Speak Up: 61 Must-Know Pickleball Terms Explained

Pickleball Terms

If you’re new to the exciting world of pickleball, understanding the lingo is almost as important as understanding the game!

If you’ve been playing for a little now, you may have found that pickleball has its own unique set of terms and phrases. From “dinks” to “Ernes,” the terminology might seem intimidating at first, but we’ve got you covered.

In this blog post, I’ll walk you through 61 essential pickleball terms, giving you straightforward explanations for each.

By the end of this blog post, you’ll be speaking pickleball fluently and ready to take your game to the next level!

So if you’re wondering about that “third shot drop” or what the heck is a “dreambreaker,” this comprehensive list will help you to be well-versed in all aspects of the game.

So grab your paddle, head to the court, and let’s get into the world of pickleball lingo.

Let’s get started…

What Are the Pickleball Terms?

What do the pickleball terms mean?
  1. Ace: A serve that is not returned by the opponent. Rare in pickleball, but can happen.
  2. Approach Shot: A ground stroke usually hit while moving toward the net with the goal of getting to the kitchen line.
  3. Backhand: A stroke played on the non-dominant side of the body, can be played with one or two hands.
  4. Baseline: The back boundary line of the court.
  5. Banger: Used as a name for a player who hits the ball hard and fast.
  6. Bert: Like an “erne” but played from your partners side of the court. Jump over the kitchen and and out of bounds to hit a shot out of mid air without stepping in the kitchen!
  7. Body Bag: When you hit the ball directly at your opponent and it hits them before they can hit it with their paddle.
  8. Carry: When the ball is caught on the paddle and “thrown” rather than hit cleanly.
  9. Centerline: The line that divides the service courts.
  10. Champion Shot: A winning shot that ends the rally.
  11. Chop: A type of shot that can produce a lot of backspin.
  12. Crosscourt: A shot hit diagonally across the court.
  13. Dink: A soft shot played at the kitchen line that just clears the net and lands in the non-volley zone.
  14. Double Bounce: When the ball bounces twice on one side before being returned. This is a fault.
  15. Dreambreaker: A type of tie breaker where doubles teams play in singles format and switch every four points.
  16. Drop Shot: A soft shot intended to fall into the opponent’s non-volley zone.
  17. Dubs: Short for doubles play.
  18. Erne: A shot hit while jumping around the non-volley zone.
  19. Fault: A violation of the rules.
  20. Foot Fault: When a player’s foot steps into the non-volley zone during a volley.
  21. Forehand: A stroke played on the dominant side of the body.
  22. Kitchen: Slang for the non-volley zone. A 7ft area at the net where you can’t step in to hit a ball unless it bounces.
  23. Lob: A high shot intended to go over the opponent’s head and still land in bounds.
  24. Match Point: The point that, if won, wins the match.
  25. Mixed Doubles: Doubles team made up of one male and one female.
  26. No-Man’s Land: The area between the baseline and the non-volley zone. Typically a place you don’t want to be.
  27. Non-Volley Zone: The area close to the net where volleys are not allowed. Aka the Kitchen.
  28. Overhead Smash: A powerful shot hit from above the head.
  29. Poach: Crossing over into a partner’s territory to take the shot.
  30. Put-Away Shot: A shot intended to end the rally.
  31. Rally: A good back and forth sequence of shots between two teams.
  32. Ready Position: The stance taken before receiving a shot. Often bent knees, maybe bouncing slightly.
  33. Return: Hitting the ball back after a serve or shot.
  34. Serve: The shot that starts the point. In pickleball, it must be done underhand.
  35. Server Number: The number (1 or 2) indicating the current server. The score in doubles is announced as example: 4-2-2. which would be serving team has 4 points, opposing team has 2 points and it is the second server.
  36. Service Court: The area where the serve must land to be in bounds.
  37. Side Out: When the serving team loses the serve.
  38. Sideline: The boundary lines on the sides of the court.
  39. Singles: A game played with one player on each side.
  40. Slice: A shot with backspin.
  41. Spin: The rotation of the ball that affects its trajectory.
  42. Stacking: A positioning strategy used in doubles. See our explanation here.
  43. Stroke: The act of hitting the ball.
  44. Third Shot Drop: A soft shot aimed to land in the non-volley zone on the third shot of the rally.
  45. Topspin: Forward spin on the ball to create downward motion.
  46. Two-Bounce Rule: The ball must bounce once on each side before volleys are allowed.
  47. Unforced Error: A mistake made without pressure from the opponent.
  48. Volley: Hitting the ball before it bounces.
  49. Winning Shot: A shot that wins the point.
  50. Speed Up: Often comes when in a good back and forth dinking match when one player tries to “speed up” the ball to make a more aggressive play.
  51. Wrist Flick: A quick wrist motion to generate speed or spin often while playing at the kitchen.
  52. Groundstroke: A shot hit after the ball bounces, either a forehand or backhand.
  53. Open Face: The angle of the paddle when the hitting surface is facing up.
  54. Closed Face: The angle of the paddle when the hitting surface is facing down.
  55. Flat Shot: A shot hit with little to no spin.
  56. Paddle Grip: The way the paddle is held.
  57. Punch Volley: A short, quick volley with minimal backswing.
  58. Shape: A way to describe a shot on how the ball moved after hitting it.
  59. Drive: A strong shot usually from the baseline.
  60. Skinny Singles: A different way to play singles that involves only using half of the court. See our skinny singles explanation.
  61. Reset: Can often happen after a speed up when the player is trying to “reset” and slow the game down with a slower shot in the kitchen.


So there you have it…Our list of 61 pickleball terms you must know!

I know at first they all sound funny, but the more you are out there the more they will become normal speak. Hopefully this will give you the confidence to get out there and have some fun!

Whether you’re perfecting your “dink” shots, mastering the “Erne,” or simply enjoying a casual game with friends, being familiar with the lingo helps you stay engaged and informed.

Keep checking back as I am sure we will be adding to our list! Until then…Happy pickling!

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