If you're new to the world of pickleball, you might be wondering about the origin of its curious name. Unlike other sports that take their names from their equipment or origins, the origins of Pickleball's name is shrouded in mystery.

In this post, we will take a deep dive into the history of Pickleball and decode the meaning behind its catchy name.

The Birth of Pickleball: A Brief History

Pickleball was first played in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Joel Pritchard, William Bell, and Barney McCallum created the game because they were bored one summer day.

They wanted to create a game that could be played by everyone in their families, including their children, who were ten years old and below. They used badminton paddles, a perforated plastic ball, and a net that was lowered from a badminton net. The game they created was termed Pickleball.

According to McCallum, the game was named after Pritchard's dog, "Pickles," who would chase the stray balls and run off with them. However, as we'll come to learn, the story is more nuanced than a dog's name.

The Pritchard Family and Their Role in Naming Pickleball

Joel Pritchard's wife, Joan Pritchard, was the one who recommended the name Pickleball. She said that the term Pickleball was based on the term "pickleboat."

A pickleboat is a term used in rowing for a boat that is made up of leftover oarsmen from other boats. The name was always associated with fun and excitement, which Joan thought is suitable for a light-hearted game.

The Tale of Pickles: The Dog Behind the Name?

Some people believe that Pickleball got its name from a dog named Pickles. According to this theory, the Pritchard family's dog, Pickles, would chase after the ball when they played Pickleball in their backyard. Whenever they missed the ball, they would call out to Pickles, "Go get the ball, Pickles!".

Although Pickles might have played a role in popularizing the game, the dog's involvement in naming the game remains somewhat murky. The Pritchards debunked their original story in an interview, stating that they had already named the game before they even got Pickles.

It's possible that the idea of naming the game after a dog may have contributed to word-of-mouth marketing, helping the game gain popularity.

The Pickle Boat Theory: Another Angle to the Story

Another theory suggests that Pickleball got its name from the pickle boat rowing term. According to this theory, the Pritchards used the term pickle boat to describe their game since it was a mix of different elements from other sports.

The idea is that Pickleball was like a hybrid boat made up of leftover parts from badminton, tennis, and table tennis.

This explanation makes sense given that Pritchard's wife was a competitive rower. It's possible that the term pickle boat was already popular in the rowing community and that the Pritchards decided to use it for their new game.

Debunking Myths: What Pickleball Was Not Named After

Despite the widespread beliefs of Pickleball's name origin, there are several things that it was not named after. It has nothing to do with the pickled vegetable or the process of preserving food in a pickle jar.

Some people believed that the game was named after Pickle juice, which supposedly had healing properties. However, there is no evidence to support this theory.

The name has nothing to do with the ball's color or the pattern on the court's surface, either. It definitely wasn't named after the sound that the ball makes when it's hit.

Others believed that the game was named after the Pickle family, who were prominent in the community where the game was invented. But, once again, there is no evidence to back up this claim.

Instead, Pickleball was most likely named after a pickle boat or a dog named Pickles—or perhaps both!

The Hawaiian Connection: The Origin of the Name 'Puka'

Pickleball is also known in Hawaii as Pickleball or Pukaball. The word Puka derives from the Hawaiian word for "hole," which refers to the ball's perforations. The name caught on throughout the Hawaiian islands and has become widely accepted.

The Hawaiian connection adds another layer of charm to the game's name and aligns with the laid-back and fun Island lifestyle.

The Impact of the Name on the Popularity of Pickleball

Pickleball's unique name might have contributed to its rapid rise in popularity over the years. The name stands out and grabs people's attention, making it an easy sport to attract newcomers.

Moreover, the name Pickleball's light-hearted nature matches the game's fun and easy-going style, making it popular among all ages.

Regardless of how the name came about, there's no denying that "pickleball" has a unique and memorable sound to it. The name has helped the sport gain popularity as people become more curious about its origin and meaning.


As you can see, the origins of Pickleball's name are not straightforward. It is a story that has been passed around and debated for a long time. While some theories seem to make sense, others have been proven inaccurate by historians.

Despite the mystery behind Pickleball's name, its popularity continues to grow, and its unique name remains a significant selling point. Ultimately, whether it is named after a dog or a boat, Pickleball's name is a testament to the spirit of fun and creativity that defines this exciting sport.

Its unique blend of athleticism, strategy, and socializing makes it the perfect activity for anyone looking to have some fun and exercise at the same time.

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