Essential Terms and Definitions in Pickleball: A Quick Guide

Whether you’re a pickleball beginner or getting back into the sport, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the terms and definitions used by players and enthusiasts these days. This will help you communicate effectively on the court and understand the unique strategies of the game.

You’ll quickly discover that many terms in pickleball are similar to those in other net-racket-ball sports, with some distinctions and new phrases exclusive to pickleball. From court and paddle terms to specific types of shots and scoring, this article will guide you through the essential vocabulary you need to navigate your way through the sport. By learning and applying these terms, you’ll be well on your way to sounding like a seasoned pickleball pro. So grab your paddle, and let’s dive in!

List of Terms and Definitions

While not comprehensive, this list is a great start. We’ll keep it updated, as necessary.

Around-the-post (ATP)

ATP is a shot that goes around the net post instead of over it, landing in the opponent’s court.


A dink is a soft shot that drops just over the net into the opponent’s kitchen.

Double-bounce rule

The double-bounce rule states that both the receiving team and the serving team must let the ball bounce once before hitting it.

Drop or Drop-shot 

A drop shot is a low, short shot aimed to fall close to the net in the opponent’s kitchen, forcing them to move forward.

Drive shot

A drive shot is a powerful shot hit parallel to the ground, aimed at the opponent’s body or their feet, making it difficult to return.

In pickleball, there are various match formats that you may encounter, including singles, doubles, mixed doubles, men’s doubles, and women’s doubles. These are distinguished by the number of players and their gender.


An Erne is a shot where a player moves to the edge of the non-volley zone, intercepts the ball, and hits it with a volley before it bounces, all the while remaining outside the kitchen. 

Kitchen (Non-Volley Zone) 

The kitchen is another name for the non-volley zone, which is the 7-feet area on either side of the net. Players cannot hit a ball within the kitchen unless the ball has already bounced there.

No man’s land 

This is the area between the non-volley zone and the baseline, where players should avoid standing for too long, as it is a vulnerable position.

Overhead smash 

An overhead smash is a powerful shot hit with a downward trajectory, usually as a result of a high lob from the opponent.


A put-away is a shot aimed to end a rally and score a point by hitting it at an angle or with enough power that the opponent cannot return it.

Server number 

This indicates whether the server is the first or second server in a doubles match.

Side-out scoring 

A scoring format where only the serving team can score points.

Shake and bake 

A doubles tactic where one player hits a powerful shot, setting up an opportunity for their partner to score with a put-away.

Sidespin, slice, and topspin 

Different ways of applying spin to the ball.


Stacking is a doubles strategy where both players stand on the same side of the court.


Changing player positions during a rally or after a point.

Third shot drop

A soft shot played by the serving team after the two initial bounces, intended to land in the opponent’s kitchen.


A between-the-legs shot, usually hit in desperation.


Hitting the ball in the air before it bounces.

Zero–Zero–Two or Zero–Zero–Start 

A term used to announce the beginning of a game, stating the score is 0-0 and the server is the second server.

Now that you have a basic understanding of these terms, you’ll be better prepared for your next pickleball game or conversation. Good luck, and go have fun!

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