Pickleball Terms You Should Know Before Playing

Pickleball Terms

Pickleball has seen a meteoric rise in popularity in recent years. As with any sport, pickleball comes with its own set of unique terms and lingo. For newcomers and even for those familiar with the sport, understanding these Pickleball terms can help you appreciate and understand the game better!

Some terms in Pickleball may be familiar if you’ve played tennis or ping pong, but there are also unique terms specific to the game.

Essential Pickleball Terms


The action that starts a point. The serve must be hit underhand and diagonally across the court.


A soft shot, typically hit with a push motion, that arcs over the net and lands in the non-volley zone (often called the “kitchen”). It’s a strategic shot designed to move opponents out of position.


A winning point using a dink shot.


Officially called the “non-volley zone”, this is a 7-foot area on both sides of the net. Players cannot volley (hit the ball before it bounces) while standing in this zone.


The area between the baseline and the non-volley zone.


Hitting the ball out of the air before it bounces.


When a player moves to hit a ball that would usually be played by their partner. This can be a strategic move, especially if one player has a stronger forehand or is in a better position.

Third Shot Drop

A shot played after the return of serve. It’s typically a soft shot that is designed to land in the kitchen, allowing the serving team to advance to the net.


A strategy where teammates align themselves in a particular way, usually to have a stronger player on a certain side or to exploit an opponent’s weakness.


Similar to tennis, this is a serve that hits the net but still lands in the correct service box. In pickleball, the serve is replayed without penalty.

Side out

When the serving team loses the point and the opponents take over the serve.


A series of shots exchanged between players or teams.


A high, deep shot intended to go over the opponent’s head, pushing them back towards the baseline.


A hard, low shot that’s designed to put pressure on the opponents, making it difficult for them to return.

Around-the-post (ATP) shot

A shot that travels outside the post or net and lands in bounds. This is a legal and often spectacular shot in pickleball.


A shot where a player jumps over the kitchen line and hits the ball before their feet touch back down on the ground. Or when a player runs around the kitchen (just to the side of the kitchen and out of bounds) and smacks the ball. This is an advanced maneuver often used to surprise opponents.


A player who primarily relies on hard, powerful shots. This is often considered a less nuanced style of play.


The instrument used to hit the ball in pickleball.


Applying rotation to the ball when striking, causing it to curve or bounce unpredictably.

Unforced Error

A mistake, or missed shot, that wasn’t caused by an opponent’s good play.

Two Bounce Rule (aka Double Bounce)

After the serve, each team must play their first shot off the bounce. The ball must bounce once on each side before volleys can commence.


Any violation of the rules, such as hitting the ball out of bounds or stepping into the kitchen to volley. After two faults by the serving team, the serve switches to the other team.

Service Court

The area on the opposite side of the net where the serve must land.


The back boundary line of the court.


A passionate pickleball player.


By familiarizing yourself with these terms, you’ll be better equipped to understand the nuances of pickleball. So, whether you’re watching a match, discussing strategy with fellow enthusiasts, or stepping onto the court yourself.

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