Pickleball Terminology

You’ll find the official pickleball rules at usapa.org/officialrules cover terminology well, but in case you have any doubt about the terminology, here’s a brief list of some terms that may be confusing. Included in this list are several terms that may be local or colloquial, and possibly just plain wrong, that you may hear occasionally.

Arizona Serve – A serve that’s technically illegal but often allowed. It is more of a forehand than an underhand, resulting in the ball being hit above the waist or above the wrist.

Around The Post: Hitting the ball when you are standing to the right or left of the net so the ball travels around the outside of the post and back into the opponents’ court.

ATP: Another way to say ‘Around the Post’

Backcourt – A non-specific area near the baseline. In other words, not close to the non-volley zone.

Backspin – Generally interchangeable with ‘slice,’ this term refers to hitting a ball with a downward stroke and the paddle face at an open angle, so the ball spins backward. The backspin will tend to drop shorter than expected and bounce weirdly, flummoxing less-skilled players.

Bageled – Did not score one point.

Bagel With Cream Cheese – Did not get to serve, and bageled.

Baseline – The line at the back of the court.

Carry – To hit the ball in such a way that it stays in contact with the paddle for a time longer than it would take to simply bounce off.

Centerline – The line between the right and left sides of the court.

Cross-Court – The area bounded by the centerline and sideline opposite the side in which a player is standing. Cross-court is usually understood to be bounded also by the non-volley line and the baseline.Serves are sent cross-court.

Dairy Queen Server – A person who has only a “soft serve”

Dink (Dink Shot) – A shot that passes low over the net and drops as close to the net as possible, ideally within the non-volley zone. Dinks are generally done from near the non-volley line.

Double-Bounce Rule – The ball must bounce once after the serve before it can be legally returned, and bounce again on the server’s side before it can be hit back. After that, the ball can be volleyed.

Drop Shot (also spelled as a compound word: “Dropshot”) – A stroke designed to pass low over the net, and then fall short, ideally within the non-volley zone. Drop shots are generally done from the backcourt – near the baseline. Details…

Erne Shot – Normally, you can’t be closer than seven feet from the net when hitting a ball unless it has bounced. However, if you have a ball that’s coming well to one side, you can step right up to the net, as long as you are outside the sideline, and hit the ball without it needing to bounce first.

Fault – A rule violation, such as a ball that lands out of bounds or hits the net, causing an end to a rally.

Foot Fault – A violation in which a player is standing with at least one foot in the wrong place. Foot faults include stepping on or in front of the non-volley line when hitting a ball that has not bounced, or stepping on or over the baseline when serving.

Formalities – A colloquialism for a typical deep serve, and a typical deep return-of-serve. These formalities are often done with high, soft, but deep shots, because among very good players, there is no advantage in hard, spinny or tricky serves or returns.

Garage – One of the areas of the court into which one can serve. In other words, the main playing areas, bounded by the kitchen line, the baseline, the centerline, and a sideline.

Glendaled – Got robbed on a call.

Groundstroke – Hitting a ball after it has bounced.

Holding Serve – The player who is currently the player who served the ball is said to be holding serve until a rally is lost.

Kitchen – A synonym for the non-volley zone between the net and the non-volley line.

Kitchen Line – A synonym for the non-volley line.

Lob – A ball hit high to the backcourt, ideally causing the opponent to struggle with backing up to hit the ball. More…

Non-Volley Line – A line seven feet from the net. The players must stand behind this line to hit balls unless they bounce first. Also known as the “kitchen line.”

Non-Volley Zone – An area within seven feet of the net in which players cannot enter to hit balls unless the balls bounce first. Also known as the “kitchen.”

Paint – A synonym for a line. For example: “Yup, that hit the paint.”

Pantry – The area outside the sideline near the center line very close to the net, but outside the kitchen. The area where the Erne shot takes place.

Passing Shot – A long low and fast shot that is designed to land beyond where a player can reach.

Poach – In doubles play, to poach is to hit a ball, or try to hit a ball, that is clearly destined to come to your partner’s area of the court. Details…

Popcorn War – When players are at the kitchen line, and rapidly vollying the ball back and forth in the air.

Pop the Ball: This is an action where a player has returned a ball too high. It is common when the player is struggling to return a ball to their feet, and among beginners who don’t yet have the skill to return balls close to the top of the net.

Popper – One who pops the ball.

Rally – All the action that occurs between the time the ball is served and the end of play due to a fault or referee’s call.

Saggy Rag – A portable net.

Service Court – The area diagonally opposite where the server stands, bounded by the centerline, sideline, non-volley line, and baseline.

Sidelines – The lines at the sides of the court perpendicular to the net.

Slice – Generally interchangeable with ‘backspin,’ this term refers to hitting a ball with a downward stroke and the paddle face at an open angle, so the ball spins backward. The slice will tend to drop shorter than expected and bounce weirdly, flummoxing less-skilled players.

Overhead Smash / Slam overhand stroke that returns a high ball with speed and power. Details…

Sudden Death – In a sudden death game, the winning team in a close match needs to win by only one point, not the usual two points. This is useful when there are more players than the courts accommodate and so people have to wait.

Switch – When one player has moved out of position toward the partner’s side of the court, s/he may remain there, and the partner will switch sides, so both players are in position to continue responding to the rally. One of the players will often shout “switch” letting the other know to switch.

Tagging – Purposely hitting the player with a ball. See Rotten Pickleball.

Tape – A synonmym for the top edge of the net.

Tattooed – Getting hit by a fast pickleball.

Topspin – A ball is hit with an upward motion of the paddle, so that it spins. The ball will tend to drop more quickly, and a low ball can be lifted over the net to be sent fast and low without going out of bounds. Details…

Underspin – The same as backspin.

Wrong Garage – A serve that goes into wrong service box.

Volley – To hit the ball before it has bounced.