Badminton Glossary

A collection of terms used in Badminton derived from various sources as well as personal experience. A Humorous Glossary is also available for your amusement. And there's a German Website with another humorous glossary. Please submit any additions you may have.


An outright point from a serve that is not even touched by the receiver. Archaically "ace" was used to mean any point scored.


"A stroke in which the air- not the shuttle- is hit. It is usually caused by the player taking his eye off the shuttle just before impact or by very poor hand-eye coordination." (1) Modern equivalent would be "air-ball", borrowed from basketball.

Alley (Side Alley)

Extension of the court by 1-1/2 feet on both sides for doubles play. Also called the Side Alley, as opposed to the Back or Rear Alley

Angle of Attack

The angle of the trajectory of the shuttle upon leaving one's racket. A steep angle means sharply downward and a flat angle is closer to horizontal. Where this becomes important is for attacking shots (drops and smashes)  where the intent is to pull the opponents as close to the net as possible. A flat smash that lands 2/3 of the way toward the back line or a drop which land 10 feet from the net is not very effective. With a higher angle of attack (contact point as high as possible, shuttle passing very near net) the drops and smashes are much better.

Angle Of Return

The angle formed by the range of possible returns from a given position. A look at the court geometry shows that this varies from nearly 180 degrees at front center to under 40 degrees at back corners (singles). In general to maximize court coverage the receiver wants to stand near the bisector of this angle.

Attacking Clear (Offensive Clear)

A clear that is just high enough to be above the opponents reach and to get to the backcourt as fast as possible. Even though this is hit upward it can still be considered an attacking (or offensive) shot since it can be used to force an opponent to return a defensive shot or even make a weak return.

Back Alley (Rear Alley)

Area between the back boundary line and the long service line for doubles.


Back third of the court, in the area of the back boundary lines. See also Midcourt and Forecourt.


For court position, the opposite side of the body from the player's racket hand. For strokes, any shot hit with the back of the racket, which is the side of the racket facing toward the racket hand with normal grip. For right handed player holding the racket ahead the right side of the racket is the "back" of the racket and the court to the player's left is the backhand side. At most levels of play shots are returned with less power from the backhand side, so it is a prime area for shots to the back court. See also Forehand.

Backhand Grip

A grip in which the racket is rotated slightly toward backhand and the the thumb is upward on the back of the racket. This becomes the classic grip used for backhand work when rackets were relatively heavy and a full arm swing was needed for power.. With modern light rackets the racket is rotated about the thumb using the fingers and less wrist and arm movement for quick shots or with full wrist rotation and arm movement for power shots.


The movement of the racket backwards (away from shuttle) to prepare for a forward swing (toward the shuttle).

Balance Point

The center of mass of the racket, as measured from the bottom of the grip. The higher this number the more head-heavy the racket is. Typical balance point is around 300mm. Note that this is often quoted for the unstrung racket with a specific grip size. Adding string or grip wrap or using different size grip will of course change the balance point.

Balk (Baulk, Feint)

Any deceptive movement (by server or receiver) that disconcerts an opponent before or during the service. This is generally a fault. Note that by rule the server gets exactly one forward motion of the racket. Similar deceptive movements- especially of the racket- are common and generally legal after the serve.

Base Position (Center Position)

Location in the center of the court to which a singles player tries to return after each shot.


Back boundary line at each end of the court, parallel to the net.


Even before Badminton existed as a sport, a "battledore" was used recreationally to hit a ball back and forth. The battledore gradually evolved into the modern day racket and the ball evolved into the modern shuttlecock. Before "Badminton" there was "Battledore and Shuttlecock".

Bird (or Birdie)

A shuttlecock is sometimes called a "bird", generally by those in certain regions or by those who don't know the proper name.

"Bird On"

A cautionary call that a shuttle has landed on the playing court from an adjacent court. This normally results in a let.


A shot hit with a stationary racket, using the shuttle's forward momentum to propel it back toward opponent. Common for returning hard-hit shots such as smashes.

Carry (Sling)(Throw)

A formerly illegal tactic, also called a sling or a throw, in which the shuttle is caught and held on the racquet and then slung during the execution of a stroke. As the rules evolved, the carry became legal as long as it was clear that only a single forward stroke was used.

Center Line (Centre Line)

Line perpendicular to the net that separates the left and right service courts.


A call between doubles partners indicating that one partner is about to (or is expected to) hit a clear.


A high and deep shot designed to push the receiver to the back of the court. A defensive clear is very high in order to give the hitter time to prepare for the return and hence to slow down the rally. An offensive or attacking clear is lower but still over the receiver's reach and is designed to push the receiver back quickly in the hopes of a weaker return.

Closed Face

A term referring to a racket face pointing downward.


Area of play, as defined by the outer boundary lines.

Cross (string)

The racket strings perpendicular to the shaft. Most rackets have 21-23 crosses.

Cross Court

Any shot from one side of the court to the other side. Serves are by rule a cross court shot.

Cut Drop

A Slice performed close to the net, generally with racket horizontal to the ground and moving forward toward the net. The ideal cut drop places backspin on the shuttle such that it barely clears the net and tumbles backwards down the opponent's side. This mostly precludes return attacks while making any return more difficult.


"A crisp downward stroke with minimal backswing and follow-through played in the forecourt (by the net player) often to gain an outright winner to the lower body or a gap." 1 This shot is set up by body position along with arm and wrist, but is executed  primarily with the fingers with emphasis on fast action and small amount of movement.

Danish Wipe

"A hybrid backhand stroke, a cross between a lob and a drive, used to loft a shuttle from one end of the court to the other. The racket is swept down, then up and under the shuttle (which has been allowed to drop to knee height) to finish with a strong follow-through." (1)

Dead Bird

A shuttle that has been hit out of play.


During play it becomes very desirable to hide what shots are going to be played, either through misdirection or very quick motions just before contact. Such deception becomes a very important part of game tactics.

Defense (Defence)

Defensive shots are generally those hit upward and the team on the defense is the one hitting upward. Serves are generally defensive since by rule they are hit upward.

Defensive Clear

A high deep clear used to gain time or place the shuttle deep enough that it is more difficult to attack. These are often hit very high, especially if used to regain position or slow down the rally.


In doubles a position in which the two players divide the court on a diagonal, as opposed to front-and-back or side-by-side which divide the court at right angles.

Divorce Area

"Narrow rectangle 8-11 feet from the net, between rear-court and fore-court players, and between the sidelines. It is so called in relation to mixed play when irate husbands have been known to berate over-enthusiastic wives when they have clashed rackets in this area normally as sacrosanct to the male." (1)

Double Hit

A shot that contacts the receiver's racket twice, either by one player or by both players. A double hit by two players is always a fault. The rules surrounding a double hit by a single player are more nuanced. If two strokes are used then the double hit is a fault. If a single stroke is used then historically a fault was called, but today the shot is legal.


"A match where there are two players on each of the opposing sides." (2)


A hard-hit flat stroke passing just above the net, generally from the front midline or sidelines. The drive is used when the shuttle is too low to be smashed but an attacking shot is still warranted. The drive can be very effective either to an empty spot in the court or directly at an opponent, sometimes for a kill.

Drive Serve

A serve that is as flat as possible (must be legal and still clear net) and hard-hit such that it would fall at the back of the service court. This can be a useful alternative to usual short and long serves.


A shot hit such that it barely clears the net and falls very in the court (hopefully in front of the short service line). Drops can be hit from anywhere in the court and from any height, but typically are downward overhead shots from back court or upward or flat shots hit from the front court. Hairpin drops are hit from very close to the net and travel upward and over the net. Drops hit from near the net are also called Net Shots.

Drop Serve

A serve in which the player drops the shuttle and lets it fall before hitting it. Almost exclusively used for forehand serves. Similar to the Toss Serve.


A violation of the playing rules, either in serving, receiving, or during play. When one team commits a fault, the opposing team scores a point.


Literally feathers from birds, typically ducks or geese. Used for constructing the skirt of natural shuttlecocks. The Laws of Badminton mandate 16 individual feathers for the skirt of each shuttlecock. The term is also sometimes applied to the skirt of synthetic shuttlecocks.

Feint - see Balk

First Serve (First Hand)

Prior to the change to rally scoring in 2006, doubles play allowed for both members of a doubles team to serve in succession. That is, partner A would serve (first serve) until a rally is lost, and then partner B would serve (second serve) until the second rally is lost. After both serves service would go to the opposing team. The team serving first during a game only had one serve.

Fixed-Height Serve

In the mid 2010's, camera systems had become common to review line calls in high-end tournaments. This left in place one of the most subjective judgements- the service call. Given the ambiguity of waist height and the simultaneous complexity of proper serves along with advancements in camera and software technology, it was decided to experiment with a fixed height for legal serves as a replacement for height being defined by the waist. In 2018 an official height of 1.15m was chosen and enacted as an experiment. Court height markers are added as a reference for service judges.. A benefit is that a camera system can very easily watch service height and determine legality in near-real time.

Flexible Wrist

Wrist position that allows full freedom of motion. The wrist is perhaps the body's most flexible joint when unrestrained by improper grip so a very wide range of racket motion can be achieved with a flexible wrist. Proper grip and loose fingers are key to maintaining a flexible wrist.

Flick Serve

A deceptive serve which is intended to look like a short serve but instead is flicked into a high long serve. It is important for this serve to initially look just like a short serve since if the element of surprise is lacking, the flick will be a good invitation to attack rather than (hopefully) catch receiver off-guard.


A quick wrist and forearm rotation that surprises an opponent by changing an apparently soft shot into a faster passing one; used primarily on the serve and at the net.

Flight (Flight path)

The trajectory that a shuttle follows after it is hit. This is a primary distinguishing feature between feathered shuttle and plastic shuttles. Due to the spin and stiff skirts of a feathered shuttle, it follows a high-order trajectory, coming off the racket very quickly but also decelerating very quickly, allowing for tight drops and deep high clear which fall nearly vertically. Plastic shuttles generally do not spin as well and have flexible skirts so follow a lower-order (closer to parabolic) trajectory. Shuttlecock manufacturers have experimented over the years with stiff composites (such as replaceable carbon "feathers") but still have work to do to replicate the properties of natural feathers.


The path of the racket after contacting a shuttle. Follow-through is an important part of producing controlled and predictable shots.

Foot Fault

A fault that occurs when the server's or receiver's foot is touching one of the service court's boundary lines at time of service or when the server or receiver moves or lifts their foot during the execution of the service.


The movement of one's feet, and hence body while moving around the court. As in many sports, footwork is a critical part of success in badminton since good footwork enables the player to move more efficiently (less expended energy), quicker, and with less potential for injury while at the same time positioning himself for more effective shots. Foot work if often ignored by beginning players, leading to visibly clumsy movement on court.

Forecourt (Front Court)

Front third of the court, between the net and the short service line. See also Backcourt and Midcourt.


For court position, the side of the body on the player's racket hand. For strokes, any shot hit with the front of the racket, which is the side of the racket facing away from the racket hand with normal grip. For right handed player holding the racket ahead the left side of the racket is the "front" of the racket and the court to the player's right is the forehand side. At most levels of play shots are returned with more power from the forehand side, so upward shots to a player's forehand are generally more dangerous. See also Backhand.

Forward Swing

Movement of the racket toward the shuttle.

Free Point

A point on a serve lost with no effort by the opposing team. The server scores a free point if the receiver misses the return so that the server need do nothing after serving. The server gives away a free point by missing the serve. Obviously free points are to be minimized!

Front and Back

In doubles a position in which one partner is on front of the other, generally near the middle line. This is typically considered to be an offensive position, allowing both players to attack freely since the court is well covered and hence possible returns are likely to allow continued attack. This position is most effective when the front player has fast reflexes and the rear player is quick and powerful. Doubles play generally rotates between front-and-back and side-by-side positions.

Frying Pan Grip

A grip in which the racket is rotated 90 degrees from normal such that the head is parallel to the net with the front of the racket is facing the net. This is the "natural" position that many beginners assume, often with index finger extended up the racket. It is generally not used since it limits power and control and can lead to injuries. The exception is for net play where a squared head allows for very quick response on backhand or forehand side without changing grip. This is most effectively done with the fingers rather than wrist or arm motion. See also Thumb-Up Grip.

Game Point

The point at which one player can win the game by winning the current rally.


Scientifically this is an allotrope of pure carbon in which the carbon atoms are bonded into planar hexagonal lattices. With appropriate processing and a binding material graphite structures can be very light and strong, so are used in the construction of many/most modern badminton rackets.


The section of the racket that you hold. This part of the racket has probably changed less than the rest of the racket, with leather-wrapped wooden handles still being very common even for carbon composite rackets. However other grips have been used and some are indeed hollow composites, especially true one-piece rackets. The grip serves as counterbalance to the rest of the racket so, unlike the rest of the racket, is generally not designed to be as light as possible.

Grip also refers to the manner in which the racket is held, with many variations being possible aside from the fairly standard "shake-hands" grip.


The plastic piece inserted in a string hole to protect the string and/or racket from damage.Early badminton rackets were solid materials such as wood or bamboo and had holes drilled in them for string. When metal rackets were introduced (1970's) some had holes punched in them for stringing. While enamel coating or rounded edges sufficed in many cases to prevent string damage, it fairly quickly became standard for plastic (nylon or equivalent) "grommets" to be added to the holes. This trend remained for composite rackets such as ceramics, fiberglass and more recently carbon fibers. Today almost all competition rackets use grommets of one form or another.


Before synthetic strings became acceptable for play, the norm was natural gut which was fibers gathered from part of the intestines (hence name "gut") of ruminants (sheep originally but more recently cows). Although synthetics never matched the playability of natural gut, synthetics do offer a very wide variety of tradeoffs in characteristics such as durability, resilience and control. Coupled with the expense of natural gut this has led most players to use synthetics.

Hairpin Drop

A drop hit from below net height and very close to the net, traveling just above net height and down the other side of the net. The best hairpins are within inches of the net on both sides and are usually hit with a cut shot causing the shuttle to tumble as it clears the net.

Halfcourt Shot

A shot hit low and to midcourt, used effectively in doubles against the up-and-back formation.

Hammer Grip

Some beginners will grab the racket like a hammer (wrist and hand out straight with racket vertical) and grip tightly- and maintain that grip. This is one natural reaction to wanting to hit the shuttle hard, but of course locks the arm and wrist in place affecting both power and control. This should be fixed as a very early part of instruction.

Hand In

In doubles, prior to 2006, both partners of a doubles team were allowed to serve in turn after the first serve of the game. "Hand In" was a call used to signify that the first partner was serving- and hence the team was on first serve.

Hand Out

In doubles, prior to 2006, both partners of a doubles team were allowed to serve in turn after the first serve of the game. "Hand Out" was a call used to signify that the first partner had already served and the rally had been lost- and hence the team was on second serve.

Head (Face)

The section of the racket which hold the string and attaches to one end of the shaft. Used by racket stringers to identify the string holes in the frame. "1H" hole is the first hole to either side of the top center of the racket. "2H" is the next hole, etc. As with other parts of the racket many materials have been used for the head, including wood, bamboo, stainless steel, aluminum alloys, ceramics, fiberglass, boron and various carbon composites. Unlike the shaft which largely control overall racket flexibility, the head generally wants to be quite inflexible, and particularly wants to have minimum torsional flex ("twist") since that leads to reduced control and power. The head engineering is quite challenging since it must be very light yet very strong (22 mains at 25lbs tension is over 500 lbs of force trying to squash the racket) and at the same time unlike the rest of the racket is has to have holes in it.

High Modulus

When looking at racket specs, this refers to Young's Modulus. Unlike many such terms that can be dismissed as marketing gloss, a high-modulus graphite does have a real effect. In particular, Young's Modulus refers to a measure of stiffness, and indirectly a measure of "responsiveness", or the ability to store energy and release it quickly. Hence a "high modulus graphite" (sometimes abbreviated to "HM") racket will tend to be more "responsive" and impart more energy to the shuttle for a given stroke due to the inherent stiffness of the graphite fibers used. Lower modulus fibers tend to absorb more energy and/or release it more slowly, causing a softer feel.


A call from one doubles partner to the other that he has managed to get himself into trouble and needs help in getting the next shot. This would typically be from a rear player to a front player since that's about the only time when one partner can't observe the other. Mostly heard among newer less experienced players, typically when the rear player is forced from side to side and ends up running off the court.

"Hit" - see "Touch"

Holding a Shot

A deliberate delay in hitting while waiting to observe the opponents preparation or reaction and hence facilitating a deceptive shot. For instance a player may get to a drop shot very quickly but then follow the shuttle down with his racket while watching his opponent for movement. If the opponent moves in anticipating a drop a clear can be delivered hopefully catching the opponent off balance.

Home (Home position)

The optimal position in a court to which players attempt to gravitate. In singles this would typically be near midcourt and centered between the boundary lines.

Hybrid Stringing

A string job in which two different types of string are used for the crosses and the mains. This would typically comprise mains chosen for durability and crosses chosen for resilience or other playability parameters. Also two different colors of the same string can be used for a distinctive appearance.

Jump Smash

As the name implies, a smash delivered by the player jumping as high as practical to maximize the angle and power of the smash. With a good jump smash one can get an excellent downward angle even from backcourt, where most jump smashes are used. The Jump Smash was introduced in Asia in the 50's.


A decisive power shot gaining a point for the hitting team. While most kills are smashes, other shots such as dabs and drives can also be kill shots.


A legitimate cessation of play to allow a rally to be replayed. Lets are commonly called for rally interference (e.g. shuttle lands on court from adjacent court), ceiling obstructions where club rules specify a let, unsighted line calls, and premature serves (opponent not ready). 

Level Doubles

Doubles in which the two players are of the same gender, as opposed to Mixed Doubles.


General term for an upward shot.


An underhand clear from near the net, generally used as an alternative shot after setting up for a drop.

Locked Wrist

"Inflexible wrist resulting from the racket handle being held parallel with the forearm, or being pointed downward." (4) Often seen with new players, especially those coming from a tennis background. Also occurs when player holds the grip like a hammer and grips down tight, locking the wrist in place. With instruction this should of course be replaced by a flexible wrist.

Long Serve

A serve, typically a high serve, that lands near the back line. For singles serve this would normally fall within the back alley.

Long Service Line

In singles, the back boundary line. In doubles a line 2-1/2 feet inside the back boundary line. The serve may not go past this line.

Love (Luv)

Used to indicate zero points or no score. At first serve the score in "love all".


Quick outward extension of the racket foot when getting to a shot that is placed to the front of the player. Very important here to point the toe toward the direction of the lunge to avoid injury and bend the knee well in order to prepare for pushing back into position for the next shot. Not unlike the lunge one sees in a fencing match.

Main (string)

The racket strings parallel to the shaft. Most rackets have 22 "mains".


"The basic contest in Badminton between opposing sides each of one or two players." (2)

Match Point

A Game Point which also decides a match.


The middle third of the court, halfway between the net and the back boundary line. See also Backcourt and Forecourt.

Mixed Doubles

Same as Doubles but played with teams comprising one male and one female player. Badminton is one of the few sports in which men and women compete together.

Net Shot

Shot hit from the forecourt very near the net that just clears the net and then falls rapidly. A net shot is one type of drop.

"No Set"

A call by a player that indicates the choice to not "set" the game by extending play for extra points, but rather play until the normal number of points. See Setting.

Offense (Attack)

Offensive shots are generally those hit downward and the team on the offense is the one hitting downward.

One-Piece (racket)

A one-piece racket is constructed with one continuous piece of material, as opposed to multiple pieces (head, t-joint, shaft, grip) later joined together. In the very old days of solid wooden rackets, the rackets were close to one piece as laminates extended all the way from the bottom of the grip up and around the head and back down. Today true one-piece rackets are similar construction but of course use modern materials- typically carbon composites of some sort. One-piece has also been used to describe rackets whose head and shaft are a single piece joined to a separate handle. The importance of the one-piece racket is that by eliminating joints one eliminate weak spots and allows the overall racket characteristics (flexibility, vibration, efficiency, etc.) to be better optimized.

One-Piece (stringing) (aka 2-Knot Stringing)

With one-piece stringing a single piece of string about (typically 10m or a little less) of string is used for the entire racket, resulting in two tie-off knots, one at the head end one at the throat end.

On-Guard Stance

"Alert position assumed by a player when waiting for the bird to be hit by opponent." (4)

Open Face

A term referring to a racket face pointing upward. For instance, returning a well-played low serve requires an open-faced racket.


The speed of a shot or of a rally.

Passing Shot

A shot (typically a drive) that is pushed past an opponent, rather than away from, over, or at an opponent. This shot is typically within reach but is either delivered fast enough or with enough deception that it is not received or it is deliberately allowed to pass so that the rear partner can make a better return.


A rally (typically by beginners) in which two players stand more-or-less immobile and trade half-paced drives until one misses.


The location on the court where a shuttle is aimed.


"Any person playing Badminton." (2)


"Action of taking shots that normally should be returned by one's partner. Done either through over-enthusiasm (forgivable), greed (unforgivable) or lack of confidence in partner's ability (unforgivable except in extremis)." (1)


A slow high lift to forecourt. An especially bad setup and most likely an accident for anyone other than a beginning player since the expect response would be a kill.


When racket heads were made of wood or bamboo they could warp easily due to moisture. To help prevent this rackets were kept in a press usually consisting of two wooden trapezoidal frames held together with bolts and thumb-nuts. There were some plastic presses also but these were uncommon. When metal and then later composite heads came along presses were no longer needed.


Pulling the racket string to tension and letting it relax before starting to string. All string stretches so the tension pulled when stringing the racket is not what exists days or even hours later. By pre-stretching the string this relaxation takes place before stringing, thus minimizing the post-stringing change. This effect is much smaller with modern synthetic string than it is with natural gut so pre-stretch is very rarely used.

Push Shot

Gentle shot played by pushing the shuttle with little wrist motion, usually from the net or midcourt to the opponent's midcourt.

Racket (Racquet)

Instrument used by the player to hit the shuttlecock. Modern rackets weigh typically between 70 and 90 grams and have dimensions as specified by the rules. Historically rackets were made from wood or bamboo, though modern rackets are made from metal alloys (steel/aluminum - low end rackets) or from ceramic, graphite or boron composites. Historically rackets were strung with natural gut, but today synthetic strings dominate and use a wide variety of fibers.


"A sequence of one or more strokes starting with the service, until the shuttle ceases to be in play." (2)

Receiving Side

"The side opposing the serving side." (2)


The alternation between front-and-back and side-by-side formations in doubles, classically in a counter-clockwise direction for right-handed players.

Rough Side

The side of the racket with the trim's loops.

Round-The-Head Shots

Overhead shots played with a forehand swing but on the backhand side. The racket is swung forward but is angled toward the backhand side, thus swinging "around the head". This can be very effective for shots that are only a little to the backhand side since it is quicker to hit than moving and then hitting as a backhand or conventional forehand shot.

Rush A Serve

To move very quickly forward when receiving a low serve, the aim of which is to get to the net fast enough to attack the serve. By doing this the receiver can return the serve downward if it is a little high or flat if it is a good low service, immediately putting the receiving team on the offensive.

Second Serve (Second Hand)

Prior to the change to rally scoring in 2006, doubles play allowed for both members of a doubles team to serve in succession. That is, partner A would serve (first serve) until a rally is lost, and then partner B would serve (second serve) until the second rally is lost. After both serves service would go to the opposing team. The team serving first during a game only had one serve.

Serve (Service)

Stroke used to put the shuttlecock into play at the start of a rally.

Service Court

Area into which the serve must be delivered. Different for singles and doubles play.

Serving Side

"The side having the right to serve." (2)


A call by a player that indicates the choice to "set" the game by extending play for extra points. See Setting.


Extending a game a set number of points beyond normal end. In the past before rally scoring, only the server could score points and games were a fixed total, not win-by-two. To help even the end of the game, the normal ending could be extended by "setting". For example, in a 15 point game, if the game became tied at 13-all, the team which first made 14 could decide to continue the game to the normal 15 (play 2 more points) , or "set" it to 5 and play 5 more points to a total of 18 (call was "set 5"). Since the opposing team had just scored, it was usually an advantage to "set" when possible.

Since the introduction of rally scoring, "setting" is sometimes also used to refer to the extra points needed for a 2-point win.

Setup (Set Up)

A shot that invites a strong (perhaps decisive) return. For instance if a rear player lifts a shot to center forecourt in front of his partner at the net, he "sets up" his partner.


The section of the racket connecting the grip and the head. Like the rest of the racket the shaft was originally made from wood. Over the years though many different shaft designs have been used (solid , tubular, even twin-shafts) and many different materials (wood, bamboo, stainless steel, aluminum alloys, ceramics, fiberglass, boron, various carbon composites, etc.). One of the major functions of the shaft is to provide a controlled flexibility to the overall racket with rackets varying from very flexibile to quite stiff.

Short Serve

Serve that land on or near the short service line. Generally also flat since if the serve is much above the net it invites attack.

Short Service Line

The line 6-1/2 feet from the net which a serve must reach to be legal.

Shuttle (Shuttlecock)

The projectile used in Badminton. Like the rest of the equipment the shuttlecock has evolved over the years. The modern feathered shuttlecock has changed very little over the better part of a century and is still made of feathers (goose or duck) for the skirt and leather-covered cork for the base. Plastic shuttles are also very common and are made from many materials. Some use a cork and leather base, others a molded base. In almost all cases the skirt is a one-piece molding rather than separate feathers. The best synthetics attempt to get close to the trajectory of a feathered shuttle by careful skirt design and materials selection. Spin varies widely with synthetics.


A call between doubles partners indicating that one partner would like the other to move to a side-by-side position.

Side by Side

In doubles a position in which the two players are next to each other. This is typically considered to be a defensive position, allowing both players to defend a narrow section of the court while staying well back from the net. This position is most effective when the two players are of similar ability, with a mismatched pair being vulnerable to attacks on the weaker player. Doubles play generally rotates between front-and-back and side-by-side positions.


"A match where there is one player on each of the opposing sides." (2)


The feathered section of a shuttlecock. Or (briefly) the mandated attire for ladies during an abortive attempt by BWF to make our great sport more "attractive" when broadcast to the masses.

Slice (Cut)

A shot hit with the face of the racket at an angle instead off of perpendicular to the travel of the shuttle. When used at the net (cut drop), the intent is typically to impart a backward spin (tumble) to the shuttle causing it to fall quickly and be more difficult to return. When used in backcourt it is typically used for deception. A full power swing that appears to be a smash can be converted into a drop by turning the racket face a little and thereby slicing and taking power off of the shot. Copious practice is needed of course to do this with reasonable accuracy.


Hard-hit overhead shot that forces the shuttle sharply downward. Badminton's primary attacking stroke.

Smooth Side

The opposite side of the racket from the trim's loops.

Spin Serve

A short serve produced by hitting the shuttle's skirt instead of the base, causing the shuttle to tumble and move in an erratic path. To do this one holds the shuttle backward- with the feathers pointing to the server rather than the base. This serve was outlawed in 1982 by a rules change (9.1.4) that mandates that the base of the shuttle be contacted first. While the spin serve was indeed more interesting to return, it also destroyed shuttles very quickly.

Split Step

A movement used by players in preparation for returning a shuttle. The ideal split step involves a slight upward and outward (laterally) movement of both feet, executed as soon possible after the shuttle's trajectory is noted, with body weight being shifted onto the foot opposite the direction of the shuttle. That is, if the shuttle is being hit to the right, one ends up with the weight on the left foot. From here the weighted foot is used to push off toward the shuttle. Note that timing is critical since too early or too late slows reaction rather than speeding it. Also the upward movement is not a jump (too much energy used) but rather just enough to take weight off feet and allow then to move laterally. 


The position of one's body and feet while waiting for the opponent to hit the shuttle. Can be very important since improper stance can give unwanted clues to the opponent and make quick effective response more difficult. Classic improper stance for beginners would be flat-footed with weight on heels.


"A movement of the player’s racket with an intention to hit the shuttle." (2)

Straight Games

A win in consecutive games with no lost games.


The center section of the racket stringing where the response is uniform and hence offers maximum playability. Near the rim of the racket the string becomes more rigid and less responsive, an effect that varies depending upon closeness to the rim. The extent of the sweetspot depends upon racket design, the string chosen, and generally varies inversely with the tension used in stringing the racket.  Shots hit outside of the sweetspot are less predictable and impart less energy to the shuttle so it is desirable to hit most shots in the sweetspot. Beginning players hence benefit from looser stringing which yields larger sweetspot.

T (T-Junction)

The intersection of the center line and the short service line. This is used as a reference point for short serves and as a base for much net play.


The joint connecting the head and shaft of a racket. During  the transition from continuous frames of wood or bamboo, a wide variety of materials were used, in many cases leading to separate construction of the head and shaft. This allowed for, say a metal shaft and a metal head (like the venerable Carlton 3.x series) or composite shaft with metal head (Carlton 3.7S or the Yonex Cab 8). However, this left the designers the odious task of having to fasten together two tubular objects (the head and shaft) with a joint that could take massive amounts of abuse. The "T" joint was indeed shaped like a "T" and very often became the first point of failure for a racket. The T-Joint is effectively eliminated on modern composite rackets the same way it was in the past: by making a frame as a continuous piece rather than attaching a head to a frame.


The three-inch solid strip running along the top of the net, as specified in the rules. This is generally white in order provide a highly visible reference.


The force used to pull on string when stringing the racket. After choice of string, the most important decision to be made is the tension. Tension is usually measured in pounds though sometimes kg (a metric unit but a measure of mass, not force- go figure!) and varies from maybe 6 lbs or so for cheap recreational rackets to perhaps 35 lbs for some players that have high-tension rackets. Typical modern string is usually between 20 and 30 lbs. As with choice of racket or string there is no one "correct" tension so players need to experiment and find what works best for them.

Test Mark

The two small marks on a court indicating the range into which a proper speed shuttle will land during testing (see rules).


The lower end of the racket head adjacent to the junction between shaft and head. Used by racket stringers to identify the string holes in the frame. "1T" hole is the first hole to either side of the throat. "2T" is the next hole, etc.

Thumb-Up Grip

A grip in which the racket is rotated away from normal such that the head is parallel to the net with the back of the racket is facing the net and the thumb is up on the backside of the grip. It is not generally used since it limits power and control and can lead to injuries. The exception is for net play where a squared head allows for very quick response on backhand or forehand side without changing grip. This is most effectively done with the fingers rather than wrist or arm motion. See also Frying-Pan Grip.

Tipping (the Shuttle)

Adjusting the speed of a shuttlecock by bending the tips of the feathers. Since playing conditions such as temperature and humidity affect shuttle speed it is useful to be able to adjust one's shuttles for the conditions. With a little practice speed can be fine-tuned, with variables of how many feathers to tip (every second or third is common, every feather means you probably have wrong speed) and how much (start with very small tip- say a couple of mm). Usually slowing a shuttle (bending tips outward) is better than speeding it since bending tips inward more often affects the shuttle's stability. A good reason why it is better to purchase shuttles a little slow than a little fast.

Toss (shuttle)(coin)

The determination of who decides serve or sides (see Rules) is done using a random binary event such as a coin toss (heads or tails) or a shuttle toss (throw up shuttle and see which way it points, assuming of course that it doesn't end up vertical!).

Toss Serve

A serve in which the server throws the shuttle up or to the side and lets it fall before hitting it. Almost exclusively used for forehand singles serves.

"Touch" (or "Hit")

A call seen in doubles games indicating that one player has contacted the shuttle in passing. This would typically be the front player on a doubles team and is used to make sure that the other players know that the shuttle is now out of play.

Towel Grip

A grip overwrap made of terry cloth just like typical towels, hence the name "towel" grip. Widely used in the past but less so today with the many very effective grip overwraps available. The towel grip is very good for players who like the feel or sweat heavily.


Can refer either to the boundary lines themselves, or, more commonly to the Alleys (as in side tramline or rear tramline).


In the old days with wooden rackets when 10 lbs or so of tension was tight, a string was used at top and bottom of the racket to help keep the mains from separating. This string- the "trim"- was a double string starting from one side and looped around each main, resulting in the trim crossing between mains toward one side of the racket, and hence a "rough" side and a "smooth" side. When deciding serve and side, players could spin a racket on its top (DON'T do that with your $200 carbon racket!) and call "rough" or "smooth". The modern equivalent is coin toss or more informally since most players don't have a coin handy on court, a toss of the shuttle.


The ability of a shuttle to reverse direction and obtain a new stable base-forward orientation. The flexible skirts of synthetic shuttles allow the shuttle to fly "backwards" relatively long and until the skirts recover their shape the shuttle can't settle into stable flight. The stiff skirts of feathered shuttle allow faster recovery and hence better turnover. Not surprisingly a key goal of synthetic shuttle designers is a stiff skirt and turnover as close as possible to feathers. Turnover is especially important for delicate net work since one wants to contact the base (rather than skirt) for good control.

Two-Piece (stringing)  (aka 4-Knot Stringing)

With two-piece stringing one piece of string is used for the mains and then a second piece is used for the crosses, resulting in four tie-off knots, one at the head end three at the throat end. The crosses and mains may or may not be strung to the same tension. Two-piece stringing is recommended by some manufacturers. In other cases it is used for hybrid stringing.

Unforced Error

A mistake or error or mishit caused not by an opponent's good play but rather by a player's bad play. For instance, returning a normally playable shot into the net is an "unforced" error. Unforced errors can be due to lack of concentration or due to inconsistency of shots. The latter is why drills with many shot repetitions are necessary.

"Up" ("Go Up")

A call between doubles partners indicating that one partner would like the other to move to the forecourt and hence to a front-and-back position. The player calling "Up" is of course intending to attack (smash or drop).


A seemingly obvious term and we all know that the shuttle must be below the waist at time of service. The question becomes: just where is the waist? In the past it was not uncommon for service judge to ask players to tuck in their shirts, using the waistband of their shorts as the location of their "waist". The current rules specify the waist as the bottom of the ribcage, but that's not generally visible. Instead what's commonly used is the height of the elbow when standing upright as this is quite visible and remarkably close to the rules. Since the location of the waist is loosely defined it becomes quite subjective, with different service judges calling serves differently. This is a motivation for the fixed-height serve that is being experimented with (as of 2018).

Historically "waist" was also used to refer to the center section of the court, as the court was narrower at the net than at the back.

Wood Shot

Any shot in which the base of the shuttle is hit by the frame (either head or shaft) of the racket rather than the strings. For a period between 1950 and 1963 wood shots were considered a fault. Since it was very difficult even for the hitter to reliably determine if a wood shot occurred, wood shots became legal and remain so. The term "wood" shot of course is derived from the wooden frames that were used in that era.


These definitions and terms are borrowed from experience and from multiple sources, some of which are old but included for historical reference (and sometimes amusement). Feel free to submit additions and alterations to Stan Bischof (

    1. The Encyclopaedia of Badminton, Pat Davis. Robert Hales Limited, 1987.
    2. IBF Rulebook
    3. 1995 USAB Media Guide
    4. Better Badminton, Jackson and Swan. A.S. Barnes and Company, 1939.

Stan Bischof ( Last Update:08 Apr 2019 08:39