Pickleball Terminology (Common Pickleball Terms and Phrases)

The Pickleball Glossary

  • Published: January 25, 2023
  • Last Updated: May 11, 2023

A guide to pickleball terminology. With pickleball having many new terms, phrases, and vocabulary, here are definitions to common terms used in pickleball to help you.  Many are similar to terms used in other racket sports, some have a slight nuance for how it works, and some terms are just outright made up for pickleball.   

Serving, swings, and hits

  • Drop-serve: a provisional rule that allows the serve to drop the ball from any height and bounce before making contact with the ball. See Pickleball Serving Rules for more details on the serve.
  • Volley: hitting the ball before it bounces
  • Groundstroke: hitting the ball after the ball bounces.
  • Two bounce rule: on the serve the ball must bounce before the player can hit to return it.  On the first return, the ball must also bounce before it can be returned.  In other words, the first two hits must be groundstrokes before the play can turn to volleys.
  • Let: when a rally is redone.
  • Service let: when the ball hits the net on the court and lands in the proper court, the serve is redone without a point or a loss.
  • Ace: when the ball is served properly but the receiving team fails to return it.
  • Overhead smash: overhead swing to smash the ball to your opponent.  When performing any overhead smash, make sure when your body comes to a stop no part of you touches the kitchen. 


Jumping overhead smash
Jumping overhead smash


  • Baselines: sit parallel to the net at the end of the court.

  • Sidelines: running the length of the court.

  • Non-volley zone (NVZ): the area on either side of the net.  It is 7 feet on both sides bound in by a line parallel to the net. As known as The Kitchen.

  • Centerline: extends down the center from the baselines to the NVZ, dividing the court.

  • Service area: the area beyond the NVZ on either side of the centerline, including the centerline, sideline, and baseline.

  • Service Courts: Run on either side of the centerline, surrounded by non-volley line, sideline, and baseline.

  • The kitchen: Also referred to as the non-volley zone (NVZ).  A player cannot step into the kitchen to volley the ball.  A player may step into the kitchen to return a hit if the ball has bounced.  


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