Swimslang!

A Glossary of those strange and wacky words we use in the sport of swimming.
Parents – you may or may not find these words in the English Dictionary, and if you do, their definitions will probably be radically different than the ones listed in this Glossary – relax and take your time reading. Soon you’ll be understanding and maybe even speaking some.

A-Meet
Graded swim meet which requires swimmers to have previously achieved an ‘A, time’ standard in the events they wish to enter.

A-B Meet
Swim meet that offers separate competition for both ‘A’ swimmers and ‘B’ swimmers, usually with medals for the ‘A’ swimmers and ribbons for the ‘B’ swimmers. Swimmers compete in separate brackets against other swimmers of their own ability. Usually only ‘A’ swimmers can score individual event team points.

Admission
Certain swim meets charge for spectators to view the meets. These are usually the larger more prestigious meets. Sometimes the meet programme (heat sheet) is included in the price of admission.

Age Group
Division of swimmers according to age. The Age Group divisions are: 10-under, 11-12, 13-14, 15-16,17-18, 18 and over.

Anchor
The final swimmer in a relay.

ASA
Amateur Swimming Association – the ruling body of British swimming.

B-Meet
Swim meet, which requires swimmers to have previously achieved a ‘B’ time standard in the events, they wish to enter. Some meets have no bottom cut time allowing ‘C’ swimmers also to compete.

Backstroke
One of the 4 competitive racing strokes, basically any style of swimming on your back. Backstroke is swum as the first stroke in the Medley Relay and second stroke in the IM

Beep
The starting sound from an electronic, computerised timing system.

Blocks
The starting platforms located behind each lane. Some pools have blocks at the deeper end of the pool, and some pools have blocks at both ends. Blocks have a variety of designs and can be permanent or removable.

Breaststroke
One of the 4 competitive racing strokes. Breasts is swum as the second stroke in the Medley Relay and the third stroke in the IM

Butterfly
One of the 4 competitive racing strokes. Butterfly (nicknamed FLY) is swum as the third stroke in the Medley Relay and first stroke in the IM

Camp
There are many types of camps for just about every level of swimmer. Normally organised by the individual clubs.

Cap
The silicone or latex covering worn on the head of swimmers. The colours and team logos adorning these caps are limitless. National Caps, County Team Caps, award caps, plain practice caps, etc.

Cards
Entry cards, either handed to the swimmer, by the coaches or meet runners, then given to the timer behind the lane. Cards usually list the swimmers name, SASA number, seed time, event number, event description, and the lane and heat number the swimmer will swim in. Each event has a separate card.

Carbohydrates
The main source of food energy used by athletes. Refer to a Nutritional Manual for more information.

Chlorine
The chemical used by most pools to kill the bacteria in water and keep it clear and safe to swim in.

Clinic
A scheduled meeting for the purpose of instruction. (I.e.) Officials Clinic, Coaches Clinic.

Consolation
Finals After the fastest 6 or 8 swimmers, the next 6 or 8 swimmers (depending on the number of pool lanes) in a Prelims/Finals meet who, after the Prelims swim, qualify to return to the Finals. Consolations are the second fastest heat of finals when multiple heats are held and are conducted before the Championship heat. These are only held at major meets.

Course
Designated distance (length of pool) for swimming competition. (I.e.) Long Course = 50 metres / Short Course = 25 metres.

Deadline
The date meet entries must be ‘postmarked’ or ‘in’ by, to be accepted by the meet host/club. Making the meet deadline may not guarantee acceptance into a meet since many meets are ‘full’ weeks before the entry deadline.

Deck
The area around the swimming pool reserved for swimmers, officials, and coaches. No one but an ‘authorised’ person may be on the deck during a swim competition.

Dehydration
The abnormal depletion of body fluids (water). The most common cause of swimmer’s cramps and sick feelings.

Developmental
A classification of meet or competition that is usually held early in the season. The purpose of a developmental meet is to allow all levels of swimmers to compete in a lower pressure environment.

Distance
How far a swimmer swims. Distances for short course, are 25 metres (1 length), 50 metres (2 lengths), 100 metres (4 lengths), 200 metres (8 lengths), 400 metres (16 lengths), 800 metres (32 lengths), and 1500 metres (60 lengths). Distances for long course are 50 metres (1 length), 100 metres (2 lengths), 200 metres (4 lengths), 400 metres (8 lengths), 800 metres (16 lengths), and 1500 metres (30 lengths).

Disqualified
A swimmer’s performance is not counted because of a rules infraction. An official raising one arm with open hand above their head shows a disqualification.

Dive
Entering the water headfirst. Diving is not allowed during warm-ups except at the designated time, in specific lanes that are monitored by the coaches.

Dropped
Time When a swimmer goes faster than the previous performance they have ‘dropped their time’ or PB’s

Dryland
The exercises and various strength programmes swimmers do out of the water.

Dry Side
That part of the Code Book (rule book) that deals with the ‘Administrative’ Regulations of Competition.

Entry
An Individual, Relay team, or Club event list in a swim competition.

Entry Fees
The amount per event a swimmer or relay is charged. This varies depending on the type of meet.

Entry Limit
Each meet will usually have a limit of total swimmers they can accept, or a meet will be closed and all other entries returned.

Electronic Timing
Timing system operated on DC current (battery). The timing system usually has touchpads in the water, junction boxes on the deck with hook up cables, buttons for backup timing, and a computer type console that prints out the results of each race. Some systems are hooked up to a scoreboard that displays swimmers time.

Eligible to compete
The status of a member swimmer that means they are registered and have met all the requirements.

Equipment
The items necessary to operate a swim practice or conduct a swim competition.

Event
A race or stroke over a given distance. An event equals 1 heat with its final, or I timed final.

False Start
When a swimmer leaves the starting block before the horn or gun. One false start may disqualify a swimmer or a relay team, although the starter or referee may disallow the false start in unusual circumstances.

False Start Rope
A recall rope across the width of the racing pool for the purpose of stopping swimmers who were not aware of a false start.

Fees
Money paid by swimmers for services. (I.e.) Training fees, SASA, registration fees; Club membership fee, etc.

FINA
The international, rules making organisation, for the sport of swimming.

Finals
The final race of each event. See ‘Consolation Finals’.

Final Results
The printed copy of the results for each race in a swim meet.

Fins
Large rubber or other material fin type devices that fit on a swimmers feet. Used in swim practice.

Four Beat Kick
4 leg movements used in freestyle for training.

Flags
Pennants that are suspended over the width of each end of the pool approximately 5 metres from the wall.

Format
The order of events and type of swim meet being conducted.

Fund Raiser
A money making endeavour by a swim team/club usually involving both parents and swimmers.

Freestyle
One of the 4 competitive racing strokes. Freestyle (nicknamed Free) is swum as the fourth stroke in the Medley Relay and fourth stroke in the IM

Gallery
The viewing area for spectators during the swimming competition.

Goals
Short and Long range targets set by swimmers, and agreed by the coaches, to aim for.

Goggles
Glasses type devices worn by swimmers to keep their eyes from being irritated by the chlorine in the water.

Handbook
A reference manual published by teams/clubs, County, National and/or other swimming organisations.

Hats
See ‘caps’.

Heats
A division of an event when there are too many swimmers to compete at the same time. The results are compiled by swimmers time swum, after all heats of the event are completed.

Horn
A sounding device used in place of a gun. Used mainly with a fully automatic timing system.

Illegal
Doing something against the rules that is cause for disqualification.

IM Individual Medley
A swimming event using all 4 of the competitive strokes on consecutive lengths of the race. The order must be Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke, and Freestyle. Equal distances must be swum of each stroke.

Interval
A specific elapsed time for swimming or rest used during swim practice.

Invitational
Type of meet that requires a club to request an invitation to attend the meet.

Juniors
16 and under at 31st December in the year of competition.

Kick
The leg movements of a swimmer. A popular word to ‘yell’ to encourage swimmers during a race.

Kick Board
A flotation device used by swimmers during practice.

Lane
The specific area in which a swimmer is assigned to swim. (i.e.) Lane 1 or Lane 2. Pools with starting blocks at only one end: As the swimmers stand behind the blocks, lanes should be numbered from Right (lane 1) to Left (lane 6).

Lane Lines
Continuous floating markers attached to a cable stretched from the starting end to the turning end for the purpose of separating each lane.

Lap
One length of the course.

Lap Counter
The large numbered cards (or the person turning the cards) used during the freestyle events 400 metres or longer. Counting is done from the starting end.

Late Entries
Meet entries from a club or individual that are received by the meet host after the entry deadline. These entries are usually not accepted and are returned to sender.

Leg
The part of a relay event swum by a single team member. A single stroke in the IM.

Length
The extent of the competitive course from end to end. See lap.

Log Book
A log of everything to do with swimming, including all training sessions and event best times. To be kept by the swimmer him/herself.

Long Course
A 50 metre pool.

Lycra
A stretch material used to make competitive swimsuits and swim hats.

Malfunction
A mechanical or electronic failure – not a human failure by the swimmer.

Mark
The command to take your starting position.

Marshall(s)
The adult(s) (official) who control(s) the crowd and swimmer flow at a swim meet.

Medals
Awards given to the swimmers at meet. They vary in size, design and method of presentation.

Meet
A series of events held in one programme. Also known as a Gala.

Meet Director
The official in charge of the administration of the meet. The person directing the ‘dry side’ of the meet.

Metres
The measurement of the length of a swimming pool that was built per specs using the metric system. Long course metres is 50 metres, short course metres is 25 metres.

Mile
The slang referring to the 1500 metre or the 1650-yard freestyle, both of which are slightly short of a mile.

Nationals
ASA senior, junior and age group meets conducted each year.

Newsletter
A written communication published by a club or association.

NGB
National Governing Body (the SASA)

Novice
A beginner or someone who does not have experience.

NQT
National Qualifying Time

NT
No Time. The abbreviation used on a heat sheet to designate that the swimmer has not swam that event before.

Nutrition
The sum of the processes by which a swimmer takes in and utilises food substances.

Officials
The certified, or qualified adult volunteers, who operate the many facets of a swim competition.

OT Official Time.
The swimmers event time recorded to one hundredth of a second (.01).

Open Competition/Meet
Competition which any qualified club, organisation, or individual may enter.

Pace Clock
The large clocks with highly visible numbers and second hands, positioned at the ends or sides of a swimming pool so the swimmers can read their times during warm-ups or swim practice.

Paddle/Handpaddles
Coloured plastic devices worn on the swimmers hands during swim practice.

PB
‘Personal Best’ – The best time a swimmer has done so far in a particular stroke/event

Plaque
A type of award (wall plaque) given to swimmers at a meet.

Pool
The facility in which swimming competition is conducted.

Practice/Training
The scheduled work-outs a swimmers attends with their swim team/club.

Pull Buoy
A flotation device used for pulling by swimmers in practice.

Qualifying
Times Published times necessary to enter certain meets, or the times necessary to achieve a specific category of swimmer. See CQT, NQT etc.

Race
Any single swimming competition. (i.e.) preliminary, final, timed final.

Recall Rope
A rope across the width of the racing pool for the purpose of stopping swimmers who were not aware of a false start.

Referee
The head official at a swim meet in charge of all of the ‘Wet Side’ administration and decisions.

Registered
(SASA) Necessary if racing District meets.

Relays
A swimming event in which 4 swimmers participate as a relay team each swimmer swimming an equal distance of the race. There are two types of relays: 1.) Medley relay – One swimmer swims Backstroke, one swimmer swims Breaststroke, one swimmer swims Butterfly, one swimmer swims Freestyle, in that order. Medley relays are conducted over 200m and 400m distances. 2.) Freestyle relay – Each swimmer swims freestyle. Free relays are conducted over 200m, 400m, and 800m distances.

Ribbons
Awards in a variety of sizes, styles, and colours, sometimes given at swim meets.

SASA
Scottish Amateur Swimming Association – the ruling body of Scottish swimming.

Safety
The responsible and careful actions of those participating in a swim meet. Listen to the safety notices read out at galas.

Scratch
To withdraw from an event after having declared an intention to participate. This practice should be avoided, it does not reflect well on either the swimmer or the Club.

Seed
Assign the swimmers heats and lanes according to their submitted or preliminary times.

Senior Meet
A meet that is for senior level swimmers and is not divided into age groups. Qualification times are usually necessary and will vary depending on the level of the meet.

Senior Nationals
Long and Short courses are held each year.

Session
Portion of meet distinctly separated from other portions by time.

Shave
The process of removing all arm, leg, and exposed torso hair, to decrease the ‘drag’ or resistance of the body moving through the water. Used only by seniors at very important (Championship) meets.

Short Course
A 25-yard or more usually a 25 metre pool.

Simultaneously
A term used in the rules of butterfly and breaststroke, meaning at the same time.

Six
Beat Kick 6 leg movements during 1 freestyle stroke (both arms) for racing.

Split
A portion of an event, shorter than the total distance, that is timed. (i.e.) A swimmers first 25 or 50 time is taken as the swimmer swims the 100 race. It is common to take multiple splits for the longer distances.

Stations
Separate portions of a dryland or weight circuit.

Start
The beginning of a race. The dive used to begin a race.

Starter
The official in charge of signalling the beginning of a race and insuring that all swimmers have a fair take-off.

Still Water
Water that has no current caused by a filter system or no waves caused by swimmers.

Stand-up
The command given by the Starter or Referee to release the swimmers from their starting position.

Step-Down
The command given by the Starter or Referee to have the swimmers move off the blocks. Usually this command is a good indication everything is not right for the race to start.

Stroke
There are 4 competitive strokes: Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke, and Freestyle.

Stroke Judge
The official positioned at the side of the pool, walking the length of the course as the swimmers race. If the Stroke Judge sees something illegal, they report to the referee and the swimmer may be disqualified.

Submitted Time
Times used to enter swimmers in meets. The swimmer at previous meets must have achieved these times.

Suit
The racing uniform worn by the swimmer, in the water, during competition. The most popular styles/types of suits worn are Nylon and Lycra.

Swim-off
In a Heat/Finals type competition, a race after the scheduled event to break a tie. The only circumstance that warrants a Swim-off is to determine which swimmer makes finals.

Timer
The volunteers sitting behind the starting blocks/finish end of pool, who are responsible for getting watch times on events and activating the backup buttons for the timing system.

Time Trial
An event or series of events where a swimmer may achieve or better a required qualifying time.

Touch Out
To reach the touchpad and finish first in a close race.

Touch Pad
The removable plate (on the end of pools) that is connected to an automatic timing system. A swimmer must properly touch the touchpad to register an official time in a race.

Trophy
Type of award given to teams and swimmers at meets.

Two Beat Kick
Used for distance events, 800m plus for training and racing.

Unofficial Time
The time displayed on a read out board or read over the intercom by the announcer immediately after the race. After the time has been checked, it will become the official time.

Vertical
At right angle to the normal water level.

Vitamins
The building blocks of the body. Vitamins do not supply energy, but are necessary for proper health.

Warm-down
The loosening a swimmer does after a race when pool space is available. Essential to avoid injury.

Warm-up
The practice and loosening session a swimmer does before the meet or their event is swam. Essential to avoid injury.


The hand held device used by timers and coaches for timing a swimmers races and taking splits.

Water
For the purpose of filling swimming pools and swimmers drinking to properly hydrate themselves.

Weights
The various barbells, benches, machines used by swimmers during their dryland programme. Training sessions in the ‘Weights Room’ (aka weights)

Whistle
The sound a starter/referee makes to signal for quiet before they give the command to start the race.

Work Out
The practice sessions a swimmer attends.

Yardage
The distance a swimmer races or swims in practice. Total yardage can be calculated for each practice session.

From the web site www.ukswim.com

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