Lacrosse Terms

Glossary of Lacrosse Terms

If someone asked you what the fastest growing team sport in America is, would you have guessed Lacrosse? Most likely not. Would you have also guessed that it is the oldest sport native to North America, with Native Americans picking up lacrosse sticks nearly a thousand years ago? Didn’t think so. Lacrosse is played on every continent on earth except Antarctica (What Antarcticans have against Lacrosse, we don’t know) and it is only getting more popular.


Lacrosse, the sport, the lingo, the life, is deeper and wider than many people first imagine. Dipping your toes into the wide world of lacrosse can feel overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be.


Here is your very own comprehensive Glossary of Lacrosse Terms. Familiarize yourself with these terms, pepper them into casual conversation, shout them at your next lacrosse game. In no time you’ll go from layman to lax rat. What’s a lax rat? Read on and find out!


The last pass that leads to a goal. The player passing the ball gets an assist if the goal scorer is able to score without having to beat a defender. An especially nifty pass is sometimes called a “dime” or a “dish.”

Attack Area

The zone of the lacrosse field containing the opponent’s goal.


The three players who stay in the attack area and focus on scoring– and scoring a lot!


An offensive player cuts behind his defender to receive a “backdoor” pass.


Simply enough, a lacrosse ball. Most lacrosse balls are made of solid rubber. Nicknames include “rock,” “egg,” “pill,” and “pearl.”

Ball Down/Ground Ball

Communication is key— Lacrosse players shout “ball” or “ball down” when the lacrosse ball is loose on the ground.

Body Check

A body check occurs when a lacrosse player uses his body to hit an opposing ball carrier, and thus dislodge the ball, or to keep an opposing player from getting a loose ball. Legal body checks are always above the waist, below the neck, and from the front or the side. You might hear a defensive coach yell “body” to encourage his defensive players to use their bodies in trying to stop an attack. Younger player leagues are not allowed to body check.


There are two different kinds of “boxes” in lacrosse. The first use of “box” refers to the painted lines creating a subsection of the offensive/defensive area on each side of the field. Attackers and defenders must stay within their respective boxes during a face-off. The other kind of box is the penalty box, where penalized players must wait until they have served their time for a penalty. 



A lacrosse helmet.

Butt or Butt-End

If the top of the lacrosse stick is the head, the bottom end is the butt. You’ll hear coaches and players refer to the end cap of their stick as the butt.


Slang term for the goal.

Change of Direction (C.O.D.)

A coach might yell “C.O.D.” to indicate to players that they need to change direction more to evade defenders rather than just running in straight lines.

Change Planes

If a goalie seems particularly adept at stopping shots aimed high, the offensive coach might tell his players to “change planes” and aim toward the lower portion of the goal, or vice versa.


Getting the ball out of your defensive zone by passing it from your defensive side to your offensive side.


Using the lacrosse head to trap a ball during a face off.


A technique used to keep the ball in the pocket of the lacrosse stick when running. 


Each goal has a circle with a 9’ radius drawn around it which designates the goalie’s area. In most situations only the goalie is allowed to enter the crease, and an offensive player is never allowed in the crease unless the ball is in the goal.

Crispy with the Rock

A phrase said of a player with formidable shooting and passing ability. 


A defensive player using the shaft of his lacrosse stick to push an opponent to force a missed or bad shot. A player running with arms extended holding his lacrosse stick will almost definitely perform a crosscheck, whether he meant to or not. Crosschecking is considered a foul in most levels of play.



A traditional term for a lacrosse stick. La crosse is French for “The Stick,” so Lacrosse stick roughly translates to “the stick stick.” The sport received its name from a French missionary watching the Huron people play the game almost 400 years ago.

Dead Ball

Besides the ends of quarters and when a goal is scored, play ceases when there are certain rule infractions. The ball is “dead” until play resumes, typically at a face-off.



A player who, you guessed it, defends. There are always three defenders in the defensive zone. Defenders try to stop the attack by blocking shots, checking, or stripping opposing players of the ball.

Defensive Area

The zone of the lacrosse field containing the your own team’s goal. Naturally, one team’s defensive area is the opposing team’s attack or offensive area.



 To stick check an opponent’s lacrosse stick so strongly it flies out of their hands and onto the ground. Players may jokingly yell “Yard Sale or “Yahztee.”


A ball-carrier’s maneuvering around opposing players in order to pass or score.

Double-Team/Double the Ball

When two defensive players guard the ball-carrier, hoping the increased pressure will dislodge the ball or lead to a bad pass.


An unskilled or slow defensive player, who “eats dust.”

Face Dodge

A ball carrier cradles the stick across his face attempting to dodge a poke-checking defender.


The way play is started at the start of the game, each subsequent quarter, after every goal, and after most dead balls. At midfield two opposing players crouch face to face holding their sticks flat on the ground. They press the backs of their lacrosse stick pockets together and then a official drops the ball in between the pockets. The official signals and each player attempts to control the ball by raking or clamping it.

Five and Five

The “red zone” of lacrosse. The area immediately surrounding the goal, five yards in front and to the side where an attacker tries to situate himself so he can shoot a goal or feed a teammate the ball.


A rule infraction in which one player impedes another’s progress through illegitimate means. The most common fouls include slashing, tripping, and illegal body checking.

Go to X

Usually shouted by coaches telling an attacker to go behind the goal to set up a scoring strategy. “X” is shorthand for the area behind the goal.


The 6’x6’ netted frame the goalie defends from scoring attackers, also the word for a successful score. A goal is scored when the entire ball crosses the goal line. Players and coaches commonly refer to the goal as the “cage.”


The defensive player in the goal area trying to stop opponents from scoring. A goalie carries a larger stick to help with his task.


Using the lacrosse stick to flip a ground ball to a teammate, rather than scooping it up and passing it.

Hat Trick/Hatty

When the same player scores three goals in one game. Six goals is a double hat trick, nine goals triple and so on.


The plastic upper portion of the lacrosse stick that contains the mesh pocket (“bag”) to catch the ball. 

Head Up

New players tend to run with their heads down, coaches will encourage them to run “head up” to make sure they are aware of their surroundings.

Failure To Advance

A penalty that is called when players fail to clear a ball from their defensive zone past midfield within a set period of time. This rule keeps the game moving.

Five Hole

Imagine that each open corner of a lacrosse goal is numbered one through four. The five hole is between the goalie’s legs. An attacker scores via the “five hole” when he shoots the lacrosse ball through the goalie’s legs into the goal.

Gilman Clear

A type of clear in which a goalie (or any defender) out of desperation passes the lacrosse ball as far down the field as possible. The Gilman Clear is lacrosse’s version of football’s “Hail Mary.” It was probably named after the famous Gilman School in Baltimore, where they apparently chucked a lot lacrosse balls a long way.


Long hair that flows out of the back of a lacrosse helmet.  

Man-up (Power Play)/

Man-down (Penalty Kill)

When a player commits a foul, such as illegal checking, he may have to serve time in the penalty box. His team will have to play with one less player, or a man-down, meaning the opposing team has an advantage, or a man-up. Like hockey, this situation is called a “power play” for the offense, and a “penalty kill” for the defense.


One of three players on each team who plays at both the offensive end and defensive end. Commonly called a “middie.” 

Fast break

When the offense moves the ball downfield so quickly that they have a player number advantage in the attack area. Also called “transition” offense.

Flag Down

At times an official will call a penalty but not halt play, so as not to give an inadvertent advantage to the team committing the penalty. He will indicate that a penalty will be called by throwing a flag on the ground and shouting “play on” and will then only halt play at the next ground ball, change or possession or dead ball.

Head on a Swivel

You might hear a coach tell his players to keep their “head on a swivel.” This means moving your head around so you can see and be aware of player movements around you or behind you. Lack of field awareness can lead to an unsettled situation on defense or a missed feed on offense.


A penalty in which a player restrains an opponent with his stick, steps on an opponent’s lacrosse stick, holds an opponent with his free hand, holds an opponent’s lacrosse stick with any part of his body, or pins an opponent’s lacrosse stick on the ground during a face off.

Jesus Pipes/Pipe City/

Pipe Dreams/

Wesley Pipes/Michelle Piper

You can probably come up with a pun based on “pipe” and add to the long list of terms referring to the ball hitting the goal post on a shot.


Short for Lacrosse.

Lax Rat

A player (or fan) whose life is utterly consumed by lacrosse.


A stick check in which the defender places his lacrosse stick under the ball carrier’s bottom hand and lifts up, attempting to dislodge the lacrosse ball.

Man-to-Man Defense

Man-to-Man Defense— The most common defensive strategy in lacrosse in which each defender covers an individual offensive player. If a particular defender is evaded by the ball-carrier, then another defender might leave his assigned player and “slide” to cover the free ball-carrier.


A penalty called when a team has more than six players of the same team on offense or more than seven players of the same team (including the goalie) on defense. 


When a player shoots the ball with his lacrosse stick above his head. These kinds of shots are much more accurate than a sidearm shot, though less powerful.

North/South and East/West

North/south refers to the lengthwise directions of the field, regardless of cardinal direction. East/west refers to widthwise directions. So moving “north/south” means endline to endline and “east/west” means sideline to sideline.


A play in which an offensive player places himself in the path of his teammate’s defender to block the defender and free the teammate to receive a pass or shoot the ball. To perform a legal pick, the player setting up the pick must have both feet set on the ground and have position established.

Pocket Pounder

A pocket pounder is a tool used to deepen the mesh pocket of the lacrosse stick. Deeper pockets help hold the ball, but if the pocket is too deep the official may call a penalty. A brand-new lacrosse stick that has very shallow pockets is jokingly called a “tennis racket.”

Poke Check

The most common kind of check. The defender uses his lacrosse stick to poke an opposing ball carrier’s lacrosse stick or hand. The point of a poke check is to dislodge the ball and hopefully cause a turnover.

Quick stick

When an offensive player receives a pass close to the goal and then immediately redirects the ball to the goal without cradling. Similar to a one-timer in hockey. 


Picking up the ball by placing the head of the lacrosse stick over the ball, and then pulling the head along the ground so the ball rolls into the pocket. You might hear coaches admonish their players not to rake since it’s better to try to scoop the ball and not lose forward momentum.


A player shouts “release” when he successfully recovers a ground ball. Communicating this lets teammates know that they can no longer make contact to restrain opponents also trying to recover ball.


The offense attempting to prevent the defense from clearing the ball.

Rusty Gate

A skillful stick check in which a defender spins and swings his lacrosse stick behind his back to check the ballcarrier’s lacrosse stick from behind.


When the goalie keeps a shot from going into the goal.


When a player stands in front of an opposing player to impede his sightline or path; often done to obscure a goalie’s vision from an oncoming shot.


When an offensive player throws the ball towards the opponent’s goal, attempting to score a goal. Also called a “rip.”


When a player shoots or passes a ball from the side rather than overhand. It is a more powerful lacrosse shot but not as accurate as an overhand shot.

Slap Check

A kind of stick check. Similar to a poke check but with more force, in which a defending player uses his lacrosse stick to “slap” the ball carrier’s stick. It is difficult to maintain balance and momentum while performing a slap check.


A penalty called when a defender swings his lacrosse stick at another player with deliberate viciousness or reckless abandon. It doesn’t matter whether the players lacrosse stick or body were hit, if the official perceives that the defender was being careless or malicious, he will call the penalty. Slashing results in one to three-minutes in the penalty box for the offending player depending on severity and intent of the foul.


When a player without the ball moves into a position where the ball-carrier can make a safe pass. 


You might hear players or coaches yell “timex” which is an abbreviated way of saying “time is expiring.”

Top Shelf

The upper area of the goal, above the goalie’s shoulders but underneath the top crossbar. Sometimes a goal scored in the top shelf is called “peanut butter,” because that’s where mom keeps the peanut butter, the top shelf.


A situation in which defending players are out of position thus giving an advantage to offensive players.

Warding Off

 A penalty committed when the ball-carrier uses his free hand or arm to move, block or otherwise interfere with a defender’s lacrosse stick or body.


The term used to describe the feel of the ball catching on the shooting strings in the lacrosse stick pocket as it releases from the pocket.

Wing Area

The parts of the field closest to the sidelines in midfield. Before a face-off two of each teams three midfielders must wait in the wing area until the face-off begins.

Wrap Check

A kind of check in which a defensive player reaches around the ball-carrier to stick check him.

Zone Defense

A style of defensive strategy in which each defensive player is responsible for one “zone” of the field, rather than an individual offensive player (man to man defense).