Tennis Terms To Know When Playing The Sport

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Tennis is a popular sport that’s fairly easy to learn. All you need is a racquet, a can of balls, and some sneakers. Well, if you want to look the part, maybe invest in a crocodile polo shirt. Here are some tennis terms you can impress your doubles opponents with after a tough three setter. By the way, the name “tennis” is derived from the Middle English tenetz; the imperative plural of tenir, or “to hold.”


We all know the conventional meaning of the word love. In fact, has close to 30 different definitions/usages for the word. In tennis, it simply means that one player has no points during a game in a set. A player can lose a game, or a set, at love. If you want to think through a literal route, “l’oeuf” means egg in French, and an egg does look a little bit like a zero. The New York Times says “some historians believe English mispronunciations corrupted the word.” C’est incroyable!

Double Bagel

A bagel is something you have with your coffee in the morning, but it also has a tennis context (although it’s very rare). This is when one player beats the other 6-0, 6-0. The two zeroes in the score resemble two bagels, and there you have it! There’s also, of course, a triple bagel—losing three sets by the same 6-0 score. Ouch! Time to take up golf instead?

Golden Set

This is a tennis-only term that you won’t need to use off the court, but if you get to use it in reference to yourself, we’re impressed. A golden set is when you win every point of every game. Four points per game, six games per set. Twenty-four straight points, which means some spectators are barely seated before the set is over.


One definition for poaching is illegally trespassing on someone’s property, to hunt or steal game without the landowner’s permission. And in tennis doubles, poaching is an aggressive tactic. One player strikes a shot towards a player on the opposite baseline, but the baseliner never gets a chance. His partner, hovering around the net, decides to intervene—and sharply volleys the ball back. A poach is sharp, quick, and decisive.


Normally, the word let means to allow, or permit. If your serve touches the net but still lands in the service box, that’s known as a let, and you get to give it another try. Theoretically, this could happen over and over again on the same serve, but after the first let, or “let cord,” the serve generally clears the net, going either in or out, which is a “fault.”


Deuce has several meanings, all referencing “two” of something. In tennis, if the score of the current game is “deuce,” that stands for 40-all. In this instance, deux which means “two,” is referring to the two points the player will need to win.” But interestingly, the French don’t use deuce in their scoring, preferring égalité, which means “equal.”


While your tennis games at the park will still have to rely on your own eyes, the Hawk-Eye is an extremely accurate computer system that is used to track the path of a ball for certain sports. Hawk-Eye is there to tell us whether a ball is in or out. If this had been in use when John McEnroe played, we may never have heard him yell his famous “You cannot be serious!” at Wimbledon.

Blame The Clock

A theory about tennis scoring is it’s related to the hands of a clock. First point, you get 15. Second point, you get to 30. Logically, you’d think the next point in sequence would be 45, right? Nope. The next point is 40. While there are theories, the truth is that no one really knows why it is the way it is. It’s part of the charm of tennis! Or the confusion.


Food once again enters the picture. While we learned earlier that “l’oeuf” means egg and two bagels look a lot like zeros, a breadstick is when you win or lose a set 6-1. The 1 in this case, you guessed it, resembles a breadstick. It could’ve also been called “celery” or a “carrot,” one supposes.


A lob is when a player returns the ball to the other side of the court in a slow, high arch. You’ve got your opponent well out of position, and they have to scramble back to try and put up a desperate return. This can lead to what’s known as a “tweener,” which is a tricky shot, indeed…


One definition for tweener is an athlete who doesn’t possess “enough size for one position, or enough quickness for another.” But in tennis, this is also a real show-off shot, and a true crowd pleaser. Basically, a player has lobbed you when you’re out of position up by the net. You race backward and all you can do, besides praying, is flick the shot back between your legs. This must be attempted with extreme care, for obvious reasons. If you mess it up, that’s probably your last try.

Foot Fault

The idea of a foot fault goes back to 1885, when tennis was quite the genteel sport. A foot fault is when the player’s foot lands on the baseline when serving the ball. You really don’t see this called a lot in tennis, but it does happen: Serena Williams was defaulted out of the 2009 U.S. Open when a foot fault call resulted in a profane tirade from the player. Love can’t always be the answer.

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Word of the Day

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[ pee-oh-vee ]

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Word of the day

[ pee-oh-vee ]