The Comprehensive Guide to Pickleball Terms and Definitions

Welcome to the wonderful world of pickleball, where you’ll find pickle-addicts, volley llamas, and even a little Nasty Nelson! Curious to learn more?

Stick around as we serve up a comprehensive guide to pickleball terms and definitions, exploring the ins and outs of this fascinating sport and why it’s taking the world by storm!

Short Summary

  • Grab a paddle and get ready to pickle – you’ll need the right equipment, slang, games & court terminology!

  • Serve up some advanced shots and practice drills for pro-level play – plus, don’t forget about rule violations.

  • Get involved in pickleball organizations for fair play & maximum fun!

Essential Pickleball Equipment Terms

A pickleball court with two players hitting a ball back and forth

So, let’s start with the basics: what exactly do you need to play pickleball? First and foremost, you’ll need a pickleball paddle. This isn’t your average table tennis paddle; it’s specifically designed for pickleball, so don’t even think about trying to substitute it!

Next, you’ll need a pickleball ball (say that five times fast!). These little guys are made of plastic and have holes in them, allowing them to fly through the air with the greatest of ease.

Of course, we can’t forget about the almighty pickleball court. This is where the magic happens, a crucial part of the game.

The court is divided into various sections, such as the non-volley zone (also known as the “kitchen”), the service court, and the side of the court. Each area has its rules and strategies, so it’s essential to familiarize yourself with them before diving into a game.

But wait, there’s more! You’ll also encounter some unique pickleball slang, like “dead ball,” “drop shot,” “double hit,” and “volley shot,” just to name a few.

These terms may sound strange initially, but they’ll quickly become second nature as you immerse yourself in pickleball.

Types of Pickleball Games

Two players playing a pickleball game

Now that we know the basics, let’s explore the different types of pickleball games: doubles, singles, and the elusive skinny singles.

In doubles, two players will be on each side, working together to outwit their opponents and secure victory. Drop shots can be useful in doubles play, as they force your opponents to move quickly and potentially make mistakes.

On the other hand, Singles is a one-on-one showdown where every point counts, and a “golden pickle” victory is the ultimate goal. This type of game is perfect for players looking to test their skills and push themselves to the limit. Soft shots, like the dink shot, can be an important part of the game in singles play.

But what about skinny singles? This unique drill game typically involves using only the non-volley zone as the legal court area, forcing players to focus on the accuracy and placement of shots.

With only one player per side and a smaller play area, skinny singles is a challenging but rewarding way to improve your pickleball prowess.

Court Terminology

Let’s talk court terminology. The pickleball court may seem like a simple rectangle, but it’s a complex environment filled with lines, zones, and boundaries that can make or break your game.

One of the most important areas to understand is the non-volley zone, also known as the “kitchen.” This 7-foot stretch on either side of the net is a no-fly zone, meaning you can’t hit a volley (a shot taken in the air) while standing within it.

Another crucial part of the court is the baseline, the farthest line from the net from which you can serve the ball. You’ll also need to be aware of the centerline, which stretches from the non-volley zone to the baseline and splits the service court into two halves.

The net’s height is also important, as it stands 36 inches tall on the sidelines and 34 inches in the middle.

Lastly, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with unique court terms like “No Man’s Land” and the “Volley Llama.” No Man’s Land is a difficult strip behind the non-volley line. It stretches right up to practically the baseline.

As for the Volley Llama, this refers to a sneaky shot that’s taken within the no-volley zone, which is a big no-no in pickleball.

Serving and Scoring Terms

Now that you’re familiar with court terminology, let’s delve into serving and scoring terms. The serve is a crucial part of pickleball, setting the stage for the rally.

You’ll need to know your server number (either 1 or 2) and be aware of the unique scoring system, where the serving side’s score, the opponent’s score, and the server number are all called out before each serve.

An “ace” is a serve your opponent can’t return, resulting in an easy point for the serving team. On the other hand, a “line call” is when a ball lands close to a boundary line, and it’s up to the players to decide whether it’s in or out.

When it comes to scoring, only the serving team can score points, making it essential to capitalize on every opportunity.

Some other important serving and scoring terms include “foot fault,” which occurs when a player makes contact with the baseline before making contact with the ball during a serve, and “double hit,” where the ball strikes the paddle twice in one go, resulting in a fault.

Gameplay Techniques and Strategies

Ready to up your pickleball game? Let’s dive into some gameplay techniques and strategies!

One popular strategy is “poaching,” which occurs in doubles play when a player crosses the line of demarcation to hit a shot in their partner’s court. This can be an effective way to catch your opponents off guard and gain an advantage.

Another gameplay strategy is “stacking,” which involves players moving in sync to approach the net and retreat. This can help confuse your opponents and increase your chances of success.

And, of course, we can’t forget about the infamous double bounce rule, which requires players to let the ball bounce twice before they can start volleying.

Shot Types and Terminology

An image showing different pickleball terms used in shot types and terminology, including dink, lob, and smash.

Pickleball offers various shots, each with its unique purpose and technique. The most common shot types include volleys, dinks, lobs, and groundstrokes.

To master these shots, including the perfect pickleball shot, you’ll need to understand their specific mechanics, such as the backhand and forehand strokes for groundstrokes and the Continental and Western grips for different shots.

In addition to these basic shot types, you’ll encounter various spins, such as backspin and topspin. These spins can add a layer of complexity to your shots, making them more difficult for your opponent to predict and return.

By familiarizing yourself with these shot types and terminology, you’ll be better equipped to adapt your game to any situation, giving you a competitive edge on the pickleball court.

Rule Violations and Penalties

In the fast-paced world of pickleball, inevitably, players will occasionally run afoul of the rules.

Some common rule violations include foot faults, double hits, and technical warnings. In most cases, these violations result in a point awarded to the opposing team, so it’s crucial to be mindful of them during play.

A foot fault occurs when a player either makes contact with the baseline before making contact with the ball during a serve or steps into the non-volley zone while hitting a volley. Double hits, on the other hand, occur when the ball strikes the paddle twice in one go.

Players should also be aware of “volley llamas.” These players prefer to stay at the net and volley rather than hitting groundstrokes from the baseline.

Advanced Shots and Techniques

For those looking to take their pickleball game to the next level, there are several advanced shots and techniques to explore.

The Erne shot, for example, is a daring play in which a player leaps over the non-volley zone to hit a shot before landing out of bounds. This high-risk, high-reward move can catch your opponents off guard and score crucial points.

Another advanced technique is the around-the-post (ATP) shot hit, which involves hitting the ball around the net post rather than over the net. This tricky shot requires precision and finesse but can be a game-changer when executed correctly.

In contrast, an overhead shot demands a different skill set and strategy.

Finally, the third-shot drop is a strategic play that involves hitting a soft shot after the serve is returned, aiming to land the ball in your opponent’s non-volley zone.

Drills and Practice Exercises

Practice makes perfect, and plenty of drills and exercises help you improve your game in pickleball.

One such drill is Figure 8, in which players hit the ball diagonally and straight ahead, working on their accuracy and placement. This drill can be performed with two or four players and is an excellent way to develop your shot control.

The skinny singles drill is another useful exercise for honing your accuracy and placement skills. In this drill, players use only the non-volley zone as the legal court area, forcing them to focus on hitting precise shots.

Finally, the transition zone drill helps players improve their reaction time and shot selection by practicing their movement between the non-volley zone and the baseline.

Pickleball Organizations and Governing Bodies

As pickleball grows in popularity, several organizations and governing bodies have emerged to oversee the sport and ensure fair play.

These organizations include USA Pickleball, International Pickleball Federation (IPF), and International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association (IPTPA).

These bodies are responsible for setting rules, organizing tournaments, and promoting the sport nationally and internationally.

In addition to governing bodies, numerous pickleball tournaments and events are held throughout the year, such as the World Series of Pickleball, National Pickleball League, Pickleball Slam, and the Tournament of Champions.

These events allow players to test their skills against other top competitors and showcase the sport to a wider audience.

Certifications for Pickleball Coaches

Getting certified by IPTPA or PPR isn’t just a fancy title; it’s like having a golden pickle in your pocket. These certifications show you’re a pro at teaching pickleball and can rally with the best.

  • IPTPA Certification: Pass the written exams and show off your skills during live ball situations. You’ll be the pickleball pro everyone wants to learn from.
  • PPR Certification: Learn to teach dink shot drops and half volleys like a boss. Keep the game going even when the ball is dead. You’ll be the pickleball guru of continuous play.


Pickleball is a fascinating sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis while offering a unique and entertaining experience for players of all skill levels.

From mastering the essential equipment and court terminology to exploring advanced shots and techniques, there’s always more to learn and discover in the world of pickleball.

So grab your paddle, hit the court, and let the fun begin!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are pickleball terms?

An Ace is an unbeatable serve, a dillball is a live ball that has bounced once, a drop shot is a soft shot close to the net, and a falafel is a powerless hit that falls short.

What are pickleball smashes called?

When you smash a pickleball, you don’t just hit it – you pummel it! Yes, the powerful smash shot is a necessary skill for success in pickleball, and its official name is the pickleball overhead smash shot.

What does falafel mean in pickleball?

Pickleball players can relate to the humbling experience of missing out on a great shot due to a weak falafel – an unimpressive, powerless serve!

It’s a feeling that no one wants to experience, but it’s a reality that all players must face. The key to avoiding this situation is to practice and perfect your serve.

What is a flapjack in pickleball?

Pickleball’s flapjack – a shot that must be bounced before it can be hit back. It’s the gift that keeps on giving and a surefire way to spice up your game!

What is the basic equipment needed for pickleball?

It doesn’t take much to start a game of pickleball: all you need is a paddle, a ball, and a court. But don’t forget a sense of humor – pickleball is just as much about having fun!

Pickleball is a great way to get active and have fun with friends and family. It’s easy to learn and can be played indoors or outdoors. Plus, it’s a great way to stay fit and healthy.

What’s a Bert in pickleball?

A Bert in pickleball is an advanced shot that is the same as an Erne but on your partner’s half of the court.

It involves a player crossing the court into their partner’s half to perform a maneuver that avoids the non-volley zone and slams the ball3. It is a complex shot that requires skill and practice to execute properly.

What does the term pickle mean in pickleball?

Secondly, the term “pickle” is also associated with the origin of the game’s name. One theory suggests that the game was named after the “pickle boat” in crew races, which is a boat that includes leftover rowers from other boats.

Similarly, pickleball was created using leftover sports equipment, hence the name “pickleball”2.

What is a perfect pickle in pickleball?

A “perfect pickle” in pickleball does not have a specific definition or widely recognized meaning in the context of the sport. “Perfect pickle” may be used colloquially to describe an exceptional or flawless play or shot in a pickleball game.

However, it is important to note that this term is not standard or official in pickleball.

What does dill mean in pickleball?

In pickleball, the term “dill” does not have a widely recognized or specific meaning.

However, in some sources, it is mentioned as a slang term for a shot that is inbounds and has bounced once, making it a live ball2.

It is important to note that this usage may not be widely known or accepted in the pickleball community.

What is a soft shot called in pickleball?

A soft shot in pickleball is commonly referred to as a dink.

It is a shot that is hit softly and intentionally placed close to the net, making it difficult for the opponent to return with power. The dink is often used as a strategic shot to set up a winning opportunity or control the game’s pace.

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