Badminton Basics [History & Terms]

There is probably only a small group of people in the world who have never heard of badminton. From Brazilian beaches all the way to the streets of Shanghai, players of all generations are trying to keep the birdie in the air with the help of their rackets.

Badminton is the fastest racket sport and even one of the fastest sports out there. Professional players must be in excellent shape with sharp reflexes because the birdie can unbelievably reach up to 300 km/h.

The world record for the fastest shot is almost 500 km/h (precisely 493 km/h) and is held by Tan Boon Heong from Malaysia.

Badminton 101

Even though the playing area is only approximately 70 m2, players run several kilometers during a match and the physical toll is enormous. Badminton is, however, a very technical sport and less physically fit players can thanks to excellent technique and tactics beat younger and agiler adversaries during amateur events. And that’s the beauty of sport.

Badminton History

Games which were similar to today’s badminton date back to the 7th century, when Chinese played the game called “Di-Dšijan-Dsi” which was significantly different from today’s badminton.
We can find references about a game called “Poona” in Japan and India in later periods. The game spread from India in the 1860’s to the United Kingdom, where it was brought by officers of the British army serving in colonized India. It quickly became popular mainly in wealthy and rich families.

Badminton gained a bigger fan base in 1873 when a sports enthusiast Duke of Beaufort organized a garden celebration at his summer mansion called Badminton, where he introduced the new game to his friends. However, the Duke changed “Poona” significantly – he marked out the field, whose dimensions were derived from contemporary dance hall attributes, divided it by a tennis net and determined basic rules.

Badminton HistoryThis way he gave sport characteristics to a spontaneous knocking up of the birdie and we can say that he guided it into a fully-fledged sport.

For many years this sport was called “The Game of Badminton”, which was too long. The sport’s popularity rose, and in just a few years it was known as “Badminton” all around the world.

It didn’t take long and in 1893 the first badminton association was established in England. In the same year, the association issued the first set of rules of badminton which were used as a base during the first championship which took place in 1899.

The establishment of The Badminton World Federation (BWF) in 1934 was a big milestone. From this year on the game became an international sport with professional players from America, Europe and of course Asia, where badminton is very popular.

In 1992 badminton received a big honor, when it was officially introduced into the list of Olympic sports. Summer Olympics feature male and female singles or doubles, and from 1996 also mixed doubles.

Basic Badminton Rules

To describe the basic rules and principles of the game we have to define the number of players. Badminton, similarly to tennis, can be played as singles or doubles.


The court for singles is 17 ft wide and 44 ft long. The length stays the same in doubles, but the width changes. From each side, 1.5 ft is added and the overall width of the court for doubles is thus 20 ft.

Badminton Court

The court has, therefore, a rectangle shape and is separated by a net in the exact center. This net is attached to posts which can’t reach into the court. The net is elevated to 5 ft and 1 inch. In the middle, the height of the net is exactly 5 ft.

There are several determining lines which divide the court into several parts. These lines are very important, for example when serving.

Serve and match

Players serve diagonally, similarly to tennis. The birdie has to fall beyond the service line of the opponent and can’t touch the net while serving.

In contrast to a tennis serve, a badminton racket must hit the birdie in a maximum height of the serving player’s waist. The player who wins the exchange serves next, i.e. the serve doesn’t rotate in regular intervals.


Since 2006, a new system of score counting is used in professional badminton. The match ends in 2 winning sets, each consisting of 21 points, and the side which wins the exchange wins a point.

If the score is 20:20 the match continues until the winning side reaches a two-point lead. If the score is 29:29 the first to achieve 30 points wins.

In professional matches, players can use a 1-minute pause after reaching the 11th point. There is a 2-minute pause between sets.

Birdie (Shuttlecock)

Two types of birdies are usually used.

  • Professional players use birdies which are made of 16 overlapping feathers place into a cork that is covered in thin leather or synthetic material.
  • Amateurs and recreational players use cheaper, fully synthetic birdies made from nylon. The advantage of these birdies is their durability and on the other side, the biggest con is the difference in behavior and flight path.

Feather birdies are, however, due to their processing and used material more expensive, and therefore are recommended for intermediate and professional players.

Dictionary of Badminton Terms

Word Meaning
Ace A serve that the opponent can’t react to.
Backcourt / rear court The rear part of the court.
Backhand A hit from the opposite side than the one on which the racket is held.
Baseline The base line limiting the court.
Bird / birdie Shuttlecock
Centre line The line which divides the court to a left and right side.
Clear A hit deep into the opponent’s filed.
Doubles A match between two teams, consisting of two players.
Drop shot / Net Shot A hit by which the birdies falls closely past the net.
Fault An error during which a player hits the net, or the birdie falls outside the playing area.
Forecourt The front part of the court.
Home position The middle of the court and a position to which players in singles return after hitting the birdie.
Kill shot A quick hit on the net that the opponent can’t react to
Let A little violation of rules which requires repeating the exchange.
Lob A hit to the rear part of the court over the opponent’s head who is at the net.
Passing shot A hit placed on one of the opponent’s sides.
Push shot A gentle hit using only the wrist.
Racket (racquet) A tool by which players play badminton.
Rally A series of hits between players from one side of the court to another.
Serve A hit which marks the beginning of an exchange.
Service court The part of the court where the birdie must fall during a serve.
Short serve A short serve closely above the net which falls on the front part of the court.
Smash A dynamic and strong hit over the head.
Wood shot A regular hit when the birdie hits the frame of the racket.

Daniel Wright

I'm a former professional badminton player from Belgium. I have won multiple local tournaments and have gained many experiences during my career. Badminton has remained my passion, and therefore I have decided to create this website, where I can post various tips from the badminton world. Read more...

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