Pickleball Terms

Updated: 4/7/2019 | April 7, 2019

Learning pickleball terms or some say pickleball terminology or definitions is another important part of learning how to play the game. I’ve been blogging about pickleball since 2012 – yep 7 years and I realized it’s time to share some basic terminology with players. Here is your cheat sheet to help you understand what the heck we’re talking about in the wonderful world of pickleball.

Pickleball terms and definitions:

Ace – A serve that is in (and legal) and has not been hit or touched by the receiver.

Approach Shot – A shot that is done while moving forward toward the net.

Around the Post – A shot that travels outside (around) the net post usually landing in the opponent’s backcourt near the line. These shots are most often set up by a wide dink.

Backhand – A hit with the “back” of the paddle made by reaching across the body and leading the swing with the back of the hand.

Backspin – means the pickleball is rotating backwards through the air.  The paddle swing is a high-to-low arc. This spin of the ball is from a “slice” or “cut” shot.

Banger – a style of play where the player hits hard, driving shots. Their shots are hard and fast – attacking at every moment. They are a “Banger.”  The opposite of a “Dinker.”

Beer Bracket – If you are OUT of the tournament early, losing in the early rounds then you are in the beer bracket. This has nothing to do with the famous craft beer brackets, but all about pickleball and time to kick off your tennis shoes put on your flip flops, grab your favorite beer and cheer your friends on.

Crosscourt – The opponent’s court diagonally opposite yours.

Dink – A soft shot typically made near the kitchen line, so that it drops into the opponent’s non-volley zone and they are not able to volley it back.

Dinker – a style of play where the players plays soft dinking shots. They always want to slow the game down, staying in a defensive position. The opposite of a “Banger.”

Double Bounce Rule – You have to let the ball bounce both on the serve and the return. If you don’t, it will be a fault.

Doubles – A pickleball game played with 4 players (2 on each team). Teams can be men, women or mixed doubles.

Drive – A low shot intended to reach the opponents’ backcourt.

Drop Shot – A soft shot that clears the pickleball net and then falls short of the opposing players into the kitchen.

Erne – This shot is a volley hit right at the net with a player positioned outside the court. An “Erne” shot is when a player steps outside the inner part of the court and on the other side of either the right or left sideline and comes forward to be parallel with the kitchen but is, in fact, standing outside the kitchen on the other side of the sideline. The ball will be struck out of the air and very close to the net. This is a surprise shot that typically will be initiated out of dinking rally. It’s an advance shot that requires precise timing and quick movement.

Fault – A rule violation. This ends the rally.

Forehand – A hit with the “front” of the paddle made by leading the swing with the front or palm of the hand.

Foot Fault – Can be called at two locations on the court: Stepping on or into the non-volley zone while volleying a ball, or, while serving, failure to keep both feet behind the baseline with at least one foot in contact with the surface when the paddle contacts the ball.

Game – A series of points played until one team has accumulated 11 points (winning by 2 points). Some pickleball tournaments play games to 15 or 21 points (win by 2).

Groundstroke – A forehand or backhand shot that is executed after the ball bounces once on the court. It is usually hit from the back of the court.

Half-Volley – A type of hit where the player hits the ball immediately after it has bounced in an almost scoop-like fashion.

Kitchen – A nickname for the non-volley zone. “Non-volley zone” and “kitchen” are synonymous. Non-volley zone is the technical name, but kitchen is used more often…. probably because it flows off the tongue easier. Interestingly, in writing my book – History of Pickleball, I did quite a bit of digging to try to figure out where the term kitchen originated, but no such luck. Most assume it derived from the saying ‘if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen”, but that is an assumption.

Let Serve – A serve that touches the top of the net and lands in the proper service court. It is replayed without penalty.


– Baseline – This is the line at the back of the court that can’t be crossed when you serve and is in-bounds.

– Centerline – The line extends from the Non-Volley Zone to the Baseline and divides the service court into two equal halves. The centerline separates in-bounds and out-of-bounds for the serve. The line is in-bounds.

– Non-Volley Zone Line (NVZ) – The line separating the non-volley zone from the rest of the court. The line is considered part of the zone and as such is considered out-of-bounds for a serve. It is the only line so designated.

– Sideline – The line at the side of the court separating in-bounds and out-of-bounds. The line is considered in-bounds.

Lob – A shot that sends the ball high overhead and deep, forcing the opponent back to the baseline.

Match – End of a series of game(s) which determine a winner. A tournament will have a series of pickleball matches.

Mid-court – The area between the kitchen and the backcourt. Sometimes referred to as “no man’s” land.

No Man’s Land or “Transition Zone” –   referring to the area on the court which a player passes when getting from the baseline to the Non-Volley Line.

Non-Volley Zone – A seven-foot area adjacent to the net within which you may not step into and volley the ball. A player can be in this zone, but to hit the ball it must have first bounced. The non-volley zone includes all lines around it. Also called the “kitchen”.

Overhead – A hard shot made when you hit the ball above your head.

Poach – In doubles, to cross over into your partner’s portion of the court to play a ball.

Put away – A shot with no chance of being returned.

Rally – Hitting the ball back and forth between opposite teams, a long series of shots.

Ready Position – Ideal position to receive the ball for a return. The paddle is out in front of player’s body and up at chest height with a neutral grip for either forehand or backhand return. Weight is evenly balanced to slightly on toes with knees slightly bent and ready to move in any direction.

Serve (Service) – An underhand stroke used to start the point and put the ball into play.

Server Number – When playing doubles, either “1” or “2,” depending on whether you are the first or second server for your side. This number is appended to the score when it is called.

Side Out – Declared after one side loses its service and other side is awarded serve.

Singles – A game played with 2 players and divided 1 per side.

Stacking – is a technique or strategy used by some doubles teams to increase the number of times that players will have their forehand or backhands in the middle of the court. It is most often observed in teams which include both a right and left-handed player. Players on a team are not in traditional positioning and are instead rearranged in order to keep one player on a particular side of the court. Unlike traditional play, the stacking team will start on the same side and then once the serve or return is hit, they shift into the desired positioning. What makes stacking possible is the fact that there are no rules in pickleball that govern what side of the court a player may stand or hit the ball, except when serving or hitting a return of serve.

Third Shot Drop – A drop shot usually done after the service return (third shot) allowing the serving team time to get to the non-volley zone line. These types of shots can also be successfully used to slow or “reset” the point.

Topspin – Spin on the ball in the same direction of the flight of the ball. The paddle swing is a low-to-high arc, meaning the paddle is moving upward when it contacts the back of the ball.

Transition Zone or “No Man’s Land” –   referring to the area on the court which a player passes when getting from the baseline to the Non-Volley Line.

Unforced Error – A player missing a shot that should normally be made.

Volley – Hitting the ball before it bounces.

How did you like my list of pickleball terms?

Did I miss any terms you use? If so please share in the comments below.


30 comments on “Pickleball Terms”

  1. Hi Jennifer, Our APP & PPA chat sessions the past two weekends have been filled with posts concerning ‘hinder / hindrance’. The situations that caused the term to come up (even from the booth) were calls for some shouting incidents by players during rallies. Definition: 3.A.15 Hinder-Any transient movement on the court during a rally, such as a loose ball from another court, flying insects, animals, etc. that may cause play to stop. Rule 11-J Distraction-Whenever an opponent is about to strike the ball, the hitting side may not shout out in such a manner that may interfere with the opponents play. The player making the call for Distraction must appeal to the referee for a decision. Was fun watching the posts fly by. Glad I took the time 4 1/2 years ago to read the book and keep up with revisions. I enjoy reffing locally.

  2. If a players return takes him out-of-bounds with foward motion, then return players hits him with the ball while he is out-of-bounds……who gets the point?

  3. The “let serve” definition needs clarification or updating since there is no replay if the ball lands in the service court.

  4. I know there’s a term for hitting someone with the serve (especially the receiving player’s partner who isn’t paying enough attention!) but I don’t remember what it is. Also, there’s a name for one foot out of bounds and one behind the kitchen line (similar to but definitely different than an Erne!) but again I don’t remember its name, either. Aging isn’t being kind to my memory!

  5. Hey, That’s perhaps the most comprehensive pickleball terminology on the internet. I love it, it covers useful words with the easily-understandable definitions,

  6. Very interesting . I had heard of the erne shot but didn’t know what it was called. Good job with the definitions.

  7. Also like the use of the term ‘Opportunity Bracket’ instead of Loser’s Bracket. A more positive sound. Come out of that bracket, then must win 2 of three games then fourth game to 15. Love those !

  8. Hi Jennifer, Tks for the emails. Lots of stuff. Terms and Rules. “Cut Serve / Shot”. And to add a 2019 Rules revision that deletes the word ‘Underhand’ for Serve. Just forward motion / upward arc.

  9. Thanks, Jennifer. I recently heard the term “let court” used by a commentator in the Waters/Water vs Jardim/Carr match. Waht does that mean?

  10. Great job Jennifer. Funny in 5 years of pickleball had never heard of Beer bracket (only 2nd chance or opportunity bracket…consolation too but that doesn’t sound as positive:)

    Another term hearing a lot…Transition Zone = referring to the area through which one passes when getting from baseline to NVZ When have heard it, usually distinguished from tennis “no man’s land” (usually a bad place to be) and considered a good place to be as you execute a shot (where often 3rd shot drop executed) or moving through it to meet your partner as both of you try to gain the net.

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