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Two older pickleball players playing on a court.
Two pickleball players enjoying a match. Shutterstock

Does pickleball need a new name?

DALLAS, TX – Do you remember what went through your mind when you first heard the word "pickleball" on the street? Maybe it sounded a little odd at the time, right? 

I mean, what on earth does a pickled cucumber have to do with a racket sport? 

It’s an awfully odd name, especially when compared to similar sports like tennis, racquetball, and padel. Pickleball is certainly a memorable name, though not very “serious.”

As it continues to grow in popularity and gain more and more international reach, does pickleball need new name? Maybe something less vegetable-y?   

A user on the Pickleball Facebook Forum posed the question:

“As the game grows globally, with new technologies and techniques, may I propose a name change? Tech ball (technical ball sports) or maybe Pace ball (due to the trend of drives). I expect opinions and understand origins, this comes from someone outside of America struggling to promote this game to a vast and growing demographic without making reference to a dog or relish recipe,” wrote Irish McSpud.

basket of pickleballs
A basket of pickleballs. Shutterstock

Pickleball reportedly got its name from the founding family’s dog named Pickles. However, Pickles was actually named after the game, not the other way around. 

In fact, the name originated from “pickle boats” in crew races. Pickle boats refer to weak or mismatched rowers thrown together for fun crew races. Since pickleball also combines elements from different sports, the family saw the correlation.

Thus, pickleball got its name.  

“It’s no different than squash, rugby, or curling. Those are all weird names but people get used to it,” mentioned Debbie Phelps. 

Yes, “squash” feels just as silly of a name as pickleball, and its origins are equally as ambiguous and up for debate. 

“Squash could possibly refer to the sound that a rubber ball makes when it smashes against a stone wall,” theorized James Zug in the History of Squash in Ten and a Half Chapters.

Batsman hitting a cricket ball
Two cricket players. Shutterstock

Then there’s “cricket,” another game with an unconventional name. Its origins came from the Middle Dutch word, “kricke” which means “stick or staff.” As the sport grew and spread across the world, the name evolved to cricket. 

“Don’t tamper with a good thing and replace the name with some generic name,” said Pam Schillig Coblyn. 

I have to agree with Coblyn. Along with the overwhelming majority on the Forum, I'm also fond of the silly little name.

“Pickleball is a fun name for a fun sport, please don’t mess with it,” added Sam White.   

Pickleball is a memorable name, that’s for sure. And a memorable name is a good thing to help foster further growth and development. A vague name like “tech ball” is not only going to get confused with other sports, it’s not memorable whatsoever. It doesn’t stick. 

People are also fond of the name because pickleball originated in the U.S. There’s no need to change a good thing. 

But, if international name appeal is what the sport’s after, then we simply do what American football and soccer did - change the name for an international audience. Though, pickleball is always going to be a better name than any generic name that is ultimately proposed. 

What do you think? Does pickleball need a more serious name as it grows, evolves, and advances? Leave us a comment on Instagram or X (formerly Twitter).

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