Volleyball Terms

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If you are determined to pursue volleyball professionally, it is essential to be aware of the foundational understanding of the sport in general. Once you are aware of the rules, you need to move on to the volleyball terms to dive deep into the sport. 

Volleyball Terms

Keeping up with the technology might seem challenging, but once you break it down into categories, it becomes pretty easy to keep them in mind. Moreover, to succeed in the game, it is necessary to be aware of every possible milestone of the game. In this article, I will be discussing crucial volleyball terms from A to Z.

The Letter A

Here are some terminologies from letter A:

  • Ace: A serve that results in a direct point is called an ace. The ball can directly hit the opponent’s side if the ball is not kept into play after touching.
  • Antenna: Vertical rods that are mounted near the edge of the net. They are usually used to determine if the volleyball is in play or not. It is usually colored white and red. Antennas aren’t also generally used for outdoor nets. 
  • Assist: If a player passes, digs, or sets the ball directly to the attacker and can get a kill.
  • Attack: The motion of attempting to hit the ball into the side of the opponent’s court. Attacks can be categorized into types which include a spike, tip, roll shot, and dump. 
  • Attacker: An attacker or a spiker is the team member that hits the ball with great strength, intending to terminate the play.
  • Attack Block: When the opposing defense team manages to block a spiked ball is called an attack block.
  • Attack Error: If the spiked ball results in a violation or is blocked by the defending team results in an attack error.
  • Attack Line: A line that separates the front row players from the back row players. The line should be 3 meters or 10 feet away from the net. It should also be parallel to the net. Back row players are not allowed to attack the ball unless they take off from behind the attack line or they will be called for a violation. 
A spiker hitting the volley ball to the blockers

The Letter B

The terminologies from the letter B are as follows:

  • Back Row: A part of the court. It is the space from the baseline up to the attack line. There are 3 players that are in this area. They are positions 1,6, and 5 on the court. 
  • Back Row Attack: The attack made from the back row line, i.e., 3m, is known as a back-row attack.
  • Back Set: A set that is delivered to the hitter behind the setter. 
  • Ball Handling Error: When an official calls a double hit, a thrown ball, or a lift with the exception of a serve reception or attack. It also includes any blocking errors like going into the net, centerline violation, and others. 
  • Baseline: The line at the end of the court or the back boundary.
  • Beach Dig: Also called “deep dish”, a move where you receive the ball with an open hand.
  • Block: A combination of one, two, or three players that prevent the ball from the opposing spiker by jumping over the net.
  • Block Error: The violation made while blocking is known as a blocking error.
  • Bump: a general term for forearm passing
  • Bump Pass: passing move where you join the forearms to pass or set the volleyball in an underhanded way. 

The Letter C

The terminologies from the letter C are as follows:

  • Campfire: refers to a ball that falls to the floor where it’s surrounded by two or more players. It got its name from the appearance of the image of the players surrounding the volleyball as if encircling a campfire. 
  • Center Line: the line that divides the court into two equal halves. It runs under the net
  • Closing the Block: The gesture of putting the body at an angle by the assisting blocker is known as closing the block.
  • Collapse: a side to side defensive action. The player does a side lunge. The player then passes the ball and falls to the floor on the side of their thigh or butt. 
  • Commit Blocking: A blocking strategy where the blocker focuses on one attacker. It is most commonly used by middle blockers
  • Court Coverage: The area assignment of every player both on the offensive and defensive play. 
  • Cover: This term is used by the hitter referring to his teammates asking them to retrieve any rebounds from the blockers of the opposite team
  • Cross Court Shot: A shot where a player attacks directed at an angle from one end of the offensive team’s court to the other end of the defensive team’s court.  
  • Cut-shot: The spike that travels at a sharp angle across the net. This hit is usually from the dominating side of the hitter.

Here is a link to the video explaining how you can cover the hitter of your team.

The Letter D

Here are some of the terms starting from the letter D:

  • Dead Ball: A call from the referee where the ball is not in play. It is usually called after scoring a point, side-out, or any other call from the referee that temporarily suspends the play.  
  • Decoy: a fake spiker meant to divert the attention of the defensive end from the actual spiker who will receive the set. 
  • Deep Set: A set meant to be hit away from the net. Its purpose is to confuse or throw off the timing of the blockers. 
  • Dig: This term is used when the player manages to retrieve the ball quite close to the ground. This specific hit has a score of 3.0 points on the scoreboard.
  • Dink: A dink, also known as a tip, involves hitting the ball softly with mere fingertips to the opponent’s side of the court.
  • Dive and Catch: A play where a defensive player dives forward in order to keep the ball alive. The ball is recovered and kept in play while the defensive player is on his chest and abdomen on the ground with their arms and hands cushioned. 
  • Dive and Slide: A play where a defensive player dives forward to keep the ball in play. Unlike dive and catch, the defensive player doesn’t fall to the ground. Instead, he makes a sliding motion and recovers quickly. 
  • Double block: When two blockers work together to intercept the ball close to the net.
  • Double Hit: It is terminology for a violation when a player hits the ball two consecutive times.
  • Doubles: A type of volleyball game with only two players on each side of the court. It is usually played at the beach (sand court). 
  • Double Quick: an action where two hitters approach the setter for a quick inside hit. 
  • Down Ball: This terminology highlights the blockers who defend without raising their hands above the net.
  • Drifting: An error commonly committed by blockers. It is an undue lateral movement which is supposed to be a proper vertical jump. 
  • Dump: When a player drops the ball on the opponent’s side of the court on the second contact, this gesture is usually performed by the setter.
Beach volleyball player doing the dig

The Letter E

Here are some of the terminologies from the letter E:

  • Endlines: also called backlines. They are the lines that run parallel to the court 30 feet or 9 meters away from it. They mark the end of the court and are two inches in width. 
  • Extensions: A defensive move where a player does an extension from either the left or right side. 

The Letter F

Here are some of the terminologies from the letter F:

  • Five-One: It is a brutal team setting that involves fiver hitters and just one setter
  • Five-Set:  A back set aimed towards the right front hitter
  • Flare: inside-out path by an outside spiker. The spiker should be hidden behind a quick hitter. 
  • Floater: It is a special serve in which the ball does not rotate and follows an erratic path.
  • Foot Fault: illegal position of the feet according to court lines and rules
  • Four Set: A set that hits high to the outside hitter
  • Four-Two: An offensive system with four hitters and two setters
  • Free-Ball: When the ball is returned to the opponent’s side without the intention of getting a kill. It usually involves a soft hit, not a spike.
  • Front Court: the area from the net and back to the line 10 feet away from the net. 
  • Front-Row: Players positioned in front of the attack line near the net. These players are in positions 2, 3, and 4 on the court. 

Here is the link to different types of team settings that are present in volleyball.

The Letter H

Here are some of the terminologies starting from the letter H.

  • Held Ball: It is a violation that involves the stopping of the ball through contact.
  • Hit: It is a forceful overhand shot with a jump.
  • Hitter: also called spiker or attacker. The player on the team who’s role is hitting the ball
  • Hitting Percentage: It is a mathematical value derived by subtracting the attacking errors and total kills divided by the total number of attempts.
  • Hybrid Serve: a serve that has the option of floating the serve, hitting with a top spin, or with a partial top spin. It is usually started with a jump float action. 

The Letter I

Here are some of the terminologies from the letter I:

  • In Back of the Block: a defensive area of the back court that is behind the block. This is the area where the defensive player won’t expect to dig a hard spike. 
  • In-bounds: a ball that lands inside the court or touches the line of the court. It’s also a ball that passes over the net within the antennas.
  • Inside the Block: An offensive play where the ball travels between the block and net.

The Letter J

Here are some of the terminologies starting from the letter J:

  • Joust: When the players of both the teams hit the ball simultaneously near the net, that makes the ball ultimately stop is called a joust. Additionally, an official usually calls this play out.
  • Jump Serve: In this particular method of serving, the server tosses the ball into the air and hits the ball in a spiking motion.
  • Jump Set: A set where a player jumps off of the floor. 

The Letter K

Here are some of the terminologies from the letter K:

  • Key Player: This title is allotted to the team’s best player depending on the strategy and habits during the game.
  • Kill: When the hit directly results in a point, the hit has named a kill.

The Letter L

Here are some of the terminologies from the letter L:

  • Lateral Set: a made set where the setter’s shoulders are almost parallel to the direction of the path of the ball. 
  • Let Serve: A serve that makes contact with the net and continues into play. 
  • Libero: a defensive specialist player. The libero must wear a contrasting color from his or her teammates. A libero can’t block or attack the ball when it is fully above the net height. When the ball is not in play, the libero can replace any back row player without notice to the officials. 
  • Lift: A foul where the ball comes to rest on a part of the body. 
  • Lines: Lines are the special marking on the court that highlight the serving areas and the other boundaries.
  • Lineman: These are the officials deployed at the corners and observe the game for any violations.
  • Line Serve: a straight serve that lands near the opponent’s left sideline.
  • Line Shot: a ball spiked towards the opponent’s sideline. It is closest to the hitter and outside the block. 
  • Line-ball: is called when the ball lands in the line. The ball is considered in bounds. 
  • Load: refers to the body position of the blockers so that they are most effective.
Volleyball players jumping with hand over the net

The Letter M 

Here are some of the terminologies from the letter M:

  • Match-up Blocking: a blocking strategy where teams switch the positions of their front row players in order to gain a defensive advantage against the opponent’s attackers. 
  • Middle Back: a defensive system that highlights the middle back player. The middle back player should be in position 6 to cover deep spikes. This defensive system is also called “6 back”. 
  • Middle Blocker: A player that generally plays in the middle of the net whenever the player is in the front row.
  • Middle Up: A defensive system that makes use of the middle back player. The middle back player is also in position 6 and covers tips or short shots along the 3-meter line. It’s also called “6 up” defense. 
  • Multiple Offense: an offensive strategy where all three front court players are attackers while the setter is placed at the back row. 

The Letter N

Here are some of the terminologies from the letter N:

  • Net: Refers to the dividing plane between the two halves of the court. The net is usually made of cord meshes. Touching the net will warrant a foul. 

The Letter O

Here are some of the terminologies from the letter O:

  • Off-blocker: refers to the outside blocker not included in the double block. The player is also called off-side blocker. 
  • Off-speed Shots: refers to shots that are intentionally slowed. It maximizes more spin and also called as “roll shot”.
  • Offense: refers to the strategies and techniques of the team that has control of the ball. 
  • Opposite: refers to a player who plays opposite the setter in the rotation. This player is either also a setter or a right-side depending on the system. 
  • Option: refers to the action of attacking the second touch. 
  • Outside Hitter: refers to a player that plays at the ends of the net in the front row. Outside hitters are also called right-side or left side.
  • Overhand Pass: a pass that uses both hands open and controls the ball with the fingers. The player’s face is directly below the ball. This pass is known for its high accuracy because both hands make contact with the ball and pass it to the intended target. 
  • Overhand Serve: a serve where the ball is struck with the hand above the shoulder. 
  • Overlap: a called violation for a team that has lined up out of rotation when the ball is served. 

The Letter P

Here are some of the terminologies from the letter P:

  • Pancake: a one-hand defensive move where you extend your hand along the floor with the palm facing down. The player usually dives or extension rolls while extending one hand in order to keep the ball in play. 
  • Party Ball: a ball that is passed across the net in front of the attack line. The front-row attacker can quickly hit the ball upon the first contact. 
  • Penetration: refers to the blocker’s ability to reach over the net of the opponent’s court without touching the net. 
  • Perimeter: a backcourt defense in which 4 players position themselves near the boundary of the court. 
  • Pipe: a back row attack made by position 6 from the middle of the court. 
  • Play: an attack strategy that involves a planned fake. It usually involves 2 or more hitters. 
  • Point-run: when more than one point is scored by the same server on the baseline.
  • Power Alley: refers to the area inside the block where most power spikes are targeted to. 
  • Pursuit: the action of keeping the ball in play even if it has traveled outside of the antenna and onto the other side of the net. The ball is then played back to the correct side. 

The Letter Q

Here are some of the terminologies from the letter Q:

  • Quick Set: a move where the set is performed in extremely low vertical. This set can be set at any position on the net. 

The Letter R

Here are some of the terminologies from the letter R:

  • Rally: the series of events wherein the ball is in play. Rallies start at the service and end when the ball is dead or not in play. 
  • Read Blocking: a defensive strategy where the blockers wat and react to the set ball. They rely on observing the setter and predicting the trajectory of the set ball. 
  • Red Card: penalty given to a player or coach for flagrant misconduct. It results in automatic ejection and a point/side out for the other team. 
  • Roll: a defensive maneuver in order to increase the sideward range of motion at a faster time. 
  • Roof: refers to the action of blocking a spike and resulting in a point. 

The Letter S

Here are some of the terminologies from the letter S:

  • Save: the act of recovering the ball that would have hit the floor if not for the extreme effort of the player.
  • Serving Area: an area that is designated as the place to serve. The service area needs to meet the minimum of six feet in depth. 
  • Service Specialist: A player that specializes in serving. They are usually substituted in to serve. When the opponent sides out, the service specialist usually gets subbed out of the match. 
  • Set Attack: the setter tries to score rather than set the ball to a hitter. It is also called a shoot set. 
  • Setter: the player whose role is to set the ball in the air to position it for an attack. 
  • Shade: adjustments made by blockers before a rally. Blockers may take one or two steps to either sideline. 
  • Shallow: when the ball is near the net.
  • Shank: when a pass is notably misdirected
  • Short Serve: a strategy where the server serves the ball into the zone 2, 3, or 4 to disrupt the opponent’s offense. 
  • Sideout: when the serving team fails to score a point and the service side changes.
  • Six-pack: when a player gets hit in the face with the ball
  • Soft Spike: an off-speed spike that uses less force than a normal spike.
  • Spike: may also be called a hit or attack. It is the act of making contact with the ball with force with the intent to land the ball inside the opponent’s court or off the opponent’s block. 
  • Spike Coverage: the position taken by the offensive team when the spiker spikes the ball. This is to prepare the defense in case the spike gets deflected back with a block. 
  • Spiker: the offensive player who spikes the ball into the net. May also be called hitter or attacker. 
  • Stuff: refers to the ball that is deflected back to the attacking team’s court through a block. 
  • Switch: the action of changing court positions after a ball is served. It’s a strategy to position your players in their best positions. 

The Letter T

Here are some of the terminologies from the letter T:

  • Tandem: a combination where one player attacks quickly behind another player. 
  • Tape: refers to the top of the net.
  • Tip: A tip is a one-handed soft hit towards the opponent’s court with the use of the fingertips. Also called a “dink”
  • Tool: the attacker scores off by hitting the ball off an opposing blockers arms and out of bounds. It is also referred to as “wipe”.
  • Toss: another term to call set. It is widely used internationally. The setter is sometimes called the tosser. 
  • Touch: A player that makes contact with the ball on the defensive play. 
  • Triple-Block: A block formed by three front-row players. 

The Letter U

Here are some of the terminologies from the letter U:

The Letter V

Here are some of the terminologies from the letter V:

  • Volley: Same definition as Rally. 

The Letter W

Here are some of the terminologies from the letter W:

  • Waffle: the act of attacking the ball (spike or serve) with no spin and travels far away outside the court. 
  • Wipe: Same definition as the term Tool. 

The Letter Y

Here are some of the terminologies from the letter Y:

  • Yellow Card: penalty given by the official to either a player or a coach for a warning of misconduct. Two yellow cards will result in an automatic red card

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Libero?

Liberos are defense specialists of the team. A team can only have two libero (extras included), and only one libero can be present on the volleyball court.

How Is a Libero Different From Other Defence Players?

A libero has a different jersey, plays in the back row, unlike other defence players, and he/she cannot attack in the game.


In general, there are a lot of terminologies involved in volleyball. At times, it might seem overwhelming to remember the rules and everything, especially if you are a new player.

However, with your growing hours at the volleyball court, you will see yourself coming across various terminologies, and they will eventually get registered in your memory.

Tim Frechette is an avid athlete, having played sports like soccer and basketball his entire life. He brings a wealth of athletic knowledge to his writing.