56 Ping Pong Terms That You Need to Know

There are all sorts of table tennis terminologies in the modern day. From basic words such as “block,” which describes a defensive shot you play off the bounce, to more obscure terms such as the “expedite rule.” This awards receivers a point if they make 13 returns in a game that has exceeded 10 minutes.

By immersing yourself in table tennis, you’ll learn most of these vocabulary terms organically over time. However, if you want to be all clued up now, you can learn them here. Below, I’ve listed every ping pong term you’ll ever hear!

56 Ping Pong Terms

Antispin: A type of rubber that kills the spin on the ball.

Around the net: A shot struck from an extreme angle so that it travels around the net rather than over it.

Backhand: A shot executed in front of your body where your elbow is to the right of your paddle (for right-handers). Commonly abbreviated to BH.

Backspin: A type of spin where the ball rotates backward against the direction of travel.

Bat: Another name for your paddle.

Blade: The wooden part of your paddle. It consists of a handle and blade face, which you glue your rubbers to.

Block: A defensive shot played off the bounce. It involves either little or no forward racket motion.

Chop: A heavy backspin shot that is deployed as a defensive measure against topspin shots. It’s usually played away from the table and slows down the speed of the ball.

Chopper: A player whose style involves heavy use of chops.

Closed: A table tennis term used to describe the angle of your paddle. A fully closed forehand racket angle faces the floor.

Cross-court: Diagonal hitting from one side of the court to the other. Also called cross-hitting and cross-knocking.

Dead: A ping pong slam term describes something with little to no spin. This can relate to a shot, such as a serve or rubbers.

Deep: A ball that lands very close to or on the end line of the table.

Doubles: A match format where two players perform at each side of the table rather than one.

Drive: A popular attacking shot that is easy to execute and uses light to medium topspin.

Drop shot: A ball that bounces short over the net, ideally bouncing more than once on the opponent’s side. Great for use when the opponent is far away from the table.

Expedite rule: A rule designed to punish passive play. If a game extends beyond 10 minutes, the serving receiver wins the point if they make 13 returns.

Footwork: The lower body movement a player uses to make a shot.

Forehand: A shot executed to the body’s right (for right-handers). Commonly abbreviated to FH.

ping pong terms forehand shot

A forehand shot by Vladimir Samsonov

Flat hit: An attacking shot that involves little spin due to the direct contact with the ball.

Flat hitter: A player whose style predominantly involves flat hitting.

Flick: A short stroke for attacking balls that do not bounce long. On the backhand, they are sometimes called banana flicks.

Game: A game consists of one set, first to 11 points.

High toss: A type of serve where the ball is thrown around a meter (3.3 ft) or more into the air.

ITTF: The acronym for the International Table Tennis Federation. The global governing body of the sport.

Kill: Another ping pong term used to describe a smash.

Let: The cessation of play. It can be called for several reasons, but most commonly because a ball strikes the net on an otherwise legal serve. This signifies that the point needs replaying.

Loaded: A ball with heavy spin.

Lob: A type of defensive shot where the ball is struck high into the air, allowing the receiver to smash. The lobber then moves far away from the table to give them the time to play successive lobs.

Lobber: A player whose style involves heavy use of lobs.

Loop: An advanced attacking shot that produces high levels of topspin. It is the most popular shot at an advanced level.

Looper: A player whose style involves heavy use of loops.

Open: A type of table tennis terminology used to describe the angle of your paddle. A fully open forehand faces the ceiling.

Paddle: A paddle is the instrument you hold to strike the ball. It is made up of a blade and two rubbers.

Penhold: A type of grip popularized by Asian players. It emulates the way you hold a pen, hence the name.

Pips in: A type of rubber where the pimples face inward into the sponge. Otherwise known as inverted.

Pips out: A type of rubber where the pimples face outward away from the sponge. There are two types: short pips and long pips.

ping pong terms pips out rubber

A pips out table tennis rubber

Point: The unit of measurement for a single rally.

Push: A defensive backspin shot usually played close to the table.

Racket: Another ping pong word to describe your paddle.

Rally: The time when the ball is in play.

Reverse penhold backhand: A modern penhold grip that employs both sides of the paddle, giving users more versatility on their backhand. It is commonly abbreviated to RPB in ping pong lingo.

Rubber: The material on either side of your blade which you strike the ball with. There are four different types: inverted, short pips, long pips, and antispin.

Seemiller: A rare grip type that inverts the forehand to the backhand side. It has a similar appearance to shakehand but the index finger curls around the side of the paddle.

Shakehand: The most common type of grip which is the most versatile. The grip resembles shaking someone’s hand.

Short: A ball that bounces more than once on the opponent’s side of the table.

Sidespin: A type of spin where the ball rotates sideways.

Smash: A powerful attacking shot that prioritizes speed over spin.

Spin: The rotation of the ball.

Sponge: The squishy material that sits between the top sheet and blade.

Stroke: The motion you use to strike the ball.

Third ball attack: The third strike of the ball and your attacking follow-up from your serve.

Time out: Ceasing play to break your opponent’s rhythm and get advice from your coach.

Top sheet: The top part of your rubber that makes contact with the ball.

Topspin: A type of spin where the ball rotates forward with the direction of travel.

Twiddle: The rotation of your paddle in between hits to alternate which rubber you strike with.

Closing Thoughts

So those are all 55 ping pong terms that each player should try to learn. Of course, you won’t hear many of these too often, and perhaps you won’t hear some of them at all. The expedited rule, for instance, is a rare one. I’ve never seen the rule used in a match and only heard it a few times.

Knowing this ping pong terminology will help cement your position as a keen player and improve your communication with others. I recommend bookmarking this page and referring back to it as needed. I certainly don’t expect you to remember these terms in one go!

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Freelance writer. Table tennis enthusiast. Lover of all things online. When I’m not working on my loop game I’m probably binge-watching some fantasy show.