Volleyball Lingo and Terminology

Volleyball Lingo and Terminology

There is a lot of terminology in volleyball to learn when playing and watching the sport. If you’re an athlete learning to play for the first time, or a coach wanting to teach the sport, check out these phrases and terms.

Volleyball Terms

5-1: A 5-1 rotation is a rotation in which there is one setter and five available hitters. The setter will stay in the entire game and will set from both the front and back row.

6-2: A 6-2 rotation is a rotation in which there are two setters on at all times. When in the front row, the setter becomes a hitter and the other setter sets from the back row. This way, all six players on the court can be hitters at some point during the game.

Ace: An ace is a serve that the opposing team is not able to return, therefore winning the serving team the point. Most commonly, an ace serve will hit the floor on the receiving team's side of the court, or one player will touch it, but will be unable to pass it to a second player.

Antenna: The vertical rods mounted to the net that denote the boundary of the field of play.

Approach: The approach consists of the motions a hitter makes before they hit the ball. They will use their steps to move to the ball and to gain momentum for their jump. Most approaches are three to four steps, allowing the hitter to get to the ball quickly.

Assist: Setting or passing the ball to a player who then makes an attack hit for a point.

Attack Error: An unsuccessful attack hit resulting in the opposing team scoring a point.

Attack Line/10-Foot Line: The attack line, also known as the ten-foot line or the three-meter line, is a line ten feet away from the net. This line divides the front and the back row. Players who are positioned behind this line in the rotation are only allowed to jump to hit from behind it.

Block: A block is an attempt to stop the hitter from successfully hitting the ball over the net and onto the blocking team’s side. There can be from one to three blockers blocking a ball at once, with front row players having to move side to side to line up with the hitter. Blockers will jump up and reach their arms above the net to get in the way of the ball.

Closing the Block: The goal for multiple blockers working together is to close the block, or leave no seam in between themselves where the hitter can hit through. By closing the block, players remove the space between their arms that a hitter could push the ball through.

Court Positions: There are six positions on the court, numbers one to six. Number one is the server's position in the back right of the court, with the number counting up counterclockwise.

Cut Shot: An attack hit made at an angle almost parallel to the net.

Decoy: An offensive play in which the spiker that will receive the set is disguised.

Defensive Specialist: Similar to a libero, a Defensive Specialist, or DS, substitutes into the back row to act as a passer for a front player. Unlike a libero, this player’s substitution does count toward the number of substitutions allowed per game.

Dig: A dig is when a passer successfully passes an attack from the opposing team. Digs are often quicker and lower to the ground than passing a serve, as they occur when a hitter hits the ball from the net.

Double: A double or double hit is a ball handling violation that occurs when a player touches a ball twice before another player comes into contact with the ball. Doubles are most often called when a player attempts to overhand pass the ball and their hands touch the ball at different times, causing it to spin. If the referee calls this violation, the player’s team will lose the point.

Foot Fault: When the serving player steps over the line during the serve, resulting in a point for the opposing team.

Hitting: Hitting is an attack from one team to the other team's side of the net. Hitters will jump up and swing at the ball with an overhand motion.

Jump Serve: A serve performed by tossing the ball in the air, then jumping and hitting the ball while it is moving downward.

Kill: A kill is when a hitter attacks the ball and the opposing team cannot return the ball. Similar to an ace, this happens most often when the ball hits the floor on the receiving team’s side of the net or a passer cannot make a pass.

Let: Also known as a trickle serve, a let is a serve that hits the net and rolls into the opposing court, resulting in a point for the serving team.

Libero: A libero is a defensive player who can substitute onto the court without taking up one of the team's limited subs. Most often, they will sub in for a front hitter and pass for them while they are in the back row. Liberos are often smaller in stature compared to other hitters, making them more able to dig difficult hits.

Lift: A lift is a ball handling violation that occurs when the ball comes to rest when the player contacts the ball. This is also called a “held ball.” The player is essentially catching the ball before redirecting it to another player. When the referee calls the violation, the player's team will then lose the point.

Middle Blocker: A middle blocker is one of the attacking positions in the front row. They play in the middle of the court on the net, and will often move to both sides of the court to assist in blocking.

Net Violation: A net violation occurs when a player comes into contact with the net during any time during play. If even their hair or clothing touches the net, they can be called for this violation and lose the point.

Off-Speed Hit: A spiked hit made with less force, resulting in less speed and greater spin.

Opposite Hitter: An opposite hitter is a hitter who plays opposite in the rotation to the setter. When they are in the front row, the setter will be in the back row. When the setter is in the front row, this hitter is in the back. This hitter most commonly plays on the right side of the court.

Outside Hitter: An outside hitter plays in the front left of the court. They will both hit and block from this position. These hitters are also sometimes called power hitters.

Passing: Passing is when a player uses either their hands or their platform (arms) to bump the ball to another player, most often the setter. Passing happens when the team receives a serve or a hit from the opposing team.

Reception Error: A point scored as the result of a player being unable to return a serve that should have easily been returned.

Roll Shot: A hit similar to a spike, but made in an upward motion. Roll shots are hit high enough to avoid a block.

Rotation: The rotation is both the position of players on the court and the movement of players after every side out. Players rotate on the court clockwise. At the beginning of each point, players must be in their designated positions on the court for that rotation, or they can be called out of rotation. Once the ball has been served, players can move anywhere they want on the court.

Seams: Seams are gaps between and around blocks that back row players must be aware of and position themselves in, in order to dig. By being aware of where the block is and isn’t, passers can be better equipped to get to balls that come over the net.

Service Error: A service error is when a server either hits the ball into the net or out of bounds on the other side of the court. Coaches aim to avoid these errors as much as possible so that the opposite teams are not given an easy side out.

Serving: Serving in volleyball is how each point of the game starts. The team who won the last point will be given the serve. The player in the back right spot of the rotation will hit the ball from behind the end line over to the opposing team’s side of the net, thus starting the play.

Setting: Setting is most often done by a designated setter on the court. They will use their hands to pass the ball to another player, putting the ball in a place where the other player can hit the ball to the opposing side. There are many different kinds of sets depending on where hitters want to hit the ball from.

Side Out: A side out is when the team who is receiving the serve wins that point. They side out by gaining the point and becoming the team who is serving the ball.

Tip: A soft off-speed attack hit made with the fingertips.

Weak Side: The right side of the court for a right-hander or the left side for a left-hander.

Volleyball Lingo and Slang

There are a lot of phrases and slang words that will be heard on the volleyball court. Here are a few for both athletes and fans to know.

Campfire: A ball that is surrounded by multiple players after falling on the floor.

Closing the Block: When the assisting blocker joins the primary blocker, forming an impenetrable wall that the ball cannot cross.

Cobra: A forceful attack hit made with the fingertips.

Cover: Covering is when players get ready to pass the ball if their hitter is blocked. They are essentially covering the space the hitter is leaving when they are at the net hitting.

Dink: A dink or a tip is when a player, instead of hitting the ball over, send the ball over with their fingertips. This happens when the hitter cannot get to the ball to hit it properly, or if they think a tip over the net will be more effective than a strong hit.

Floater: A floater is a type of serve that has no spin on it. It seems to float over the net, and can be harder to pass as it shifts side to side, rather than having topspin.

Free Ball: A free ball occurs when an attacking team cannot successfully create an opportunity to attack the ball toward the other side of the net. The team will often bump the ball across the net, giving them time to get set up to receive the ball from the other team.

Joust: A joust is when two players go up at the net and try to push it over to the opposing team’s side. The player who wins the joust will send the ball to the other team's side of the net. If the two players come into contact at the same time and the ball stops moving, the referee can blow their whistle and restart the point.

Jumbo: A softly hit shot made with a swing that adds an arcing trajectory, tricking an opponent into thinking it will be a short drop shot but actually hitting it to the back of the court.

Line Shot: A ball spiked directly down the opposing team’s sideline.

Pancake: A pancake is when a player dives to get the ball and places their hand on the floor to prevent the ball from coming into contact with the floor. The ball will bounce off their hand and back up into the air, allowing another player to pass the ball.

Party Ball: A party ball is an overpass from the receiving team which allows a front row player of the attacking team to hit the ball back over the net on the first touch. Hitters like this kind of ball because it gives them the opportunity to hit the ball before a block is up.

Power Alley: A spike directed across the court that reaches the farthest corner of the playing area.

Roof/House/Stuff: A roof, house, or stuff is when a blocker effectively blocks a ball and it lands on the floor on the hitting team’s side of the net. Usually, a roof will consist of the ball going straight down off of the blockers’ hands.

Shank: A shank is a bad pass that prevents any other players from continuing the point. A shanked pass often will bounce off of the player's platform and into the sides of the court where the fans sit.

Wipe: A hit off an opposing block that goes directly out of bounds.


What are some terms to know in volleyball?

Some important terms to know in volleyball include serve, hit, set, spike, and block. These terms represent the most basic moves in volleyball, the fundamentals that each player needs to know in order to play effectively. Serves are over or underhanded hits that initiate a volley, hits are blows on the ball with the arms made by the defense, sets are touches on the ball with two hands that lift the ball vertically, spikes are hard strikes on the ball that aim it over the net, and blocks are attempts by the defense to stop the ball from crossing the net.

What are some volleyball terms for beginners?

Some key volleyball terms that beginners should know are volley, game, match, point, rally, substitution, time-out, and screening. Other important terms for beginners are bump, block, roof, spike, ace, set, and dig.

What does ace mean in volleyball?

In volleyball, an ace is when a player serves the ball in a way that cannot be returned by the opposing team. There are a few ways this can be done. The first way is when the serve hits the opposing team’s floor before being touched by anyone. Another way an ace can happen is if a player shanks the ball off a serve and the ball is unable to be received by another teammate.

What is the movement of players to a new position after a side out called?

When players move to a new position after a side out, it is called a rotation. Once a team wins a point and gains service, the players on their team shift clockwise and rotate one position over. During this time, players can be subbed out as moving to a new position may cause them to play an unnatural position.