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Plunge into the pool of swim speak and make a splash with 30 essential swimming terms that’ll make you sound like an aquatic ace!

From backstrokes to butterfly kicks, these phrases will have you chatting like a champ and gliding through conversations with the ease of a swimmer cutting through the waves.

Ready to soak in the knowledge? Let’s dive in!

Must-Know Swimming Terms, Phrases and Slang:

  1. Backstroke
  2. Breaststroke
  3. Butterfly
  4. Dive
  5. Flip turn
  6. Freestyle
  7. IM (Individual Medley)
  8. Lane
  9. Medley relay
  10. Pool
  11. Qualifying time
  12. Relay
  13. Streamline
  14. Tumble turn
  15. Warm-down
  16. Warm-up
  17. Water polo
  18. Cap
  19. Goggles
  20. Heat
  21. Kickboard
  22. Lap
  23. Pace clock
  24. Personal best
  25. Split
  26. Stroke
  27. Swim-off
  28. Timer
  29. Touch pad
  30. Underwater kick

#1 Backstroke

A swimming stroke performed on the back where arms lift out of the water in an alternating circular motion, and legs execute a flutter kick. It is one of the four competitive strokes and requires swimmers to maintain a streamlined position.

#2 Breaststroke

The oldest and most technical of the competitive swimming strokes, breaststroke involves simultaneous movements of the arms and legs in a “frog-like” pattern. It requires precise timing and technique for efficient propulsion in the water.

#3 Butterfly

A dynamic and physically demanding stroke involving simultaneous overhead arm movement and a dolphin-like kick. Butterfly is recognized for its speed and the distinctive undulating motion swimmers make as they power through the water.

#4 Dive

Initiating a race or transitioning from the pool deck into the water, a dive involves a swimmer propelling themselves forward and downward into the water. Mastering the technique is key for a competitive edge, as a good dive can influence race outcomes.

#5 Flip turn

Performed primarily in freestyle and backstroke races, a flip turn involves a swimmer somersaulting at the end of the pool to quickly change direction while maintaining speed. Efficient turns are critical for maintaining momentum and improving race times.

#6 Freestyle

The most common swimming stroke, also known as the front crawl, characterized by an alternating arm stroke and flutter kick. Although technically freestyle allows any stroke, in competitive swimming, it is almost universally swum as the front crawl.

#7 IM (Individual Medley)

A swimming race in which a single swimmer competes in four different strokes sequentially: butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle. This event tests a swimmer’s versatility and skill across all major swimming strokes.

#8 Lane

A designated division in a swimming pool, marked by ropes with buoys, that separates swimmers to prevent collisions during practice or competition. Each lane is typically about 2.5 meters wide, allowing swimmers ample space to perform.

#9 Medley Relay

A swimming race where each of four team members swims a different stroke in sequence: backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, and freestyle. The order of strokes in a medley relay is strategic and tests the versatility of a swim team.

#10 Pool

The body of water in which swimming competitions and practice sessions take place. Standard competitive pools are 25 or 50 meters in length and have multiple lanes for swimmers to race side by side.

#11 Qualifying Time

A pre-determined time standard that swimmers must achieve to enter certain competitions. Qualifying times are set by meet organizers and serve to ensure a certain level of competition at the event.

#12 Relay

A team swimming event in which each member of a team takes turns to swim a segment of the race. There are different relay events, such as freestyle relay and medley relay, each requiring teamwork and speed.

#13 Streamline

A position used by swimmers when they push off the walls or start from the block; it involves stretching the body, arms extended overhead, and hands together to reduce resistance. Mastering the streamline is essential for maximizing speed through the water.

#14 Tumble Turn

Also known as a flip turn, this is a technique used in freestyle and backstroke races to reverse direction at the wall. Swimmers perform a somersault at the end of the pool to optimize their turnaround time.

#15 Warm-down

A low-intensity swim following a rigorous training session or race, intended to help the body recover and prevent muscle stiffness. Warm-downs aid in flushing out lactic acid build-up and gradually lower the heart rate.

#16 Warm-up

A pre-competition or pre-training session swim designed to prepare the swimmer’s body for high-intensity activity. Warm-ups increase muscle temperature, enhance flexibility, and can improve overall performance.

#17 Water Polo

A competitive team water sport played in a pool, where two teams attempt to score goals by throwing a ball into the opposing team’s net. It combines swimming prowess with ball-handling skills and strategic teamwork.

#18 Cap

In swimming competitions, a cap is a silicone or latex head covering worn by swimmers to reduce drag in the water. Team members often wear caps in matching colors, sometimes with numbers for identification in water polo.

#19 Goggles

Goggles are essential eyewear for swimmers, providing clear vision underwater and protecting the eyes from chlorine and other irritants. They come in various shapes and sizes to fit comfortably and seal out water.

#20 Heat

In competitive swimming, a heat is a preliminary race used to qualify for the final races. Swimmers are typically grouped in heats based on their submitted or seeded times.

#21 Kickboard

A flotation device used by swimmers during training, a kickboard helps isolate the legs for kicking exercises, improving leg strength and kick technique without arm movement.

#22 Lap

A lap is one length of the pool, typically from one end to the other. In training and racing, multiple laps are often counted to measure distance swum.

#23 Pace Clock

The pace clock is a large clock with a second hand used by swimmers to time their laps, intervals, and rest periods during practice. It helps maintain consistent pacing and monitor workout segments.

#24 Personal Best

An athlete’s best ever performance in a specific event, marking the fastest time they’ve achieved. Swimmers continuously strive to outperform their personal bests, reflecting individual progress and achievement.

#25 Split

A segment of time recorded from a longer race, often used to measure consistency or strategy, such as splits for each lap or 50 meters in a race. Coaches and swimmers analyze splits to evaluate performance and pacing.

#26 Stroke

Refers to the method of swimming, such as freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, or butterfly. Each stroke has distinctive techniques and rules, and mastering all of them is crucial for competitive swimming.

#27 Swim-off

A tie-breaking race between two or more swimmers who have achieved identical times, often used to determine final positions or qualifications. A swim-off can be an intense head-to-head challenge for the competitors involved.

#28 Timer

An official or device responsible for recording accurate swim times during races. Human timers typically use stopwatches at swim meets, while automated systems may involve touch pads and electronic timing equipment.

#29 Touch Pad

An electronic device located at the end of a swimming lane that registers a swimmer’s time when touched. It ensures precise timing to the hundredth of a second and is crucial for fair race results.

#30 Underwater Kick

A technique used after starts and turns where swimmers perform a series of dolphin kicks underwater before surfacing. This method can maximize speed and distance covered in the water due to reduced drag compared to surface swimming.


What are some swimming terms for beginners?

“Freestyle,” “Butterfly,” and “Breaststroke” are some swimming terms beginners should start with. They represent the main swimming strokes essential for novice swimmers to learn.

What are some funny swimming terms?

“Flip turn,” “Dive,” and “Warm-down” are some funny swimming terms that add a light-hearted element to the sport, often sparking imagery of acrobatics in the pool and the juxtaposition of warming down in a cool environment.

What is a famous swimming phrase?

“Swim your own race,” is a famous swimming phrase, emphasizing the importance of focusing on one’s own performance rather than being overly concerned with competitors, promoting concentration and personal bests.

Meet Rev, one of our dedicated team members who embodies the essence of sports passion. When he’s not immersed in the world of sports content creation, Rev is busy honing his skills in esports and exploring the great outdoors through activities like hiking and basketball.

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