As with any sport, pickleball has its own unique vocabulary, but the relative newness of the game compared to others means you may be less familiar with these terms than you are the ones related to golf, football, baseball and tennis. Knowing key pickleball terms will help you converse more confidently with fellow players and understand resources and guides that will allow you to build your skills. To make learning easy, we created this guide to pickleball vocabulary for beginners.
Pickleball Terms and Definitions
We've divided our list into two sections: basics and rule terminology, which allows you to identify the different parts of the court and equipment; and pickleball terms and other jargon you should know that you're likely to encounter because it's commonly used.
The Basic Pickleball Rule Terminology
Singles: A pickleball game between two opponents. One player takes to each side of the court with no partner.
Doubles: A pickleball game between two teams. Each team consists of two players who stand on the same side of the court. In total, four people are on the court for a doubles game.
Indoor ball: A pickleball that looks similar to a white wiffleball. You can use it on an outdoor court as well as an indoor court, but it will have more bounce.
Outdoor ball: A pickleball with a protective coating that reduces wear and tear. Despite the coating, outdoor pickleballs will generally need replacing more frequently.
Double bounce rule: Before taking pickleball shots, you must let the ball bounce. The receiving team waits until the serve bounces before hitting, and the serving team waits for the return to bounce as well. Some people refer to this as the two bounce rule.
Non-volley zone: The pickleball non-volley zone is the area on either side of the net that you can't enter unless the ball is hit into it.
Baseline: The baseline is the deepest line on the court that signifies the back of each side. Usually, it is 22 ft. away from the net.
Centerline: The centerline is the midpoint on the court, separating one side from the other.
Serve: An underhand shot that initiates a rally. You receive two serves each turn. For the serve to be good, you must hit it below your waistline.
Line call: The term for deciding whether the ball is on or out of the court.
Pickleball Terms You Should Know
Ace: A serve that the receiving team or player doesn't return. The serving team or player automatically gets one point.
Backspin: Sometimes called the slice or chop, backspin refers to hitting the ball from a high position and following through to a low one, making the ball spin opposite the direction of its flight path.
Carry: You carry the ball if it rolls along the face of your paddle when you swing forward as opposed to bouncing off.
Forehand: The pickleball forehand is a groundstroke usually taken near the baseline executed by swinging the paddle forward to make contact in front of your body.
Lob: A return that goes high and deep, making your opponent run back toward the baseline.
Pickled: Also referred to as getting skunked, being pickled means the game ends without you or your team scoring. Basically, it means the score is 11-0 in the other team's favor.
Poach: Poaching is the practice of stepping into your partner's section of the court to return instead of giving them a chance to take the shot.
Server number: The number that tells the other team whether the person serving is the first or second to go. You always yell your server number before serving.
Volley: A simple volleying definition is to hit the ball in the air before it can bounce into the court.
What Is the Kitchen in Pickleball?
The kitchen is one of the most common terms in the sport, but you don't see it defined very often. The kitchen is the area of the box immediately on either side of the net. You can't walk or run into the kitchen unless a player hits the ball into the area. Then, you're free to step in to return it. There is no limit on the number of lets you can hit. Servers can continue until they either get a good serve or a fault.
Why Is It Called the Kitchen in Pickleball?
Just as no one's exactly sure where the name pickleball came from, there's no authoritative answer for how the term "the kitchen" originated. Likely, the name comes from the game of shuffleboard, where the kitchen is a part of the court located behind the scoring zones. Landing in that area reduces 10 points from your score, so players work hard to avoid it. The kitchen in pickleball is a similar no-man's land, hence someone likely applied the name to the no-volley zone.
What Is a Let in Pickleball?
A let serve in pickleball refers to a serve that isn't a penalty but isn't good enough for the other team to return. For a serve to qualify as a let, it must touch the net and then travel far enough to get past the kitchen. When this happens, the server has a chance for a do-over with no penalty. Let is a short way of saying, "let's try this again."
Master the Look and the Lingo of the Court
Reviewing these pickleball terms and learning their definitions will have you talking like a seasoned player in no time, and to look and feel your best while you show off the lingo and your developing skills, take to the court in pickleball gear from Devereux. Our range of pickleball apparel and accessories includes stylish graphics and comfortable materials. It even includes a pickleball paddle to get you ready for your first game. Shop the pickleball collection now to build your wardrobe along with your vocabulary.