.”

Punch Shot: A punch shot or punch volley is a short, quick-stroked volley, with very little backswing and short follow-through.

  • “Paul did not swing very hard at Lori’s floater, but used a punch volley to angle the ball for a winner.”

Racket/Racquet: The racquet is not a term typically used in pickleball, as the pickleball paddle is the implement used to strike the ball during a point/game.

  • “After Pat called it a racquet for the fourth time today, Chandra threatened to demote him to a 2.0.”

Rally: A rally is a point played in a pickleball game, starting with the service and ending with the final shot.

  • “Terri and Pat were exhausted after having a 34-shot rally in their final point.”

Rally Scoring System: The rally scoring system is an alternate method of scoring, with the side/players that win the rally scoring a point and earning the right to serve.​

“Javier hated the rally scoring system and felt it has no place in tournament play.”

Rating: A pickleball rating is defined as a 2-digit or 4-digit number, defining the player’s skill level. Each skill level is assessed by the ability to perform different shots such as the forehand, backhand, serve, dink, third shot, and volley in addition to understanding strategy.

  • “After his first gold medal in the 3.0 tournament, Paul was given an official 3.0 rating.”

Ready Position: The ready position in pickleball is a stance considered to be the ideal position to be prepared to return the ball. In the ready position, the player has their knees slightly bent, and their paddle is out in front of their body and up at their chest, allowing them to move or react to the next shot. 

  • “Even though Lori had her knees bent and she was in the ready position, Bobbi’s dink was so high, she had no chance of digging the ball out to return it.”

Receiver: The receiver in pickleball, is the player diagonally opposite from the server, designated to return the serve. ​

  • “Bobbi stood up at the net, while Lori stayed back at the baseline because she was the receiver.”

Replays: A replay is a repeat of a point if a hindrance or discrepancy occurs between the players or teams.

  • “Chandra asked for a replay after the goose landed next to their court during their point.”

Sandbagging: Sandbagging is when a player enters a sanctioned tournament using a rating that they know is below their skill level in order to ensure an easy victory.

Scorpion: A Scorpion in Pickleball is when a player bends their knees very low and executes an overhead smash. The position looks like a scorpion and can be just as deadly if executed properly.

Serve: In Pickleball, the service or serve is the first shot of every point, and must be an underhand stroke putting the ball in play.

  • “Dwayne’s spin serves, always surprised his opponents for the first few points.”

Server Number: The server number is used in doubles matches to identify the player’s service sequence. The server number, either a one or two, applies for that service turn only. Whichever player is on the right side of the court, when a side-out occurs becomes the first server for that service team only.

  • “Chandra always likes to start games on the left side of the court, making her the server number 2 to start each game.

Service Court: The service court is designated as the area on either side of the center line, bound by the non-volley line, the baseline, and the sideline. All lines are included in the service court except the non-volley line.

  • “Bobbi seemed to run into a case of the yips after she couldn’t get her serve to land in the service court, three times in a row.”

Service Out Side Scoring: ​Service out, side scoring is the typical system in Pickleball, where players only score points when serving.

  • “Javier would much rather play service side out scoring, as he feels that is what the pickleball founders intended.”

Shadowing: Shadowing is a strategy in doubles pickleball where players move in unison with their partner, both laterally and horizontally to cover the court.

  • “Dwayne and Pat do a great job of shadowing when they play. They move so well it looks like there is an invisible tether attached to them.”

Shake and Bake: To execute a shake and bake, a player on the serving team drives the ball hard on their third shot with maximum power so as to make their opponent hit a weak, low quality return, ideally one that will pop up high enough to be put away by their partner.

Sideline: The sideline is the lateral border of the pickleball court demarking the playing area from the out-of-bounds area. ​

  • “The referee for Pat’s match, stood just to the right of the court’s sideline, by the net.

Side Out: A side out occurs after one team/side loses its service and the other side is awarded service.

  • “Dwayne passed the ball across the net to Terri after hitting his overhead into the net, calling side out.”

Singles: Singles in pickleball is played with 2 players, one player on each side of the net.

  • “Singles is a much different game than doubles and Dwayne always complains that his hips are too old for that nonsense.”

Slice: A slice is a pickleball shot where the paddle’s motion puts backspin on the ball. ​

  • “Paul almost always hits a deep slice service return that gives him time to get to the non-volley zone.”

Smash: A smash is a strongly hit overhead shot hit with the intention of putting the ball away.

  • “Pat had a lot of trouble with his overhead smashes when Terri lobbed the ball into the sun.”

Split Stance: The split stance is the way a player’s feet are positioned, such that their feet are separated and they are in the ready position, preparing to return the ball.

  • “Chandra’s slow footwork on Sunday caused her to lose a lot of easy points. If only she would have adopted the split stance at the non-volley zone, she would have been ready for the volleys at the net.”

Stroke: The stroke is the swinging motion a player uses to hit the ball with the paddle.

  • “Dwayne’s server was low and to the forehand side, but Chandra’s smooth stroke picked up the ball and drove it back to the baseline.”

Technical Foul: A technical foul, is a specific foul that can occur when a player violates one of the rules calling for a technical foul other than standard faults in play, such as abusive language or unsportsmanlike play. Typically, when a player or team incurs a technical foul, the opposing player or team is granted one point to their score.

  • “After Javier dropped 3 shots in a row into the net, he threw his paddle over the fence, resulting in the ref calling a technical foul.”

Top Spin: Top spin is a method of applying spin to the ball, by hitting it with the paddle with a low to high stroke, causing the ball to spin in the same direction as the flight of the ball. ​

  • “Pat’s low to high stroke produces a lot of topspin, making the ball dive down once it clears the net.”

Two-Bounce Rule: The two-bounce rule in pickleball is enforced when the ball is served. The receiving team must let it bounce before returning it, and the serving team must also let it bounce before returning (2 bounces).

  • “Bobbi reverted to her tennis game when she served and then volleyed the return, breaking the two-bounce rule.”

UPTPR Rating: UPTPR is the official USA Pickleball rating for sanctioned tournament play. Players may have doubles, mixed doubles, and a singles rating (one for each type of event they participate in). Is the official rating used to register for USA Pickleball-sanctioned tournaments.

  • “Bobbi had not qualified for a USAPA tournament, so did not have an official UPTPR rating.”

Volley: A volley is a shot in pickleball where the player hits the ball in the air before the ball has a chance to bounce on the court.

  • “Terri gets a little impatient at the non-volley zone sometimes and tries to volley every shot, rather than letting them bounce.”

Volley Llama: Volley Llama is a pickleball slang that refers to an illegal shot, where a player volleys the ball in the non-volley zone. ​

  • “Pat bought Bobbi a hat that read ‘Volley Lama’ after she was called for being in the non-volley zone five times during their match.”

Thanks to our two doubles teams for helping to illustrate the terms and get you in the know on the vast verbiage in Pickleball. Let me know if there are others you would add and or love to see never used again!

Written by:

All Drive No Drop Team

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