Volleyball Terms and Definitions

Volleyball Terms and Definitions

As with any sport, volleyball has its own unique terminology and jargon used by players, coaches, and fans. Here are explanations of some common volleyball terms:

Common Volleyball Terms

Here is an alphabetical list explaining some common volleyball terms:


Ace – A serve that results directly in a point, without being touched by the opposing team.

Antenna – The vertical rods that mark the sidelines and are above the edges of the net.

Approach – The motions and steps taken by a player before jumping for an attacking hit or block.

Assist – A pass that sets up a teammate for an attack that results in a kill.

Attack – Also called a spike. Any offensive play that aims to send the ball over the net and ground it on the opponent’s court.


Back row attack – When a back row player attacks the ball by jumping from behind the 10-foot line before approaching the net.

Back set – A set delivered behind the setter, such as when they are facing the net.

Ball handling – The ability to effectively pass, set, serve, attack, and otherwise control the ball.

Basket – Forming hands together in the shape of a basket to lift and handle the ball on contact.

Block – When players at the net jump and reach above the net to deflect an opponent’s attacked ball.

Block assist – A statistic awarded to a player whose block was touched by a teammate and resulted in a point.

Blocking error – A block that goes out of bounds and results in a point for the opposing team.

Break – When a serving team fails to win a point while serving, resulting in a side out.

Bump – The most common forearm passing technique. The ball is contacted with joined forearms and pushed up toward the attacker.


Campfire – When players on defense yell “ball!” or “got it!” to communicate who will play the ball.

Center line – The boundary that splits the court lengthwise into even halves.

Chicken wing – Illegal blocking technique when a player fully extends one arm during a block.

Control error – A mistake made when a player fails to successfully handle the ball, such as passing or attacking errors.

Court – The playing area consisting of two 30-ft x 60-ft halves separated by the net.

Coverage – The arrangement of defenders and blockers to cover court areas and passing angles.

Crosscourt shot – Hitting the ball diagonally from one corner of the court to the opposite corner.

Crossing spaces – When blockers or defenders responsible for adjacent sections of the court get out of position.

Cut shot – A strategic tip or roll shot aimed close to the net so defenders can’t react in time.


Defense – Preventing successful attacks from the opposing team, through digging, receiving, blocking, etc.

Dig – A defensive technique used to prevent attacks from grounding. The ball is contacted by joining the forearms together and scooping it up toward a teammate.

Digging error – Failure to properly handle a hard-driven attack, resulting in the ball hitting the floor.

Dinking – Lightly placing the ball over the net by tapping it softly with one hand.

Dump – A surprise attack where the setter does a fake set and then tips the ball over the net.


Five-one – A common offensive system using five hitters and one setter.

Floater – A knuckleball serve that travels erratically, making it hard to receive.

Free ball – A loose, non-attacking pass given over the net when receiving a tough serve.


Hard driven attack – A powerful, fast-moving spike aimed at the deepest part of the opponents court.


Joust – When opposing players are simultaneously hitting the ball above the net, competing for the point.

Jump serve – An aggressive serve where the player tosses the ball high then jumps and strikes it with an overhand hitting motion.

Jumping error – When a player’s footwork timing is off, causing them to land illegally or hit the net.


Kill – An attack that results immediately in a point or side out.


Let serve – An illegal serve where the ball touches the net but still goes over. Play continues, but it’s a fault.

Libero – A specialized defensive player who wears a different color jersey. The libero can replace any player in the back row.

Line shot – Hitting the ball down the sideline in attempt to avoid blockers at the net.


Middle blocker – The front row player who operates mostly in the middle of the net for blocking and attacking.


Outside hitter – A front row attacker who plays near the antenna and specializes in strong attacks.

Overpass – A botched ball handling attempt that goes over the net, allowing opponents to attack.


Pancake – A defensive technique where a player dives and extends their hand flat to save a ball close to the floor.

Pass – Any instance of handling the ball to another teammate, such as bumping or setting.

Passing error – Failing to properly handle a serve receive or dig, resulting in an ace or kill.

Penalty – A rule violation call by the referee resulting in a point or side out.


Quick set – A very fast set performed close to the net so the hitter can attack immediately.


Rally – A full sequence of back-and-forth play between teams resulting in a point.

Red card – A severe penalty in which a player is ejected from the set and must be substituted.

Roll shot – Placing the ball into the opponent’s court with an underhand finger action causing topspin.

Rotation – The ordered sequence of players moving around the court after winning back service.


Serve – To put the ball into play by hitting it over the net and into the opponent’s court.

Serve receive – The first contact after the opponent’s serve, passing to the setter.

Set – An overhead pass using the fingertips that sets up a teammate for an attack.

Slide – An attack from the middle blocker where they start behind the setter and slide over for the set.

Substitution – Replacing one player on the court with a new player from the roster.


Tooling – When an attack hits the top of the blocker’s hands and deflects out of bounds.

Transition – Switching from offense to defense quickly after a play.


Volleyball positions – The specialized roles like setter, libero, middle blocker, etc.


Wipe – A one-armed defensive swing at a spiked ball, directing it to the court floor.

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