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Table Tennis Terminology

Do you know your table tennis terminology
or are you confused by your chops, pimples and twiddles?

These are all common table tennis terms, and if you're serious about playing the game, you'll need to understand all the terminology that your opponents are using.

So here's your opportunity to start learning the definition of table tennis terms with my table tennis glossary to help you on your way...

RECOMMENDED  TABLE  TENNIS  BOOK

The Table Tennis Rules and Regulations Explained

Rules of table tennis This new book explains SIMPLY and CLEARLY everything you need to know about the rules and regulations of table tennis.

Click here for more details

RECOMMENDED TABLE TENNIS BOOK

The Table Tennis Rules and Regulations Explained

Rules of table tennis

This new book explains SIMPLY and CLEARLY everything you need to know about the rules and regulations of table tennis.

Click here for more details

 

A B C D E F G H I J K L M O P R S T U V

 

 

A  
Anti or
Anti-loop or
Anti-spin
A smooth rubber with very low surface friction, used to defend against excessive spin or to confuse the opponent. This type of rubber deactivates spin and speed, returning a "dead" ball. 
   
Assistant Umpire The person appointed to assist the umpire with certain decisions.
 

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B  
Backhand A shot executed where the back of your hand is pointing towards the opponent, to the left of the elbow for a right handed player and vice versa for a left handed player.
   
Backspin A type of spin used mostly on defensive shots. When you chop down on the ball, you produce backspin. The bottom of the ball will move away from you.
   
Bat An alternative name for the racket.
   
Blade The wooden part of the racket.
   
Block A topspin shot played close to the table with the racket making contact with the ball just after it bounces.
   
Blocker A style of play where use of the block is the primary stroke.
 

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C  
Chop A defensive return of a topspin stroke played with backspin, usually well away from the table.
   
Chopper A style of play where use of the chop is the primary stroke.
   
Chop Block A stroke played close to the table where the racket makes contact with the ball (just after it bounces) with a fast downward vertical motion to create backspin. Made popular by Jan-Ove Waldner.
   
Closed Racket A stroke played with the striking surface of the racket angled downwards, eg. a topspin stroke or block.
   
Counter-loop A loop stroke played in response to a loop stroke from your opponent.
   
Counter-smash A smash stroke played in response to a smash stroke from your opponent.
   
Cross-court A stroke that's hit diagonally from corner to corner.
   
Crossover Point The area in which the player has no obvious choice of forehand or backhand. For a right handed player, the crossover point is roughly in line with the right hip.
 

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D  
Dead ball A stroke played which returns the ball with very little, or no spin.
   
Deep Playing any shot which causes the ball to bounce very near to your opponents end of the table.
   
Double Bounce When the ball bounces twice on one side of the table before a return is made, causing that player to lose the point.
   
Doubles A game of table tennis where two people play on each side and alternate turns at striking the ball.
   
Down the line A stroke that's played where the ball travels parallel to the sidelines of the table.
   
Drive A stroke played close to the table with your racket arm moving forward and slightly upwards in the direction that the ball is going to travel.
   
Drop shot A shot which drops very short over the net on your opponent's side of the table. Usually played when your opponent is positioned away from the table.
 

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E  
Early Playing a stroke (during a rally) that makes contact with the ball just after it bounces.
   
Expedite A rule which comes into operation if a game is unfinished after 10 minutes play (or at any earlier time at the request of both players or pairs). Thereafter, each player shall serve for one point in turn and if the receiving player or pair makes 13 returns, the receiver shall score a point.
 

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F  
Flat Playing a stroke with minimum topspin so that the ball travels very low over the net.
   
Flick or
Flip
A stroke played close to the table where you hit over the back or top of ball, using a loose wrist action to impart topspin.
   
Float A stroke played which returns the ball with very little, or no spin. Particularly used by players who use a defensive style of play in order to deceive their opponent.
   
Forehand A shot executed where the palm of your hand is facing your opponent, to the right side of the elbow for a right handed player and vice versa for a left handed player.
   
Free Hand The hand not holding the racket.
   
Funny Rubbers or
Funny Bat / Racket
See Long Pimples
 

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G  
Game A game is won by the player or pair first scoring 11 points unless both players or pairs score 10 points, when a game shall be won by the first player or pair subsequently gaining a lead of 2 points.
   
Gluing-up The act of affixing table tennis rubbers to the blade with table tennis glue (particularly with "speed" glue which was repeated at regular intervals in order to increase the playing speed of the rubber, but this is no longer permitted).
 

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H  
Handicap Event An event in a tournament where players are graded or ranked according to ability so that they can compete equally. The weaker player will not have to score as many points as the stronger player to win a game.
   
Heavy Used to describe excessive spin.
   
High Toss Serve A serve where the ball is thrown high into the air. This helps the server to increase the amount of spin and speed imparted onto the ball.
 

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I  
ITTF International Table Tennis Federation - the international governing body for the sport of table tennis.
   
Inverted rubber The most common racket covering. It consists of a sheet of rubber on top of a layer of sponge. The pimples (pips) face inward, so the playing surface is smooth.
 

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J
Junk Rubbers or
Junk Bat / Racket
See Long Pimples
 

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K  
Kill An aggressive shot hit with too much speed for the opponent to return it.
 

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L  
Late Playing a stroke (during a rally) that makes contact with the ball when the ball is descending rather than rising.
   
Let A rally where the result is not scored.
   
Let Serve If the ball touches the net, provided the service is otherwise good, the serve is replayed - or - if your opponent is not ready, the serve is replayed.
   
Loaded Used to describe excessive spin.
   
Lob A defensive shot used against high-speed shots, where the ball is returned very high in the air.
   
Long Playing any shot which causes the ball to bounce very near to your opponent's end of the table.
   
Long Pimples
(Pips)
A type of racket covering. A sheet of rubber on top of a layer of sponge. The pimples (pips) face outwards, so the playing surface is pimpled. Depending on the length and hardness of the pimples, unusual types of spin can be imparted.
   
Loop An attacking stroke where excessive topspin is imparted onto the ball. This enables you to hit the ball harder as the topspin will help you keep the ball in play.
   
Looper A style of play where use of the loop is the primary stroke.
   
Loose return A return shot that is either too high, too long, has insufficient spin or a combination of these and therefore makes it easy for your opponent to attack or kill.
 

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M  
Match A match consists of the best of any odd number of games (usually 3, 5 or 7).
   
Multi-ball A training method that minimizes wasted time by using a continuous supply of table tennis balls instead of just one ball.
 

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O  
Obstruction A player obstructs the ball if he or she, or anything he or she wears or carries, touches it in play when it is above or travelling towards the playing surface, not having touched his or her court since last being struck by his or her opponent.
 
Open Racket A stroke played with the striking surface of the racket angled upwards, eg. a push or backspin shot.
 

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P  
Paddle An alternative name for the racket.
   
Penhold A style of grip in which the racket handle is held between the thumb and forefinger. Used mainly by Asian players.
   
Pimples A type of racket covering. A sheet of rubber on top of a layer of sponge. The pimples (pips) face outwards, so the playing surface is pimpled. Depending on the length and hardness of the pimples, unusual types of spin can be imparted.
   
Ping Pong A trademarked name in USA. Often used interchangeably with table tennis by the general public.
   
Playing Surface The upper surface of a table tennis table which lies in a horizontal plane 76cm (2ft 6in) above the floor.
   
Point A unit of scoring in table tennis. A rally where the result is scored.
   
Push A backspin shot usually executed over the playing surface.
 

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R  
Racket The equipment used to hit the ball. Comprises of a wooden blade with rubbers affixed to it.
   
Racket hand The hand that is holding the racket.
   
Rally The period during which the ball is in play.
   
Ranking / Rating A method of evaluating the playing abilities of different players in relation to each other.
   
Ranking Event An event in which the results will be used to calculate a player's ranking.
   
Receiver The player due to strike the ball second in a rally.
   
Referee The person appointed to control a tournament.
   
Re-glue The act of affixing table tennis rubbers to the blade with table tennis glue (particularly with "speed" glue which was repeated at regular intervals in order to increase the playing speed of the rubber, but this is no longer permitted).
   
Reverse rubber The most common racket covering. It consists of a sheet of rubber on top of a layer of sponge. The pimples (pips) face inward, so the playing surface is smooth.
   
Rubber The racket covering. Sometimes refers only to the rubber on top of a sponge base.
 

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S  
Sandwich Rubber A type of racket covering. A racket covering with pimples inwards or outwards on top of a layer of sponge, having a total thickness including adhesive of not more than 4mm.
   
Server The player due to strike the ball first in a rally.
   
Service The start of a point where one player strikes the ball.
   
Shakehand A style of grip in which the racket handle is held in the palm of your hand so that the start of the racket head fits snugly into the "V" shape formed by your thumb and first finger - similar to shaking hands with another person.
   
Short Playing any shot which causes the ball to bounce very near to the net and, if not hit by your opponent, would bounce at least twice on the table.
   
Short pimples A type of racket covering. A sheet of rubber on top of a layer of sponge. The pimples (pips) face outwards, so the playing surface is pimpled. Depending on the length and hardness of the pimples, unusual types of spin can be imparted.
   
Sidespin A type of spin imparted onto the ball causing it to move left or right before and after it strikes the playing surface.
   
Smash An aggressive shot hit with speed, often in response to a high bouncing return.
   
Speed Glue A type of glue used to affix table tennis rubbers to the blade. Previously used at regular intervals in order to increase the playing speed of the rubber, but this is no longer permitted.
   
Spin The rotation of the ball. A player can impart spin onto the ball by using a brushing action with the racket surface.
   
Sponge A type of racket covering used in sandwich rubbers. It is used under a sheet of rubber with pimples.
First seen in 1952 when Japan's Hiroji Satoh astonished the world with his unexpected victory in the men's singles of the World Championship that year.
   
Strike Touching the ball in play with your racket, held in your racket hand, or with your racket hand below the wrist.
 
Stroke Any shot used by a player in a game.
   
Sweet spot The portion of the racket (usually near the centre) which produces the best response.
 

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T  
Third ball or
Third ball attack
The stroke played by the server after the opponent's return of the serve. Because the serve can be used to make attacking difficult for the opponent, the third ball is frequently the first strong attacking stroke in any table tennis rally.
   
Tight Playing any shot which makes it difficult for your opponent to attack.
   
Topspin A type of spin imparted onto the ball causing it to arc over the net and down onto the table surface.
   
Twiddle The act of turning the racket in your hand in order to use different sides of the racket to strike the ball. Usually only used by players who have different rubbers on each side of their racket in order to deceive their opponent. video demonstration of twiddling
 

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U  
Umpire The person appointed to control a match.
   
Underspin A type of spin used mostly on defensive shots. When you chop down on the ball, you produce underspin. The bottom of the ball will move away from you.
 

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V  
Volley Hitting the ball before it bounces on your side of the table. A player who volleys the ball generally loses the point.
 

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I hope that this list of table tennis terminology has helped your understanding of this great sport of table tennis.

RECOMMENDED  TABLE  TENNIS  BOOK

The Table Tennis Rules and Regulations Explained

Rules of table tennis This new book explains SIMPLY and CLEARLY everything you need to know about the rules and regulations of table tennis.

Click here for more details

RECOMMENDED TABLE TENNIS BOOK

The Table Tennis Rules and Regulations Explained

Rules of table tennis

This new book explains SIMPLY and CLEARLY everything you need to know about the rules and regulations of table tennis.

Click here for more details


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MORE PAGES ABOUT
THE RULES OF TABLE TENNIS
For more information about the rules of table tennis, take a look at my other articles which explain the Official Laws of Table Tennis and the additional Regulations (for higher level play) in more detail...

The Laws of Table Tennis

  • The basic rules of table tennis
    If you're just starting to play and you need to know the basic rules of table tennis, you'll find them here...

  • The official rules of table tennis
    The official rules of table tennis are known as The Laws of Table Tennis ... so if you need to check the official wording, you can read them here...

  • Table tennis table dimensions
    What size is a table tennis table? Do you know what the official rules say about the size dimensions of a table tennis table?

  • What do the rules say about your racket?
    Do you know what the rules say about your racket? What size can it be? Which colours are allowed? When can you change your racket? Find out here...

  • What do the rules say about the serve?
    The table tennis serve is one of the most controversial aspects of the game. Make sure you know the service rules. Read them here...

  • Frequently asked questions about the serve
    The service rules are very complex, so let's answer some of the most frequently asked questions. Read them here...

  • What is a good return?
    What do the rules say about a good return? Can you use your hand to play a shot? What happens if you touch or move the table? Find out here...

  • When is the ball in or out?
    What do the table tennis rules say about the ball hitting the white lines, net or edges of the table? Is the ball in or out? Find out here...

  • What do the rules say about playing doubles?
    Whether you're playing singles or doubles, the rules of table tennis are essentially the same. However, for doubles play there are a few subtle variations. Read them here...

  • What do the rules say about volleying the ball?
    Do the table tennis rules allow you to volley the ball? Yes and No... Let me explain

  • Expedite system
    How long can a game of table tennis last? If both players keep the ball in play, can they continue playing forever? What do the rules say about this? Find out here...

Regulations (for higher level play)

  • Table tennis room size
    What table tennis room size do you need? It's probably more than you think! Find out here...

  • Racket testing
    In 2008 the ITTF introduced new rules and regulations relating to racket (paddles/bats) testing, and VOC-free glue. You can read them here...

  • Are players allowed to take breaks during matches?
    What time limits are specified in the regulations? What happens if a player is time-wasting? Find out here...

  • Yellow Cards and Red Cards
    Yellow and red cards are a recent addition to table tennis. But what do they mean? Find out here...

General

  • Table tennis terminology
    Do you know your table tennis terminology or are you confused by your chops, pimples and twiddles? Here's a table tennis glossary for you...

Frequently Asked Questions


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