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Team Handball Terminology

'Handball Vocabulary: Throw Like an Ace and then Shoot for Goal'

HANDBALL TERMS: A concise list of terminologies of handball. You will find 100s of handball terms and definitions used by players and officials, all listed from A to Z.

Handball teams and match referees can use this vocabulary of handball terminology. The English titles and common match rulings will also help spectators and sports fans.

The official handball rules and regulations is a good place to start if you are learning to play. These handball key words cover the advanced lingo and sports terms related to the game.

Shoot through to the most common handball terminology by clicking the alphabetic facility below. Or, take a timeout and sharpen your knowledge and understanding of the indoor court game.

This comprehensive list of handball terms and definitions continues to grow. Check in often for more information associated to handball playing techniques and match-winning strategies.

HANDBALL A-Z: A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

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A – Ace

Like most ball sports, serving an ace means the receiver does not make any contact with the ball whatsoever.


An assault in handball key words refers to a forceful and deliberate attack against the body of another person.

B – Ball

The handball ball is a round object which must comply with certain handball equipment specifications.

Balls come in different sizes for women and men and for the different age categories of younger players.

Bench (for substitutes)

As a rule there will be a bench in the substitution area where substitute players must remain seated.

Block (blocking the ball)

In handball terms the word ‘block or blocking the ball’ relates to the body of a player interfering with the normal shot of the receiver.

The player is ‘downed’ if the ball makes contact with their body.

If the ball is ‘visibly’ blocked by player movement and does not touch anyone, the receiver calls ‘blocks’ and may retake the service.

Bounced Shot

The bounced shot in handball is shooting on goal with the ball hitting the floor on its way.

C – Centre Back (CB)

The handball player positions of center back is also called a ‘playmaker’.

They are positioned largely around the midcourt area and their role is to initiate the offensive play, shoot, or try to penetrate the opponent’s defence.

Centre Line

The centre line delineates the handball court sizes into two halves. It also marks the spot at the center of the court used for the throw off.


The coach is the head of the team who gives instructions. Coaches also make calls for the substitutions and create the match tactics during the game.

Coin Toss

The referee carries out a coin toss before the match to determine who will start the game and who will choose ends.


A combination refers to set play which determines the activity of the players and the path of the ball.

Corner Shot

A corner shot in handball games is one where the ball hits exactly on the sideline at such an awkward angle that it is very difficult for a receiver to return.

Corner Throw

The handball corner throw is given when the ball is played over the goal line (or either side of the goal) by a defending player.

The corner throw is taken by an attacking player from the corner of court and they can use either hand when they are throwing the corner ball back into play.

Court Player

All players who are playing on the court (outfield players) are called a court player but this does not include goal-keepers.

Court Referee (CR)

The court referee stays behind the attacking team. He watches for any defensive or offensive fouls or possession violations committed by the court players.


As a rule, when the handball word crack is used it usually refers to the ‘short’ line marking on outdoor courts and is often a simple groove on the ground.

The ball can fly off in any direction if it hits the crack which makes it hard for players to receive the return. Nevertheless, according to the official rules and regulations of handball, it is still in play unless it happens during a serve.

Cross the Sideline

This happens when the ball leaves the playing court through the side sections.

Crossed the Goal Line

The ball is in the goal when it crosses the goal line.


The top handball players ‘cut’ the ball by hitting it in such a way that it rolls of their hand when swing. This ‘chopping’ motion usually results in the ball hitting the wall and spinning off in a random direction.

Making the ‘cutter’ is a useful handball technique for throwing an opponent off guard.

D – Disallowing a Goal

The handball expression refers to an occurrence where the referee decides not to validate a score for any irregularity preceding it.


A player may be disqualified by the referees for a number of cases specified in the regulations. In this case the referee shows the player the red card and that player cannot return on court for the remaining part of the game.

Dive Shot

It is a way of putting the shot, in order to score a goal, by jumping above the floor towards the goal. It is done without touching the d-line.


The ‘down’ is a word used commonly in team handball terminology. It means servers make a switch because of a mistake on their end (for example: 2 shorts, a long ball, out ball, or the inability to return the ball).

Dribble (the ball)

To dribble the ball in handball terminology means maneuvering it by bouncing the ball on the floor.

E – EHF Official

There can be up to five EHF officials controlling and administering a European Handball Federation competitive game. There would be two referees, a timekeeper, a scorekeeper, and one EHF observer or supervisor.


The game is safer for all competitors when you have the right gear and equipments. Team handball equipment often comprises different items than regular handball equipment for schools. As a rule it includes the uniform and sports shoes of the players.


Exclusions occur for assault. The excluded player’s team has to play with one player less for the rest of the game.

Extended Fast Break

A common phrase used in handball terminology is the extended fast break in which the first and second wave of attacking players also get additional support from the entire team.

F – Fake Run (movement)

A fake run occurs when an attacker pretends to run in one direction but moves in another path. Faking is a similar move by tricking the opponent with a hand or body movement, such as a fake pass or fake shot.

Final Signal

The playing time ends with the automatic final signal from the scoreboard or from the timekeeper. If no such signal comes, the referee whistles to indicate that the playing time is over.


Flagging occurs when a serve almost hits a player. The serve is retaken and the server does not score if the receiver is unable to return the shot.

Foot (foul)

A foot foul occurs when a player touches the ball with his foot or shin and the ball is given to the opponent team.

Forewarning Signal

A signal that warns the teams when time-out will end within ten seconds.


Fouls in handball are termed irregular action in the game and usually punished with a free throw.

Free Throw

A free throw may be awarded to the opposition team for a foul committed by the offenders. The handball ball should be thrown from a line which is 9 meters from the goal.

Free Throw Line

The handball free throw line is a 9 meter line and zone that players must exit before taking a free throw following a foul which occurred inside that nine-meter line.

G – Getting the Rebound

This is one of the terminologies of handball describing the action of catching the ball when it bounces back after a shot.


Give-and-go is offensive play that involves passing the ball (give) followed by running (go) to an open spot to receive the ball back.


Although it is personal preference some newcomers to the game, especially those with sensitive palms, choose to wear handball gloves which are in fact similar to baseball gloves.


You score a goal in handball by throwing the ball inside the goal posts. Goals are then confirmed if the ball hits the tape mark.

Goalie (goalkeeper)

The role of the goalie is goalkeeping. He is the player who defends the team goal against the opposition who are attempting to score goals. The goalie or goalkeeper is the player permitted to field inside the goal area and the only player who can use his legs to kick the ball.

Goalkeeper’s Restraining Line

A line four metres from the goal line that marks the limit where a goalkeeper may advance to defend against a penalty throw. It is also known as the ‘four-metre line’.

Goalkeeper Throw

When the ball crosses the outer goal line a goalkeeper throw is awarded.

Goal Area

A D-shaped area six metres from the goal that is used only by the goalkeeper.

Goal Area Line

The line that defines the goal area which is also called the ‘six-metre line’.

Goal Line Referee (GR)

The goal line referee positions himself on the outer goal line. The main role of a handball goal line referee is verifying whether the ball completely crossed the goal line for a goal. He will also contribute to watching for any violations by the players.

H – Halftime Break

According to the official handball regulations there should be a halftime break of 10 minutes at the end of the first 30 minutes of play.


In handball terms and definitions ‘handling the ball’ refers to the skill of dribbling, catching, passing, or throwing the ball.

Holding the Opponent

If you are holding the opponent it means you are using physical contact to stop their movement towards a goal scoring opportunity.

I – Interception of the Ball

If you intercept the ball or pass it means you caught the ball before it reaches a particular place.


A stoppage in the game is called an interruption in team handball terminology.

J – Joint Decision

The game regulations allow handball referees to consult each other to reach a final unanimous decision.

Jump Shot

A handball shooting technique performed while the player’s feet are off the floor.

K – Killer

The killer shot hits low on the wall and bounces abruptly and instantly. It is a shot that is difficult to return when the receiver is a distance from the wall.

L – Left Back (LB)

The left back handball player positions play on the left hand side of the middle and back court area. Left backs carry out sporting action in the second line of the attack.

Left-handed Player

In this glossary of handball terms and expressions left handed players catch and throw the ball mostly with their left hand.

Left Wing (LW)

As you might expect the left wing player positions himself on the left side of the court for most of the action.

Line Player (LP)

The line player occupies a playing position in attack. It is a team member who is active largely around the six-metre line among the defenders. Handball line player is also called the ‘pivot’ position.

Long Ball

A long ball is an instance happening when the serve or a ball in play lands outside the ‘long’ line of the court. Two long shots is a down if made during a serve. It becomes an automatic down or point to the server if the ball remains in play.

M – Man Marking

The technique called man marking is a defensive strategy. A defender is assigned a specific opposition player to guard rather than covering an area of the court.

Match Report

A handball match report is the official document containing the list of playing participants, the final score, and any remarks offered by the referees. Match reports are completed by officials who are seated at the jury table.

N – Net

A handball net must be attached to the goalposts and such in a way that it prevents the ball from rebounding or passing through the goal.

O – Out Ball

The ‘out ball’ becomes an automatic ‘down’ or point to the server and it happens where a serve, or the ball in play, lands outside the sidelines.

Out of Play

When the ball is out of play, the game restarts with a throw corresponding to the reason of the interruption.

Outer Goal Line

A line marking the end of the court, not including the goal line which is also called the ‘back line’.

Overarm Shot

A shooting technique carried out with the arm moving above the shoulder level.


According to the competition regulations, when a match ends in a draw, an overtime period may follow. This is played in two halves of five minutes with a one-minute break between them.

P – Passing (the ball)

Throwing the ball to another player from the same team is a technique called ‘passing’ in handball key words.

Passive Play

Keeping the ball in a team’s possession without making a recognisable attempt to attack and score.

Penalty Throw

When there is a penalty shot in handball, the allotted penalty thrower attempts to throw the ball directly into the goal from a marking on the court which is a distance of 7 meters from the goal centre.

Personal Punishment

Violations to the rule which may lead to personal punishment awarded by the referee. This may begin with a warning, followed by more severe punishments such as disqualification.

Piston Movement

The piston movement refers to the basic attacking play by moving continuously forwards and backwards.

Playing Court

In handball terminology the playing court dimensions determine where the game is played.

Playing Positions

The seven handball player positions are the goalkeeper, left wing, left back, middle back, line player, right back and right wing.

Playing Time

Two halftimes of 30 minutes.

Public Scoreboard Clock

A clock usually fixed on the wall of the sports hall where the spectators can see the results and the playing time. A scoreboard clock with automatic signal shows the score and signals at the end of 30 and 60 minutes.

Q – Qualification Games

In some competitive handball tournaments qualification games are played to decide which teams can take part in the competition.

R – Rebound

Rebound is one of handball terms referring the way the ball bounces backwards after hitting the bars of the goal post.


A player that has been punished with a two minute suspension is allowed to enter the playing court again.


A person in charge of a game who ensures that all handball rules and regulations are followed.

Referee’s Throw

A throw by the match referee may take place to resume the game after an interruption of play.

Right Back (RB)

According to handball court rules the player positioned at right back plays mostly on the right hand side of the middle and back zones. His main role is carrying out action in the second line of the attack.

Right-handed Player

In this glossary of handball terms and expressions right handed players catch and throw the ball mostly with their right hand.

Right Wing (RW)

As you might expect the right wing player positions himself on the right side of the court for most of the action.

S – Sanction

A sanction is any form of penalisation given out by the match referee.


A save occurs when the goalkeeper stops a shot with hands, legs or any other body part.


The current and end result of the handball game.

Serving a 2-minute Suspension

The player stays on the substitution bench for two minutes after receiving a suspension.

Seven Meter Line

A line 7 metres from the goal marking the spot where the penalty throw is to be executed.

Seven Meter Shot Penaltythrow

This is a direct shot taken from 7 metres. It is a form of punishment awarded for a foul when a player with the ball in his hand is fouled in clear scoring opportunity.

Shooting on Goal

This handball term refers to throwing on goal with a shot. Handball shots include the overarm shot, underarm shot, side bend shot, falling jump shot, jump shot, and jumping with both feet.


Wearing comfortable lightweight shorts for handball games is sensible because you need to sprint comfortably without being hindered or slowed down.

Short Ball

The short ball term refers to instances when the serve lands before or actually on the ‘short’ line of the indoor handball court dimensions. Making two short serves results in one down.


The sidestepping skill is a technical element of the attacker’s basic movement. He will execute a sidestep by continually moving sideways mainly across the width of the handball court dimensions.


The line that marks the side of the playing court.


Most handball players wear high-top sneakers to reduce the number of ankles injuries when going for shots.


An overhead smash of the ball, generally leading to a killer.

Spin Shot

A type of shot where the ball changes direction when it bounces back from the floor.

Stealing the Ball

The key word ‘stealing’ in handball terminology refers to taking ball possession when the opponent is holding or bouncing it.


Player entering the court to replace a teammate. A substitution may not be made until the other player has left the court. Players must enter and leave the playing area on their own half of the court and inside the substitution area.

Substitution Line

The line that marks the area where the substitutions are allowed to sit throughout the game.


A form of personal punishment and usually a 2-minute suspension from the game.

T – Tackling Physically

This handball expression describes the action of physical holding the opponent in order to prevent them shooting at the goal.


A set of planned game elements used in attack and defence by a team during a given game.


A unit of players with a maximum number of 14 on the match report.

Team Official

A person representing the team and has registered in the match report.

Team Time-out

Each team can call a 1-minute time-out in both halftimes of the game. This can be done by the team official putting the green card on the jury table when the team is in ball possession.

Three Metres from the Thrower

The opponents are not allowed to stay closer than 3 meters to the player taking a free throw or throw-in.

Three Steps

A player holding the ball is only allowed to make three steps after dribbling or passing the ball.


Players use the throw-in to put the ball back into the court after it has crossed one of the side lines. Both feet of the player must be in contact with the ground while throwing-in the ball but either hand may be used to throw the ball.


A throw taken from the centre line to start the game or restart after a goal.


A throw-on restarts play after a goal is scored and should be taken from the centre of the court.


The goalkeeper uses a throw-out to pass the ball to a team player from the goal area after he gets possession of the ball in the goal area.

Throwing in the Ball

This is one of the handball phrases that refers to passing or shooting the ball.

Throw (through/over the wall)

An overtime free throw with the defensive wall three metres from the shooting player.

Timekeeper and Scorekeeper

People sitting at the jury table responsible for measuring the time and registering the scores for the match report.

Tree Tops

The handball phrase ‘tree tops’ refers to a ball in play hitting the top corner of the handball wall. This situation becomes a ‘down’ or a point awarded to the server.


Turning is in the glossary of handball terms and expressions and refers to changing your direction or movement on court.

U – Underarm Shot

A shooting technique carried out with the arm moving below shoulder level.


The handball uniform is a set of clothes worn by all court players of a team. The uniforms also help to differentiate the outfield players from the goalkeeper as well as the team’s opponents.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct

In the game of handball there is little tolerance for unsportsmanlike conduct. Handball terms and conditions forbid physical and verbal expressions that are incompatible with the general spirit of all round good sportsmanship.

V – Various Legal Entitlement

This term refers to the broadcasting of handball games on TV and showing pictures in print media. It may also relate to place advertisement on and around the playing court.

W – Warning

Yellow card punishment awarded by the referee as a first measure of progressive punishment.


The handball whip technique is one which takes lots practice to master. A player swings in a vertical motion and ‘cutting’ the ball in a particular way that it shoots downward when the ball hits the wall.

Whistle for the Throw-off

The referee gives the signal to start the game.

X – Xbox 360 Game

Play handball Xbox with all 68 teams from the three biggest European leagues in simulation. Discover an intuitive game system with 24 offensive and defensive tactical set-ups. Use all the real handball moves and tactics: the spin shot, the hip shot and a wide range of tactical systems and realistic moves.

Y – Younger Age Categories

Handball for youngsters and children exist in various competition categories for players who are below the age of 19 years for women and 20 years for male players.

Z – Zone Defence Systems

A handball zone defence system can be 6:0 (six players on the goal area line), 5:1 (5 players on the goal area line, one player in front of them), 4:2, 3:2:1 (open defence), or 3:3, 1:5 (open defence).

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Team Handball Terminology