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This page covers the vocabulary and language of badminton by looking at its background, equipment and people. Check your understanding with the vocabulary quiz and comprehension quiz.

badmintonFrom the backstreets of Bangkok to the beaches of Brazil, people can be seen hitting feathery projectiles called shuttlecocks with light-weight rackets. These shuttlecocks and rackets are the basic tools of badminton, and they are all you need for a session of "bat" in which you and a friend hit a shuttlecock to each other for as long as possible without letting it touch the ground. This fun activity is not only a good form of exercise, it's also a great way of practising the skills you'll need for a real game of badminton should you ever find yourself on a proper badminton court. While growing in popularity as a fun way of keeping fit, badminton is also developing fast as a professional sport with its own calendar of exciting tournaments and its own band of star international players.

There is no "g" in badminton (that is, it is not spelled "badmington").


Games similar to badminton have existed throughout history, from ancient Greece to medieval Japan and colonial India, where a form of the game called "poona" was played. In the 1860's, British Army officers posted to India took the game home to England, where it became a popular pastime for the wealthier classes. In 1873, the Duke of Beaufort introduced the game to his guests during a gathering at Badminton House, his home in Gloucestershire. The sport was then known as "The Game of Badminton" for a number of years, until the name was shortened to "badminton". The Badminton Association of England was formed in 1893 and soon after they published the first set of rules. In 1899 they organized the All England Open Badminton Championships, the world's first major badminton competition. The Badminton World Federation (BWF) was established in 1934, and since then the game has developed into a truly international sport, with top players now coming from Denmark, China, Indonesia, South Korea and Malaysia. Since 1992, badminton has also been an Olympic sport, with events for both men and women.

How The Game Works

Badminton is played on a court marked for both singles and doubles matches. The doubles court is 6.1 metres (20 feet) wide and 13.4 m (44 ft) long, and the singles court is a little smaller. The net is 1.55 m (5 ft 1 inch) high at the edges and 1.524 m (5 ft) high in the centre.

badminton courtTo begin a singles game, players stand in diagonally opposite service courts (see diagram at right) and the server then serves the shuttlecock underhand from below the waist. If the receiver thinks the serve is a fault, meaning it will land outside the receiver's service court, he or she can leave it and win the point if it does go out. But if the receiver thinks the serve is good, he or she must return it before it bounces. If the return is good, a rally begins. The rally continues until someone wins it by hitting a good shot which their opponent cannot return, or until someone loses it by hitting a fault. Faults include hitting the shuttlecock into the net, hitting it outside the court, or hitting it twice with two separate shots before it goes over the net. Whoever wins the rally earns one point, and serves to start the next point. Players can use a range of shots during a rally, including drop shots, drives, clears, smashes, kills, net shots and push shots. Top players learn to disguise their shots, and try to trick the opponent into thinking they're about to hit one type of shot, but then hit a very different type of shot, hoping to win the point by surprising the opponent.

Play continues until one player wins the game by being the first to earn 21 points, with a margin of at least 2 points. For example, if the score is 21 to 19, the game is over. But if the score is 21 to 20, the game continues. If the player with 21 points then wins a point, the score is 22 to 20 and the game is over. Matches are usually the best of three games. This means the first player to win two games wins the match.

Before May 2006, players could only win a point on their own serve. But the scoring system was changed in 2006, and now players can earn a point on their own serve and also when their opponent serves.


The Badminton World Federation (BWF) runs several tournaments for national teams, including the World Men's Team Championship, also known as the Thomas Cup, and the World Team Championships for Women, also known as the Uber Cup. These tournaments are held between national teams every two years, as is The Sudirman Cup, a mixed team event that began in 1989.

International tournaments for individual players include the BWF World Championships, in which the 64 highest-ranked players in the world are invited to compete every year for the title of "World Champion". Badminton first became an Olympic sport at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. For the men's and women's singles events, qualification is granted to the top 29 players in the BWF's ranking list. For the men's doubles, the women's doubles and the mixed doubles, the 19 top-ranked pairs are invited to compete. Only five countries have won the Olympic gold medals since badminton's introduction in 1992 - China (8), Indonesia (5) and Korea (5) and Denmark (1).

Famous Players

Peter Høeg Gade

Peter GadePeter Høeg Gade (right) was born in 1976 in Denmark. He is one of the most successful badminton players of recent times, leading the world rankings from 1998 to 2001. He won the All England Open Badminton Championships singles title in 1999 as well as four European Championship crowns in the men's singles event and sixteen Grand-Prix titles. In 2006, at the age of thirty, he regained the top spot in the world rankings after winning the Singapore Open. Gade is well known for his tactical brilliance, his movement around the court and his ability to disguise his shots.

Fu Haifeng

Fu Haifeng was born in 1984 in Guangdong province in the People's Republic of China. He was ranked number one in the world in 2007 after being the 2006 World Champion in men's doubles together with his playing partner, Cai Yun. Much of Fu Haifeng's fame in the world of badminton results from the fact that he set the official world smash speed record on June 3, 2005. The shuttlecock's speed was measured at 332 km/h (approximately 206 mph), making badminton the fastest racket sport in the world.

Badminton Vocabulary List

word example sentence meaning
ace Jenny's accuracy means she serves lots of aces. a serve that the opponent fails to hit
backcourt I ran to the backcourt to return his lob. back third of the court (same as "rearcourt")
backhand If his backhand is weak, play more to his left side. a stroke made on the side of the body opposite the racket side
baseline The shuttlecock landed just inside the baseline. back line of the court
bird / birdie The U.S. players say birdie instead of shuttlecock. shuttlecock (mostly used in North America)
carry The umpire called my shot a carry, so I lost the point. an illegal stroke in which the shuttle is caught and held on the racket before being released; also called a "sling" or "throw"
centre line The centre line divides the court into two service courts. a line that separates the left and right service courts
clear She hit a clear high and to the back of her opponent's court. a shot hit deep into the opponent's court
doubles Why don't you ask her to be your partner in mixed doubles? a game between teams of two players
drop shot He was at the back of the court, so I played a drop shot and he couldn't reach it. a shot that just clears the net and then drops sharply
drive She played a forehand drive straight down the line and won the point. a fast hard shot
fault It is also a fault if the shuttlecock hits the ceiling during a rally. a foul shot, such as one that hits the net or lands outside the court
forecourt If you play from the forecourt, you'll have a better chance of hitting a winner. the front third of the court
home position Players in singles matches try to get back to the home position whenever they can during a game. central position on court which is halfway between the baseline and net, and the two sidelines
kill / kill shot You can hit a net kill if the shuttlecock comes high over the net. fast downward shot that cannot be returned
let Unlike in tennis, if a serve hits the top of the net and then goes over it isn't called a let. a minor violation of the rules requiring a rally to be replayed
lob Her lob flew high into the air and dropped into the back of the court, just inside the baseline. a shot that is hit in a high arc, usually over the opponent's head
net The shuttlecock hit the top of the net and just went over, so she won the point. the length of meshed material supported on a cord between two posts that divides the court
net shot Net shots are good to play if your opponent is in his or her rearcourt. a shot hit from the forecourt that just clears the net and drops sharply
passing shot She beat her opponent with a strong passing shot down the line. a shot which passes the opponent
push shot He tried to play a push shot, but it was too soft and it went into the net. a soft shot played by pushing the shuttlecock with a little wrist motion
racket (also racquet) A badminton racket is smaller and lighter than a tennis racket. the instrument used by players to hit the shuttlecock
rally The crowd applauded after watching another long, exciting rally. a series of shots hit back and forth across the net
rearcourt Players try not to get caught in the rearcourt if possible. rear third of the court (same as "backcourt")
serve In tennis players use overhead serves, but in badminton they use underarm serves. a shot which begins play
service court You have to serve from inside your own service court. the area into which a serve must be hit
short serve A good player can surprise his or her opponent by disguising a short serve. a serve that barely clears the net and lands just inside the receiver's service court
smash Dan jumped high in the air and hit a powerful smash to win the rally. a powerful overhead shot
wood shot He was lucky when he hit a wood shot and the shuttlecock still went over the net. a legal shot in which the shuttlecock hits the frame of the racket

Contributor: Matt Errey creator of Word Up