[ gohl-ten-ding ]
/ ˈgoʊlˌtɛn dɪŋ /
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Basketball. any of several violations that prevent a goal from being scored, occurring when a player interferes with a shot by touching the ball on its downward flight to the basket or while it is over, on, or within the rim of the basket.
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Origin of goaltending

First recorded in 1935–40; goal + tend2 + -ing1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does goaltending mean?

In basketball, goaltending refers to a rules violation in which a player interferes with a shot by touching the ball on its downward flight to the basket or while it is over, on, or within the rim of the basket.

The word goaltending can also refer to the act of being a goaltender, which in sports like ice hockey and lacrosse is another name for the goalkeeper. This is the player positioned in front of the goal whose job is to prevent the ball or puck from entering it (or crossing the goal line). (Basketball does not have a goaltender or goalkeeper position.)

In basketball, when a player interferes with the ball in a certain way, the referee will call goaltending. Goaltending is often done accidentally by a defensive player trying to keep the ball from going in the basket. When the referee calls goaltending on a play like this, the basket will be counted as if the ball had gone in, and the offensive team will be awarded points for it.

Goaltending can also be done by an offensive player who interferes with the ball in this way. In this case, the basket is not counted, and no points are awarded (even if the ball went in).

The informal verb goaltend is sometimes used in basketball to refer to the action of goaltending, as in Don’t goaltend by hitting the ball on its way down. Goaltend is also informally used to refer to an instance of doing so or to the call made by the referee, as in She just got called for a goaltend.

Example: The replay shows that he touched the ball on the way down, so they’re going to call this goaltending.

Where does goaltending come from?

The first records of the word goaltending come from the late 1800s, but it wasn’t until the late 1930s that it was used in reference to basketball. In the earlier word goaltender, the word tender refers “someone who tends to or takes care of something” (it’s used in a similar way in the word bartender).

In a lot of sports, the object of the game is to get the ball or puck into the goal. And in most of those sports, there is someone there to guard the goal and try to prevent that from happening: the goalkeeper or goaltender. In basketball, though, there is no goalie, and all defensive players try to prevent the other team from putting the ball in the hoop. Because positioning a player under the basket to swat the ball away any time it gets near the rim would make it too difficult to score, the goaltending rule was introduced. Rules vary in different leagues, but players usually can only touch the ball on its way up, not on its way down (in college and professional basketball, instant replay is often called upon to determine whether this has happened). Goaltending can also consist of a player touching the ball when it’s inside or within the circle or the rim, or after the ball has touched the backboard and is near the rim.

When goaltending is used in the context of sports with goaltenders (like ice hockey), it’s often used in discussion of how a goaltender has performed, as in We’ve some excellent goaltending from him during this series.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to goaltending?

What are some words that share a root or word element with goaltending

What are some words that often get used in discussing goaltending?

How is ​goaltending used in real life?

Goaltending is most commonly used in the context of basketball and ice hockey, but it’s used in a different way for each sport.



Try using goaltending!

Is goaltending used correctly in the following sentence?

That’s just poor goaltending by the goalie.

How to use goaltending in a sentence