What's This Volleyball Word For?

Explore our insanely awesome volleyball word list of lingo,
slang and jargon used by players, coaches and fans. 

The volleyball word. 

So many terms we use in this sport have everyday meanings and definitions to normal people but mean something completely different to us players and coaches. 

For example a pancake to a non-volleyball player or coach is a breakfast food. 

But for a volleyball player a pancake is a last ditch defensive move used to keep the ball off of the floor. A player places their hand on the floor palm down, like a pancake, to allow the ball to land on the back of their hand instead of the floor.   

Many volleyball terms we use regularly, have absolutely nothing in common with how they are originally meant to be used in everyday lingo by 'normal' people.

In fact some popular articles have been written describing the uniqueness of our volleyball language and how the words we use in our sport are interpreted in everyday English terminology.

Each volleyball word in the list below is used by coaches, players and even fans, regularly, in practices or matches as regular jargon, necessary for us who play and coach, to relate to each other in this sport.

I included a master list of the most commonly used terms that link to the pages with their full definitions.

A: What's the volleyball word definition for...?


- the three steps or four steps a hitter takes to gather momentum and height before contacting the ball while in the air. 


- when a player performs a playing action with a teammate.


- a way of contacting the ball usually to send it over the net on the third contact during a rally

B: What's the volleyball word definition for...?

back set 

- an over the head contact on the ball which sends it behind the person contacting the ball


- when a player stops a ball at the net by raising their hands, shoulders, arms across the net, penetrating  the plane of the net at the same time an opposing hitter is hitting the ball into the blocker's court

block assist 

- when one blocker assists another in the blocking action of an opposing hitter

block attempt 

- when one or more players jump to block an opposing hitter but may or may not make contact with the ball


-another term for passing the volleyball; an underhand contact of the ball by a player that's made with two arms being held together at the wrists so they create a platform. This platform is used to contact the bottom third of the ball, underneath the ball, lifting it into the air towards another player or over the net.

C: What's the volleyball word definition for...?

chicken wing 

-an emergency play made when a fast paced ball comes at a player. The player bends their arm at the elbow to deflect the ball into the air. The bent arm and elbow are in the shape of a chicken wing, thus the name.

closing the block -

-when a middle blocker moves their hands towards their outside blocker's hands to close the seam or hole between their two sets of hands to close the hole and to prevent a hitter from hitting the ball between them  

coach kill

-when a coach calls a play that results in their team getting a point from an attack play. Coach gets the credit for the kill.

cross court hit

-Also called "hitting diagonally" in European countries, a cross court hit is a ball hit at an angle into the opposing court by a spiker. 

For example if a hitter in Zone 3 or 2 hits a ball to Zone 4 or Zone 5 in the opposing team's court, that's a cross court hit.  If a hitter in Zone 4 hits the ball towards Zone 1, 2 or even 6 that's a cross court hit. 

cut shot

--a ball hit at a sharp angle into the opposing court by a spiker.

For example if a hitter in Zone 4 hits a ball to Zone 2 in the opposing team's court, that's a cut shot in indoor volleyball.  

D: What's the volleyball word definition for...?


- the term used in defense to describe a defensive contact made by a player that results in keeping the ball from contacting the floor.

The player lowers their hips so they are lower than the oncoming attacked ball. Then they use the platform created by holding their arms together at their wrists to deflect the ball into the air with this platform.  


-slang term for a beautiful set or a perfect "on target" pass. 


-an attack hit using the tips of your fingers and not the palm of your hand to push the ball over the net and over the opposing players blocking hands to an empty space on the court floor: Dink is another word for the for the "tip" 


- a move a player makes to keep from crashing to the floor after contacting the ball to keep it off the floor

double block

-when two players go up to block a hitter

double hit

-when a player contacts the ball twice which is against the rules.

Most commonly done during a pass attempt, a "double hit" occurs when a ball contacts a player's platform and then contacts their chest or another part of their body before a teammate can make contact with the ball. 

double quick

-when two players run a quick set at the same time...one goes in front of the setter and the other goes behind the setter giving her two options for a quick attack. 


-a setter attack made when she/he is in the front row and instead of setting to one of her hitters she/he attacks the ball herself ..dumping it into the opposing team's court, with the goal of surprising the opposing team's defensive players. 

E: What's the volleyball word definition for...?

F: What's the volleyball word definition for...?

first referee

-the official who calls the game while elevated on a stand. He initiates each rally with a whistle and is in charge of calling faults and net violations that occur on top of the net. 

five set

-a five set match is a format used when the best of three out of five sets are played. If both teams are tied 2-2 at the end of playing the fourth set then the fifth set is a tiebreaker match

floater serve

-a type of serve made by contacting the middle of the flat hand to the middle of the ball which once the ball crosses the net makes the ball float and dip making it harder for an opposing player to pass the ball 

foot fault

-committed by a player who touches the service line with any part of their foot when attempting to serve the ball at the beginning of a rally

forearm passing

-used as the first contact of the three each team is allowed, a player holds both arms together in a way that creates a platform for them to use to contact and control the ball back up into the air, over the net or to another teammate

four set

-a match where a winner is declared after playing four sets. A team wins a four set match winning three sets before the opposing team does. 

friendly fire

-when a player hits a teammate with a ball or a serve by accident

G: What's the volleyball word definition for...?


- another word for a set

H: What's the volleyball word definition for...?

hand signal

-nonverbal communication hand language used by setters to communicate with their hitters telling them what type of set they are about to get

Hand signals are used by beach volleyball players to communicate blocking serving and defense instructions. 

held ball

-when a ball comes to rest in a players arms or hands. This is against the rules

hole in the block

-created when one blocker moves to help block with a teammate. The hole created between their two upraised arms is called the seam or the hole in the block

Volleyball Word: Hole in the block (Michael E. Johnston)Volleyball Word: Hole in the block (Michael E. Johnston)

husband and wife play

-a served ball that lands between two players and neither go for the ball because they think each other is going to get it.

This usually ends up in the teammates "discussing/arguing".... "I thought you were going to get it." No I thought you were going to get it"....just like a husband and wife would. 

I: What's the volleyball definition for...?

J: What's the volleyball word definition for...?


-when two players make contact with the ball at the same time above the plane of the net

jump serve

-when a player uses a spike approach behind the service line to contact the ball in the air  to send it over the net to start the rally

K: What's the volleyball word definition for...?


-a name for an attack hit made by a player who hits the ball to the floor  inside the court of the opposing team during a rally without committing a fault 

kong block

-instead of jumping with both hands and arms together to stop a hitter from hitting the ball into their court, a blcker jumps purposefully with both hands apart in an effort to block both angle options the hitter may try to hit to. 

L: What's the volleyball word definition for...?

let serve

- a served ball that hits the net on the way over and into the opposing team's court is now legal to play


-a defensive specialist allowed to go in and out of the game for teammates when they rotate to the back row


-when a player contacts the ball in such a way that the ball isnt deflected, its lifted into the air. This is an illegal contact. This usually occurs when the ball comes to a rest in the palm of a player's hand. 


-a member of the referee corp appointed to watch the end line and side lines for any faults during a match 

line shot

- when a player hits, tips or dinks down the side line closest to them on the opposing court


- a great defensive dig made with the arms in the shape of lips

M: What's the volleyball word definition for...?

middle blocker

-usually the tallest player on the team assigned to hit and play defense from Zone 3 on the court.

Their primary job on defense is to stop balls at the net from crossing into their court. On offense their primary job is to attack quick sets from the middle zones at the net.


- a hard hit ball or serve


O: What's the volleyball word definition for...?

offside blocker

-the blocker who doesnt go up to actively block but slides off the net to play defense because the opposing team's setter set the ball away from this blocker

one-on-one block

-one blocker goes up to block against one spiker. As opposed to two blockers going up to block against one spiker 

one set

- quick set delivered by a setter, usually a foot above the net to a hitter usually the middle hitter typically from Zone 3 the middle area of the net

outside blocker

-a blocker on either side of the middle blocker, either a right side blocker or a left side blocker

outside set

- a set delivered to Zone 4 or Zone 2


- what the ball does when it crosses the net; what a blocker does when their hands penetrate the plane of the net during a block

overhand serve

- when a player from behind the service line sends the ball over the net by tossing it and contacting it before it sinks below the level of their head


- a ball contacted so that instead of landing where the setter is, it travels over the net 

over set

- a ball contacted so that instead of landing where the hitter is, it travels over the hitter's head

An overset also occurs when a ball that was set to a hitter, travels over the net before the hitter can hit the ball

P: What's the volleyball word definition for...?


- a defensive move made by a player who puts the palm of their hand on the ground so the ball contacts the hand and not the floor. 

penetration over the net

-what blockers do with hands and arms at the highest point of their jump

In their attempt to stop an opposing hitter from spiking the ball into their court, blockers will "penetrate over the net" with their armpits, shoulders, arms and hands, without touching the net..to block the ball the hitter is attacking. 


-a traditional pregame and practice warmup drill usually with two partners that incorporates three of the six basic skills: setting, passing and hitting at each other 

Q: What's the volleyball word definition for...?

quick set

- a low set in the middle. 

Usually one to two feet high, this is the most common set a middle blocker hits from Zone 3, the middle of the net. Its used to quicken up a team's offense. 

R: What's the volleyball word definition for...?

read block

-a blocker makes a decision in mid action to take an area away from a hitter based on the direction and other indications the hitter shows when she/he is hitting

ready position

- a loaded athletic position a player assumes before performing one of the six basic skills

Knees slightly bent, arm position can vary, either at a player's sides or slightly raised in front of them depending on the skill they are about to perform

reception error

-an error committed by a player in serve receive attempting to receive the ball.


- a method a player uses to complete a defensive dig or save by falling to the ground in a safe manner that allows him/her to get up quickly and continue playing 

The barrel roll is the most common "roll" used among elite and collegiate players. 


-slang for a big blocking action that results in a player stopping a hitter at the net in spectacular fashion; also known as a "monster block"

A "roof  is built" by the slanted angle shape of the blocker's hands and arms  "penetrating the net" which they use to close down a hitter's attack attempt 

S: What's the volleyball word definition for...?


-when blockers set up at the net too close together.

It's illegal to keep the opposing team's passers in serve receive from seeing the server. 

seal the net

-when blockers "penetrate the plane of the net" with arms and hands in a way that keeps the ball from coming between them and the net

See "penetrate the net."


-the hole or area between two blockers hands when they block together

second referee

-located on the opposite side of the net from the first referee, the second referee has a whistle and keeps track of the score table, substitutions and alert the first referee about net calls and foot faults below the net.

service error

-when a player serves the ball out or into the net


-the quarterback of the team, the setter is in charge of running the offense

The responsibility of the setter is to try and touch every second ball on their side during a rally so they can deliver that ball to one of their hitters to make an attack hit. 


-slang for a passing  error when the ball flies or ricochets off a player's arms and out of bounds during their attempt to control the ball to the setter or another teammate

sky ball

- a type of serve used mainly in beach volleyball when a player sends the ball 20-30 feet or more into the air before it crosses the net.

The goal is force the opposing team's passer(s) to lose sight of the ball against the light colored sky. The ball becomes difficult to track and pass accurately when it comes down into the opposing team's court.

The higher the ball, the more the chances of the wind blowing the ball around which makes it even more difficult to pass. 


-a name for an attack hit made by a player who takes a 3-4 step approach to the ball in order to gain momentum and height to use to hit the ball with force from an elevated position in the air

squared to the net

- when blocking a player positions themself in front of the opposing hitter they intend to attempt to block, while staying parallel to the net

stuff block

-See  "roof" or monster block

swing block

-a blocking technique, you use to travel along the net while swinging your arms up and over using the momentum of the jump to gain more height in the air to help you penetrate the plane of the net even more  

T: What's the volleyball word definition for...?


-when a ball has been contacted by a player before it goes out of bounds and/or is touched or contacted by an opposing player


-when a player spikes a ball so that it touches or "tools" the hand of the opposing team's blocker before travelling out of bounds.

A hitter will do this intentionally so the action results in a point and/or sideout for the hitter's team


- a type of serve; when the top third of the ball is contacted so that it travels across the net at high velocity with forward rotation.

This type of serve is a high speed, high velocity serve intended to be difficult for a player to pass in serve receive.


- when a player touches a ball while blocking or in defense when the ball is travelling out of bounds. 

triple block

-when three people go up to block one hitter in an attempt to stop the ball at the net before it crosses over into their court

two set

- a ball set 2-3 feet in the air..a two ball or two set goes straight up and straight down without being pushed along the net.

The two set is usually set in or close to Zone 3 and Zone 2. 

U: What's the volleyball word definition for...?


-when a body part travels across the centerline underneath the net, the player has travelled under the net


- a good defensive play where a player successfully got a ball "up" before it hit the floor on their court

using the block

--same as tool the block; when a hitter wipes the opposing blocker's external hand with the ball so the blocker is the last person to touch the ball before it travels out of bounds


W: What's the volleyball word definition for...?

wipe the block

-same as tool the block; when a hitter wipes the opposing blocker's external hand with the ball so the blocker is the last person to touch the ball before it travels out of bounds


yellow card

-a warning for an infraction given by the first referee to a player or a coach


How To Play Volleyball: Where Do You Go From Here?

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