Badminton, to say the least, has lots of terminology and jargon. I’ve been playing badminton for so long (over 15 years) that it’s like second nature to me. But to someone who is new to badminton, it’s probably pretty overwhelming and frankly, confusing. Which is why I wrote this up!
I wanted to give everyone a great starting point by laying out all the most common (and some less common) badminton terms that people use to describe what is happening in a badminton game. To be honest, I was somewhat surprised by how long this list actually is! Once I actually started writing everything down, it became apparent that there is so much I have learned in my badminton journey and I want to share it all with you.
Of course, I’m sure that I’m missing some terms so make sure to let me know in the comments if you found something missing. And also, while this isn’t really teaching you how to play badminton, it is knowledge – and knowledge is power! Badminton terms and jargon are used all the time in badminton matches and major tournaments so it would be highly beneficial to learn them all. So I highly encourage you to get familiar with these terms if you want to dive deeper into badminton.
Throughout the rest of my website, I go over tips and shots as well as review products. If you’re new to badminton, definitely check out the Getting Started page. Without further ado, let’s take a look at some badminton terminology!
Attack – Attack is a general term used in badminton to describe being on the offensive. If you are on the attack, you are trying to force an error from your opponent instead of waiting for your opponent to make a mistake. Attacking is a proactive way of winning a point by putting pressure on your opponents, usually with fast and downward facing shots. Smashes, drops, and drives are the most common shots for attacking in badminton.
Attacking Clear – An attacking clear is a clear that is low and fast instead of high and slow. Players play attacking clears to increase the pace and put their opponents off balance but they are easier to cut off because they are lower. It is also referred to as a punch clear.
Back alley – The back alley is the portion of the court between the back doubles service line and the base line.
Backhand – A backhand is any stroke that is played while the back of your hand is facing towards the shuttlecock. This is the opposite of a forehand, which is played while the front of your hand is facing towards the shuttlecock.
Baseline – A baseline is a line that is at the end of the court. There are 2 baselines in a badminton court.
Base Position – The base position is the ideal position for you to stand in when you are in a neutral or defensive state. This position allows you to cover as much of the court as possible and retrieve most shots your opponent can make. For singles, the center of the court is usually considered the base position. In doubles, the center of the the half courts are considered the base positions.
Birdie – A birdie is the “ball” or projectile used in badminton. It is made of feather or nylon and cork. You can read more about it in What is a Badminton Birdie? The “Ball” of Badminton, Explained. It is also known as a shuttle or shuttlecock.
Black Card – A black card in badminton is a penalty card that is used by the umpire to indicate that a player or team is disqualified from the match. It is issued for serious offenses or multiple reoccurring smaller offenses.
BWF – BWF stands for Badminton World Federation, and is the official badminton organization that is recognized internationally. The Badminton World Federation is responsible for organizing international tournaments and keeping track of player’s rankings. Their Youtube channel is a great place to watch the best badminton players in the world battle it out.
Carry – A carry in badminton is an illegal shot where the shuttlecock is held briefly on the string bed before being slung over. It is considered a fault and the player or team that did the carry loses the point.
Clear – A clear in badminton is a high overhand shot where the player hits the shuttlecock from one end of the court to the other end. It is one of the 5 basic badminton shots, along with the drop, drive, lift, and smash. Learn about all the badminton shots (and more!) at What Type of Shots are in Badminton? (With 19 Examples).
Consistency (shuttlecocks) – The consistency of a shuttlecock refers to how well you can depend on it to land in the same spot if hit it the same way multiple times. A shuttlecock that lands in the same spot when it is hit the same way is considered consistent.
Cork – A cork in badminton refers to the base of a shuttlecock since it is often made out of cork.
Court – The court refers to the area you play badminton on. It has lines that indicates what is considered in or out. Learn more about the dimensions of a badminton court to familiarize yourself with it.
Challenge – A challenge is an action a player can take when they disagree with a line judge’s call on whether a shuttlecock landed in or out. A system, like Hawk-Eye, uses cameras and special technology to be the final judge to determine if the shuttlecock landed in or out. It is often only used at the professional level as most courts do not have the necessary equipment available to support challenges.
Defense – Defense is a general term used in badminton to describe the resistance of attack. If you are on the defense, you are trying to survive the rally in order to go on the attack yourself. It is difficult for you to force an error from you opponent when you are defending. Instead, you have to rely on them to make an unforced error during this time or to stop the attack. Lifts, drives, and clears are the most common forms of defense in badminton.
Deuce – A deuce occurs in badminton when players reach 20 points each. A game normally ends when a player reaches 21 points but when both players or teams have 20 points, additional points are required. A player must win by a margin of 2 points (such as 22 to 20) in order to win the game. However, if a player reaches 30 points, then that player wins even there is no 2 point gap (which only happens if the score is 30 to 29).
Doubles – Doubles in badminton is an event where 2 players of the same sex play on the same team. People sometimes use the term doubles to refer to mixed doubles as well, which is when a female and male partner together.
Doubles Sideline – The doubles sideline are the outer lines at the sides of the court. They indicate the border of what is considered in and out of bounds.
Drift – Drift in badminton refers to the air current in the gym. Gyms may have air conditioning or natural wind that affects the gameplay of badminton. Players often talk about the drift in a gym to determine which end of the court is better to play on or if they should hit harder or softer in certain directions.
Drive – A drive in badminton is a shot that is fast and flat and travels just above the net. It is one of the 5 basic badminton shots, along with the drop, smash, lift, and clear. Learn about all the badminton shots (and more!) at What Type of Shots are in Badminton? (With 19 Examples).
Drop – A drop in badminton is a soft shot that places the shuttlecock close to the net, often in an attempt to make the opponent move or to set up for the next shot. Two major types of drop shots are the backcourt drop shot and the net drop shot. A backcourt drop shot is played from the back of the court while a net drop is played from near the net. It is one of the 5 basic badminton shots, along with the smash, drive, lift, and clear. Learn about all the badminton shots (and more!) at What Type of Shots are in Badminton? (With 19 Examples).
Durability – The durability of a piece of equipment refers to how long the equipment lasts with normal play. In badminton, durability is often used to describe shuttlecocks or racket strings since they are the pieces of equipment that need to be replaced most often.
Ends of a Court – The ends of a court refer to which side of the net you are on. A court has 2 ends, one for you to play on and one for your opponent.
Fault – A fault is an illegal action a player does that results in the point being awarded to the opponent. For example, if a player touches the net in the middle of a rally, it is considered a fault. There are many faults in badminton, but I’ve highlighted the most important ones in the Top 10 Most Common Badminton Faults You Need To Know. Note that a fault does not result in a penalty card, which is used for when a player has displayed inappropriate behavior on the court.
Flick – A flick is technique used in badminton to hit the shuttlecock quickly and suddenly in an attempt to trick the opponent. It is most often used in doubles serves, which is called a “flick serve” and is used to catch the opponent off guard when they are expecting a low serve. The flick serve is discussed more in The 4 Fundamental Types of Badminton Serves.
Forced Error – A forced error is an error that was caused by an opponent. For example, a hard smash or steep drop shot can make it very difficult to retrieve the shuttlecock and therefore make it easy to miss or hit out. This is the opposite of unforced errors, where a player makes a mistake when there is no form of attack or pressure on them.
Forehand – A forehand is any stroke that is played while the front of your hand is facing towards the shuttlecock. The is the opposite of a backhand, which is played while the back of your hand is facing towards the shuttlecock.
Front Court – The front court in badminton is the part of the court between the service line and the net.
Game – A game in badminton is a single unit of play where players play until someone wins with at least 21 points. A match consists of a best of 3 games. The term “game” is used interchangeably with “set” in some areas.
Grain – A grain is a unit of measurement for mass which is used to weigh shuttlecocks.
Grommet – A grommet is a protective tube around your racket strings that are near the edge of your racket. The strings are threaded through the grommet and racket when strung. Grommets are used to protect your strings from your racket frame. A single racket has 1 grommet per time the string is looped through the racket. Broken grommets are among themost common reasons why badminton strings break.
Hairpin Shot – A hairpin shot is a type of net shot (which is a type of drop shot) that is executed at the front court and lands very close to the net. It is called a hairpin shot because the path the shuttlecock takes looks like a hairpin.
Half-Court – Half-court refers to half of the full badminton court. Players often use half the court to warm up or practice instead of a full court.
Half-Court Shot – A half-court shot in badminton is a shot that only reaches the middle of the opponent’s court. It is often used as “half-court lift” or “half-court clear”, which are not good shots because they give the opponent a good opportunity to hit a winning smash.
In-bounds – In-bounds refers to the area of the court where the shuttlecock can land and would win the rally. A shot that lands in-bounds wins a point for the player who hit the shot. Also referred to as simply “in”.
Interval – An interval is the break that players get in professional badminton matches. They occur at the 11 point mark of a game and also in-between games.
Jump Smash – A jump smash is a type of smash where the player leaps into the air and then performs a smash while still high in the air. It is considered an advanced shot and is used to hit the shuttlecock sooner (and therefore put on pressure faster) and get a better angle on the smash.
Kill – A kill in badminton is a shot that wins the point by having the shuttlecock land in-bounds on the opponent’s court. A shot won by an opponent hitting out, into the net, or through a fault is not considered a kill.
Let – A let is an instance where a redo must occur. Neither team wins a point in the rally and the point is replayed. An example of a let is when a player serves before the opponent is ready.
Lift – A lift is a defensive shot that is typically performed from the front of the court by pushing the shuttlecock high and far to the back of your opponent’s end of the court. It is one of the 5 basic badminton shots, along with the drop, drive, smash, and clear. Learn about all the badminton shots (and more!) at What Type of Shots are in Badminton? (With 19 Examples).
Line Judge – A line judge is a badminton official who is in charge of determining whether the shuttlecock lands in-bounds or out-bounds with respect to a single line. An official badminton match has 10 line judges, with each line judge looking down a single line. You can see where each of them sit in Where Do Badminton Officials Sit?
Long – The term “long” is used in badminton to indicate that the shuttlecock has landed out of bounds either past the service line during a serve or past the baseline during the rally. This is opposed to the shuttlecock landing to the left and right of the sidelines, which would be considered “wide”.
Love – Love is a term that means 0 points and is used instead of the word “zero”. A badminton match starts at “love all”, which means that both teams have 0 points.
Mat – A mat in badminton is the badminton flooring that you play on. Badminton mats are specially made just for badminton and can cost several thousand dollars. Recreational badminton courts often don’t have mats, but rather use wood flooring instead.
Match – A match in badminton is a best of 3 games. Whoever wins 2 games first wins a badminton match.
Men’s Doubles – Men’s doubles is a badminton event where 2 men play on the same team in a doubles match.
Men’s Singles – Men’s singles is a badminton event where 2 men play against each other in a singles match.
Mixed Doubles – Mixed doubles is a badminton event where a team consists of a male and female. This is opposed to simply “doubles”, where a team consists of 2 players of the same sex.
Net – The net in badminton is the barrier between your end of the court and your opponent’s end of the court. It is placed in the middle of the court in order to divide it into 2 equal areas. It often uses a net-like pattern, called a mesh, so that players can see through the net but won’t let the shuttlecock pass through it.
Net Kill – A net kill is a kill shot performed at the front of the court right above the net. Often, the shot is very tight to the net, which makes it difficult to perform and requires lots of precision.
Net Shot – A net shot, also known as a net drop, is a drop shot that is executed near the net. This is opposed to a drop shot that is executed from the backcourt. A hairpin shot is a type of net shot.
Net Tumble – A net tumble is an instance where the shuttlecock hits the net and falls right over the net. Net tumbles are very difficult to retrieve and are mostly due to luck.
Out of bounds – Out of bounds refers to the area where the shuttlecock can land but would not win the rally. A shot that lands out of bounds loses a point for the player who hit the shot. Also referred to as simply “out”.
Plastic (Shuttlecock) – A plastic shuttlecock is a shuttlecock made out of plastic or nylon. It is also referred to as a nylon shuttlecock.
Punch Clear – A punch clear is a clear that is low and fast instead of high and slow. Players play attacking clears to increase the pace and put their opponents off balance but they are easier to cut off because they are lower. It is also referred to as an attacking clear.
Push Shot – A push shot is a type of shot in badminton that flies flat across the net. It is similar to the drive shot but is a softer shot rather than a fast and aggressive shot. Push shots are often used as a return of service shot to hit to the middle of the opponent’s court.
Racket – A racket is the piece of equipment you hold in your hand to strike the shuttlecock. There are many different types of badminton rackets, which you can learn more about in our Badminton Equipment page.
Rally – A rally in badminton is a single instance of when the shuttlecock is in play to when it is no longer in play. Effectively, this means a rally starts when a player serves and ends when the shuttlecock lands on the ground or a fault is called. You can think of it as a single point that is played in a match. More details about rallies and rally scoring in Does Badminton Use Rally Scoring?
Receiver – The receiver is the player who must hit the 2nd shot in a rally, which is also called the return of service. This is opposed to the server, who hits the 1st shot in a rally, which is called the service.
Red Card – A red card in badminton is a penalty card that is used by the umpire to indicate that a player or team has done a second, repeated offense. It is equivalent to 2 yellow cards. The player receives another warning and their opponent is awarded a point. If the player commits another offense, they will receive a black penalty card, which will disqualify them from the match.
Return of Service – The return of service refers to the shot the receiver of a serve executes. In other words, it is the 2nd shot in a rally.
Reverse Slice – A reverse slice is a technique to add spin to the shuttlecock. It differs from a traditional slice by the way it is executed. While a slice moves the racket head inwards, a reverse slice moves the racket head outwards when making contact with the shuttlecock.
Score – The score is the number of points you have versus the number of points your opponent has. In badminton, the score of the serving player or team is announced first before the other team’s score.
Serve – A serve, or service, is the first shot that is executed in a badminton rally. There are many service rules that can be confusing, but we answer all of them in Everything You Need to Know About Service Rules in Badminton.
Server – The server is the player executing the serve.
Service Area – The service area is the area that is considered in-bounds for a service. There are different areas for singles and doubles. You can see what the service areas are in What’s the Difference Between Singles and Doubles in Badminton?
Service Judge – The service judge is a badminton official that is responsible for determining whether a service is legal. The service judge is only responsible for judging the server’s serve while the umpire is responsible for determining if the receiver commits a fault, such as moving before the serve was executed. You can learn more about their responsibilities in Where Do Badminton Officials Sit?
Set – A set in badminton is a single unit of play where players play until someone wins with at least 21 points. A match consists of a best of 3 sets. The term “set” is used interchangeably with “game” in some areas.
Short – Short is a term used in badminton to indicate that a serve has fallen short of the front service line. This means that the shuttlecock has landed out of bounds. Commentators also use the term to indicate that a clear or lift did not reach far into the court and is therefore easier for the opponent to attack and finish off the rally.
Shuttlecock (birdie) – A shuttlecock, also known as a shuttle or birdie, is the object that is hit around in badminton. It is made of feather or nylon and cork. You can read more about it in What is a Badminton Birdie? The “Ball” of Badminton, Explained.
Singles – Singles is a badminton event where one person plays on each end of the court, as opposed to doubles or mixed doubles, where 2 players play on each end of the court. The singles and doubles boundaries are different from each other and you can learn more about it in What’s the Difference Between Singles and Doubles in Badminton?
Side Alley – A side alley is the portion of the badminton court that is added to the court for the doubles and mixed doubles events and is considered in-bounds. A badminton court has 2 side alleys, one on the left and one on the right hand side of the badminton court.
Sides – Sides is used in badminton to refer to the left and right of the badminton court width. Some players will yell out “sides” to indicate to their partner that they should take up a side by side defensive position. However, some players will also use the term to indicate the opposite ends of the court – meaning the different sides of the net. This can be a little confusing so you have to take in the context to determine what it means.
Slice – A slice is a technique to add spin to the shuttlecock. It differs from the reverse slice by the way it is executed. A slice moves the racket head inwards while a reverse slice moves the racket head outwards when making contact with the shuttlecock.
Smash – A smash in badminton is a fast, downward angled shot that is performed with an overhand motion. It is one of the 5 basic badminton shots, along with the drop, drive, lift, and clear. Learn about all the badminton shots (and more!) at What Type of Shots are in Badminton? (With 19 Examples).
Speed (shuttlecock) – The speed of a shuttlecock is a measurement of how fast or far a shuttlecock will move if struck with a certain force. A shuttlecock that has a higher speed will fly faster and further than a shuttlecock at a lower speed.
String Tension – Tension refers to how tight your badminton strings are pulled across your racket. The higher the tension, the tighter the strings. Tension is represented using pounds (lbs) or kilograms (kg). Most players use tensions between 18 and 30 lbs (8.2 and 13.6 kg). Find out what string tension you should use for your level in What Badminton String Tension Should I Use?
Trajectory – Trajectory in badminton refers to the curve or path that a shuttlecock makes when flying in the air. For example, a clear is hit high into the air and curves down steeply as it reaches the end of the court. You can see all the trajectories of the 5 basic badminton shots in What Type of Shots are in Badminton? (With 19 Examples).
Trick Shot – A trick shot in badminton is any type of shot that is considered unconventional or deceptive. These can be shots that are between the legs, rotating 360 degrees and hitting the shuttlecock without looking at it, or anything else you can imagine. Trick shots are only limited by your own creativity.
Tube – A tube is a short way to refer to a shuttlecock tube, which is the container used to carry shuttlecocks. Many shuttlecock tubes typically fit up to 12 shuttlecocks at a time but there are some that are smaller (can fit 3 to 6 shuttlecocks) and some that can even fit 15 shuttlecocks.
Umpire – An umpire in badminton is an official that oversees the play of a match to ensure fair play. The umpire has the most authority on the court and takes responsibility for what occurs during the match. The responsibilities of an umpire include managing on-court technical officials, tracking and recording the score, and enforcing that players compete fairly and properly. You can learn more about what umpires do in badminton in What does an Umpire do in Badminton?
Unforced Error – An unforced error is an error that was due to a player’s own fault when there was no form of attack or pressure on them. For example, hitting into the net or hitting out when you are already in position for a slow lift is considered an unforced error. This is the opposite of a forced error, where a player loses a point due to an attacking shot like a hard smash or steep drop shot.
Wide – The term “wide” is used in badminton to indicate that the shuttlecock has landed out of bounds on the left or right sidelines. This is opposed to the shuttlecock landing past the baseline, which would be considered “long”.
Women’s Doubles – Women’s doubles is a badminton event where 2 women play on the same team in a doubles match.
Women’s Singles – Women’s singles is a badminton event where 2 women play against each other in a singles match.
Yellow Card – A yellow card in badminton is a penalty card that is used by the umpire to indicate a warning to a player or team. It is issued when a player misbehaves. An example would be when a player throws their racket on purpose during a game out of frustration.
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