Pickleball Lingo You Need to Know

Pickleball Lingo You Need to Know

Pickleball’s origin story differs depending on who you ask – even the USAPA is unsure of its true origin but goes a little something like this. Back in 1965, Joel Pritchard and his friend Bill Bell improvised a badminton game by playing with ping pong paddles and a wiffleball in an attempt to get their entire families involved when they couldn’t find enough rackets. And so began the rise of pickleball.

The name came about, according to Joel’s wife Joan, because the combination of sports reminded her of a pickle boat in crew, where oarsmen were chosen to compete together from the leftover rowers in all of the collective boats. However, there are conflicting reports that the Pritchard’s dog also loved the game – and you guessed it his name was Pickles! 

Regardless of how it truly gained its name, pickleball is very different from other sports like football and baseball – so you already know there are some funky terms that will go along with it. Qranc is here to serve you the top terms to help you blend in at the court.


The Basics

Any experienced player can feel free to skip down to the next section, but for those new to pickleball these terms are certainly something you’ll want to know before hopping in a game at your local courts. Pickleball draws a very friendly, open, and supportive crowd – and the community is what actually gets a lot of people interested in the game – so provided you put in a little time towards studying these following terms, your local community of picklers will help you get into the swing of things. 

Ball and Paddle – outside of a net, court, and opponent, these are the only two things you need to play a game of pickleball! The yellow wiffleball has remained from Pritchard and Bell’s days, but the paddles have gotten bigger. Be sure to check out Qranc’s premium paddles to get the most out of your game.

Singles – a one versus one match, mano a mano, like you’d find in tennis or ping pong.

Doubles – a two versus two match, much like you’d see in other racquet sports. This is the most common way you see pickleball played at most courts and in most tournaments.

Non-Volley Zone (NVZ) – this is the section of the court that’s closest to the net on each side. It’s typically marked off with a seven-foot rectangle and often referred to as the kitchen area. Players are not allowed to hit balls out of the air (volley) if any part of them is standing in the NVZ.

Baseline – the line furthest back on a pickleball court marking the boundary play.

Backcourt – the space between the baseline and the NVZ on a pickleball court.

Double Bounce Rule – one of the rules that keeps pickleball competitive for players of all skill levels and ages, the double bounce rule states both teams (serving and receiving) must let the ball hit the ground once before taking their shots. This warms people into a rally and the game picks up pace from there.

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Types of Shots 

There are a ton of shots in pickleball, but some of the most common and useful shots are outlined below for you to start familiarizing yourself with gameplay strategies that will include a number of these shots in a certain sequence. 

Serve – the first shot of every rally in pickleball, a serve must be played underhand and hit below waist level.

Return – the second shot of every rally, as the receiving team send the ball back over the net to the team that served after it takes a bounce

Third Shot – astutely named, the third shot of every rally is where the pace picks up, and strategies begin to be employed. It’s often considered the most important shot in pickleball, hitting a good third shot can really tip the tide of a point.

Dink – a soft shot that lands in or close to the NVZ. A dink dictates pace and allows a team to take control of a point.

Drive – fast shot that is aimed towards the backcourt of your opponent. TIP – playing this to their weak side is the optimal placement. To hit the most effective drive, it’s imperative you’re using balls up to USAPA standards and are in good shape physically. Luckily, Qranc’s pickleball subscription has you covered.  

The Erne – pounced Ernie, is a shot in which the player jumps over the kitchen and drives the ball into the opponent’s half, proving a very difficult shot to defend against.


Just for Kicks

Some fun terms that could only be found in a sport called pickleball 

Falafel – a shot that should’ve been hit with more power.

Flapjack – a shot that, by rule, has to bounce once before being returned at the start of a point.

Level Play – this describes the skill level of a pickleball player, which is graded on a scale of 1.0-8.0. This makes the game fun for all by matchmaking with similar levels of play. This can dictate court times, partners, opponents, and even courts to play on in larger areas.

Nice Get – a common congratulatory compliment from one player to another after making a difficult shot.

Pickled – much like laying a goose egg in other sports, a team is pickled if they don’t manage to score during a game of pickleball.

Pickler – an avid pickleball player, someone who can be found at the courts regularly.

Volley Llama – someone who hits a volley out of the NVZ is known as a Volley Llama for breaking the rules.


Pickleball is meant to be fun, so don’t be a Volley Llama and get in on the good-natured game that so many have picked up in recent years. No matter your age or skill level, it’s important to start with a good foundation, and Qranc has you covered with everything you need to walk into the courts with confidence whether it’s your first time, first time in a while, or just the first time that day.

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