144 Volleyball Terms: A Complete A – Z List (All Explained)
It’s vital for anyone interested in coaching or playing volleyball to gain detailed knowledge of the many volleyball terms used around the game.
Volleyball terminology can be used by the players on the court, by the coaches, by the media, and by anyone talking about volleyball.
If you want to understand, you have to learn it!
Understanding the many volleyball terms will give you an advantage to learn, understand, and participate in the game.
Here’s a comprehensive list of common volleyball terms and their meanings:
“0 - 9”
2 Set: A high set directly above the setter. Usually intended for the middle hitter, as they are often near the setting position.
3-Meter Line (or 10-foot line): A line 3 meters or 10 feet from the net, delineating the front row from back row.
3 Set: A set directed to either the outside or middle hitter. Typically, low and fast, farther outside than a normal middle set.
4-2: A type of rotation with four hitters and two setters.
4 Set: A set directed to the outside hitter and lower than usual. Also called a shoot set.
5-1: A type of rotation with five hitters and one setter.
5 Set: A set directed to the right front hitter, utilizing a back set. Also called a red set.
6-2: A type of rotation with six hitters and two setters.
6 Set: A common set outside near the antenna that the setter is facing.
‘A’ Attack: An attack from the back row, nearest the left sideline.
Ace: A serve that cannot be passed by the opponent, often hitting the floor in bounds without being touched, resulting in an immediate point for the serving team.
Antenna: Vertical rods mounted to the net, directly above the sidelines. These rods are technically out-of-bounds, and as such, any ball striking them is out of play.
Attacker: The player attempting to hit the ball to terminate play on the opponent’s side of the net. Also known as “Hitter”.
‘B’ Attack: An attack from the back row, between the left sideline and midline.
Back Set: A set from a setter to an attacker directly behind them.
Back Row Attack: An attack from a back-row player, deemed legal if they jump from behind the 3-meter line.
Beach Dig: Digging or receiving the ball with an open hand.
Block: A play made by the defense at the net to defend an opponent attack. Can be made as a solo block with one blocker or with multiple players.
Bump: Passing the ball with the forearms. Can also use the same motion to set the ball when lacking confidence in overhead setting.
‘C’ Attack: An attack from the back row between the midline and right sideline.
Campfire: When a ball lands in the middle of several players who all watch it hit the floor.
Centerline: A line splitting the court in half that runs along the same path as the net.
Chester: A spike or serve that hits directly into an opponent’s chest.
Closing the Block: When one player joins another player with the intent to block creating one unified block. The term close comes from closing the gap between the two players.
Covering: Staying near a hitter to recover the play if the attack is blocked back into the attacking court.
Cross Court Shot: An attack directed from one side of the net to the opposite corner of the court on the opponent side.
Cut Shot: A crafty hit that starts as a normal swing but hits the hitters hand toward their pinky, allowing the ball to travel at a sharp angle across the net.
‘D’ Attack: An attack from the back row, nearest the right sideline.
Decoy: An offensive play run simply to distract the opponent with no intent of being set. Intended to delay the opponents ability to set the block on the actual attacker.
Deep Set: A set well off the net with the intent of limiting the effect of an opponent block.
Defensive Specialist: A player designated to play only in the back row. Typically, they will replace a less skilled defensive player as they enter the back row of the rotation. The defensive specialist can be called on to serve as well.
Dig: Passing a ball that has been sharply struck. Typically passing a well hit ball that is near the floor before being passed.
Dink: A light push of the ball over blockers. Often executed by a setter.
Double Block: Two blockers teaming up to block an opponent attack. One blocker will set the block and the other will close the block.
Double Hit: An illegal play in which a player hits the ball twice successively or contacts the ball separately with two different body parts.
Down Ball: A ball that is set so far off the net that it will not be attacked from the front row. It will either be attacked from the back or passed over the net. The defensive players will yell, “Down”, indicating they should forego blocks and drift back in anticipation of passing.
Dump: A ball struck or pushed on the second touch of an attack. Typically, performed by the setter to surprise the opponent.
Error (Or Unforced Error): A play in which a player makes a mistake on their own. For example, hitting a well-set ball directly out of bounds or serving a ball into the net.
Extension Roll: A controlled dive in order to pass a ball that is out of reach standing. Finished with a roll to allow a player to get back to their feet.
Floater: A type of serve that has no spin. A floater will appear to move irregularly as it crosses the net. Kind of like a “knuckle ball” in the sport of baseball.
Follow: Term used in reference to a blocker following the same attacker on their side of the net, as opposed to blocking one position.
Foul: Any violation of volleyball rules of play.
Free Ball: A ball that will be sent over the net via pass rather than attack. This alerts the defense to drop back into passing positions, as no spike is coming.
Front: Term used to indicate a blocker being directly across from the attacker. This is the most effective way to establish a block.
Front Row Attack: An attack from a player in the front row rotation.
Game: One segment of a volleyball match. Depending on scoring, can be played to 15 or 25 points (often with a win by two requirement). Most matches are either two out of three games or three out of five games.
Game Plan: A predetermined plan, often set by the coaching staff, on how to attack an opponent by attacking their noticeable weaknesses.
Held Ball: A ball that stops motion during an attempt to pass or set. Results in a foul.
Hit: A ball hit overhand with force.
Hitter: The player attempting to hit the ball to terminate play on the opponent’s side of the net. Also known as Attacker.
Hitting Percentage: The number of kills divided by the number of attempted kills.
Inside: A reference to anything toward the middle of the net.
Isolation: A game plan intended to isolate a specific attacker against a specific defensive player. Most often to exploit a weakness in the defender.
Jump Serve: A type of serve requiring the server to toss the ball high into the air, run, and then jump to strike down on the ball.
Jungle Volleyball: Also known as picnic volleyball. Refers to a game of volleyball being played with participants that do not know how to play volleyball.
Joust: Two opposing players playing the same ball at the net. A joust often occurs when a bad pass has been made resulting in the ball coming down at the top of the net.
Key: A “tell” that an opponent gives unknowingly which allows the defense to predict their next play or move.
Kill: An attack that cannot be returned by the opponent. Often a kill strikes the floor untouched but is awarded to the attacker who last touched the ball. A kill results in either a point or a side out depending on scoring.
Libero: A player who can only play the back row, often substituting a poor defensive player. A libero can substitute any back row player at any time without substitution limits.
Line: The markings on the court indicating the sidelines, end lines, and 3-meter (10-foot) line.
Line Shot: An attack that is directed down the closest sideline of the opponent.
Let Serve: Any serve that strikes the net. If a let serve goes into the opponent court, the ball is live. If a let serve falls into the serve side, the ball is dead and the serve is surrendered.
Linesman: An official that is placed on a corner of the court, whose responsibility is to indicate whether a ball is in or out of bounds.
Lineup: A predetermined serving order that also indicates where each player should be in the rotation.
‘M’ Attack: Often referred to as “pipe”. It is a ball set to attack from the midline, back row position.
Middle Back Defense: A system that directs the middle back player to play farther back to cover deeper shots.
Middle Blocker: The name given to the player playing the front middle position. Their primary role is to block their opponent.
Middle Up Defense: A system that directs the middle back player to play more forward to cover dinks and dunks.
Mintonette: The name given to the sport that birthed modern day volleyball. It was created by William Morgan.
Multiple Attack: An offensive system that utilizes more than one attacker on each play to provide different options for the attack.
Multiple Offense: An offensive system that includes a variety of sets, not exclusively outside sets.
Net: Splits the court into two halves. Provides the obstacle that must be hit over to accomplish the objective of volleyball.
Net Serve: A ball that is served directly into the net without chance of going over.
Off Blocker: The outside blocker that is not involved in a double block.
Offside Block: The net player on the opposite end of the opponent attack.
Off Speed Hit: An attack without its usual force. It continues to have some spin, however.
Off Speed Shot: An attack that is hit intentionally slower than usual. Often to beat a block.
Opening Up: Stepping away from an incoming serve from the opponent, often to facilitate a better passing angle.
Outlet Set: A set utilized when a play is busted. Usually set very high and outside to allow an attacker time to recover and attack. Also known as a release set.
Outside: A reference to anything towards the sideline.
Outside Hitter: The attacker playing left front or right front positions. Most frequently outside hitters will play from the left front position.
Overhand Pass: Any pass made with hands above the head, simultaneously contacting the ball with fingers spread. Setters commonly use the overhand pass as it is more consistent.
Overhand Serve: Any serve hit with the hand over the shoulder.
Overlap: A foul incurred when a team is out of rotation after the serve has been hit.
Overpass: A ball that is passed over the net. Typically, an overpass is used to describe an errant first pass either on serve receive or defense that immediately proceeds to the opponent side of the net.
Overset: Like the overpass, the overset is a set that goes over the net to the opponent rather than to an attacker. An overset can often result in a joust.
Pancake: A defensive play where a player dives to the floor, arm extended, and palm flat sliding along the floor. The ball is intended to bounce off the back of the flattened hand of the player keeping it “alive”.
Pass: A controlled ball on first contact from serve or in defense intended to be directed to another player on the same team, either to be set or attacked.
Penetration: A blocker reaching over the net into the opponent space. They are seen to be “penetrating” the net.
Perimeter Defense: A defensive set up where four players arrange themselves along the perimeter of the backcourt.
Pipe Set: A set intentionally set to an attacker hitting from the back-middle position. Also known as an M Set.
Play: A set, predetermined attack. Typically utilizes an intended fake attack to distract the opponent.
Power Alley: A cross court shot traveling to the far corner of the opponent.
Power Tip: A tip that is struck with such force as to create an attack.
Pump Attack: A unique attack where the attacker fakes hitting at a quick set and then subsequently hits a medium-high set from the same spot.
Quick: A low set, that is fast and set inside.
Quick Scoring: A rarely used alternative for rally scoring.
Quick Set: A low, vertical set. A quick set is utilized to get an attack off before the opponent can set up the block.
Rainbow Shot: An attack designed to be hit over blockers. Usually soft and quite near the backline. Named for its rainbowlike trajectory.
Rally Scoring: A system for scoring that dictates a team earn a point on every play regardless of who holds serve.
Read Blocking: A blocking strategy advising all front row players to “read” the setter to determine where the attack will originate from.
Read Defense: A defensive strategy providing some players autonomy to determine how they will defend opponents based on their “reads”, or any keys they may notice.
Ready Position: The athletic position a volleyball should be in before play begins, especially in serve receive.
Reception Error: A statistic a player receives when a ball deemed to be passable results in an ace for the opponent. The nearest player is given the error. If two players are equal distance, then the error is awarded to the team.
Red Card: “Awarded” to a player or coach for a violation or misconduct. Also given to a player who has received two yellow cards. A red card awards a point, or side out, to the opponent.
Red/Yellow Card: Presented to a player or coach who has committed an extreme violation. The recipient is ejected automatically, and the opponent receives a point or side out.
Release Set: A set utilized when a play is busted. Usually set very high and outside, to allow an attacker ample time to recover and attack. Also known as an outlet.
Roof: To block a well-hit attack directly down to the floor. Named because said blocks often bounce quite high after hitting the ground.
Rotation: The order in which players are required to stay throughout the game. If out of this order after serve has been struck an overlap occurs. This results in a foul.
Seam: The space between two players. Typically, the seam is referencing the space between blockers.
Serve: To put the ball in play after a dead ball. The goal of a serve is to get the ball over the net and into the opponent’s court.
Service Error: A statistic a player receives by committing an error on their serve. Such as hitting the ball into the net, hitting the ball out of bounds, or having a foot fault called.
Service Winner: A statistic a player receives credit for when their side scores a point on the same serve.
Set: A ball directed to a point with the intention of an attacker hitting it.
Set Attack: A ball attacked by the setter. This is legal when the setter is in the front row of the rotation.
Setter: The player whose responsibility it is to take the second touch and get the ball to a position it can be legally attacked.
Shallow: Referencing a ball that is very close to the net. Typically, this term is used to describe a pass or set.
Shank: A pass that has been mishit, resulting in it going a different direction than intended.
Shoot: A fast set that is intentionally low, to a hitter that is a distance away from the setter.
Side Out: A side out occurs when the team cannot score on their serve. This can happen when the opponent kills the ball on the service side or the service side commits an error.
Side Out Scoring: Side out scoring dictates that a team can only receive a point when they are serving. The opponent is simply playing for the opportunity to serve.
Six-Packed (Getting Six-Packed): Used to describe a ball struck directly into the face of an opponent either on the attack or serve.
Sky Ball: A ball that is hit directly up and comes virtually straight down.
Soft Block: A block that is hit with the hands of the blocker bending away from the net, which only slows the ball or pops it up into the air.
Spike: One of the volleyball terms for a hit or attack.
Strong Side: A right handed player hitting from left front, or a left handed player hitting from left front creates a strong sided attack.
Stuff: A ball blocked directly back into the attacker and subsequently drops to the floor.
Substitution: The act of a bench player replacing a player on the court. There are limitations to team substitutions throughout the game.
Switch: Moving players to their positions of strength after the ball is served. This allows players to stay in rotation but attack and defend from their preferred location.
Tape: The top of the net. Named because of the traditional bright colored or light-colored taping to highlight the top of the net.
Telegraphing: Making an intended play obvious to an opponent which allows them to prepare in advance.
Tool: An attack that is hit off a blockers hands or arms that subsequently goes out of bounds.
Touch: Any contact made with the ball by a player.
Transition: The moment a team moves from offensive to defensive, or from defensive to offensive play.
Turning In: A blocker turning their outside hand toward the court to prevent an attacker tooling off their block.
Triple Block: A block including three players attempting to block the same attack.
Underhand Serve: A serve struck with the heel of the palm in an upward motion. This serve is typically used by beginners who are unconfident in overhand serves or by players with a shoulder injury that cannot serve overhand.
Volleyball: A sport in which teams of two or six, separated by a net, attempt to ground a ball on the opponent’s side of the net. The game we love!
‘W’: A type of serve receive with three players in the front, two in the back, and one hidden from receiving the serve.
Weak Side: A right handed player hitting from right front, or a left handed player hitting from left front creates a weak sided attack.
Wipe: To hit a ball in a way that intends to strike a block and tool out of bounds.
‘X’ Play: A play designed for the middle to hit a quick set, or the right front player to cross behind them and hit a set left of middle (usually a 2 set).
Yellow Card: A warning given to a player or coach for bad behavior. Two yellow cards in one match adds up to a red card, awarding the opponent a point or side out.
Zone: An indication of an area on the court. Moving counter clock wise, zone one is back right and zone six is back middle. Coaches will often indicate to a server where to serve by signaling which zone to serve to.