SWIM JARGON (a.k.a. “Swim Terms for Dummies”)

Have you ever been stumped by a swimming term? Swimming has a lot of "special words" that can be very confusing. Let Swim Geek teach you a few!


‘A’ Standard- Single "A" time standards are set by SwimBC and are used to help swimmers set goals.

‘AA’ Standard – The double "AA" time standard is also set by SwimBC and is a faster standard than the "A" standard. This standard is also used to control the size of swim meets, as each higher or faster level in the standards has fewer swimmers - as the standards get faster, less swimmers achieve them.Those swimmers who achieve a "AA" time standard will be invited to attend the BC "AA" Provincial Championships. These championships occur at the end of short-course season and again at the end of long-course season.

‘AAA’ Standard- The triple "AAA" time standard is also defined by SwimBC and is a faster standard than the "A" and "AA" standards. Those swimmers who achieve a "AAA" time standard will be invited to attend the fastest provincial meet, the BC "AAA" Provincial Championships. These championships occur at the end of short-course season and again at the end of long-course season.

‘AA’ Championships- A provincial championship that occurs at the end of both short and long-course season. This is for swimmers that have achieved the 'AA' time standard, but have not yet achieved a "AAA" time standard.

‘AAA’ Championships- BC's fastest Provincial Championship that occurs at the end of both short and long-course season.  

Age Group Qualifying times - A set of time standards, defined by Swimming Canada to enable goal-setting by under-18 swimmers. These standards are also used to control the size of the top national meet for swimmers under the age of 18. Swimmers must achieve qualifying times in 3 events to be eligible to attend this national level meet.

Block – The starting platform

Bulkhead – A wall constructed to divide a pool into different courses, such as a 50-meter pool into two 25-meter courses

Carbohydrate – Primary source of energy used by athletes in workouts and meets. Foods such as cereals, fruits, breads, pasta, and vegetables are excellent sources of carbohydrates

Chase Meet - Occasionally long-course meets may be run as "chase meets" for events 100 m or more. Starting blocks are located at each end of the pool (usually referred to as the shallow-end blocks and the deep-end blocks). Swimmers for the shallow end race start from the shallow end blocks, swim to the other side, turn and head back to finish on the shallow end. Swimmers of the next race at the deep end step up to the blocks after those swimmers make their turn. As the shallow end swimmers near the last quarter or so of their race, officials will start the swimmers at the deep end starting blocks. At this point there are two swimmers in the land, one "chasing" the other. The shallow end swimmers finish their race and quickly exit the pool. The deep end swimmer continues his/her race. Another shallow end set of swimmers will begin their race before the deep end swimmer is done.  

Check - In – The indication that a swimmer intends to participate in the meet or event

Circle Swimming – Performed by staying to the right of the black line when swimming in a lane to enable more swimmers to swim in each lane

Consolation Finals – The competition for the fastest remaining swimmers of those who fail to qualify for the finals

Course – Designated distance over which there is a competition (Long course = 50 meters, short course = 25 meters or yards)

Cut – Slang for qualifying time (a time standard necessary to attend a particular meet or event)

Disqualification (DQ) – When an official determines that a swimmer has violated a swimming rule, he or she may disqualify that swimmer. Typically, swimmers are disqualified for an illegal stroke, turn, or finish

Drag – The extra clothing swimmers may wear to create resistance while practicing, often in the form of shorts or multi-layered suits that may have rips or tears


Entry Form – The form on which a swimmer enters a competition. Includes age, gender, event number, and swimmer’s “lifetime best” time.

False Start – Moving once swimmers have been instructed to take their mark before the start is signaled. A false start may result in a DQ.

Final – A single race in which the fastest preliminary swimmers compete to determine final places and times in an event.

Finish – The final phase of the race; the touch at the end of the race.

Flags – Backstroke flags placed 5 yards or meters from the end of the pool. They enable backstrokers to execute a turn more efficiently by counting their strokes to the turn instead of turning around to look.

Flutter Kick – The kick used in the freestyle stroke. The legs alternate, moving up and down.

Free Relay – Four swimmers swim freestyle as part of a team.

Freestyle – One of the four basic individual and team swimming competitions. Uses the flutter kick and a windmill style arm stroke. Also known as front crawl or overhand.

Goal – A specific time achievement a swimmer sets and strives for - can be short- or long-term.

Gutter – The area along the edge of the pool in which water overflows during a race and is re-circulated through the filtration system.

Heat – A qualifying swimming competition that precedes semi-final races. Used due to the number of event entrants.

Heat Sheet – A listing of all swimmers by event number, heat, and lane assignments in the meet. These are available at the beginning of the meet and are usually purchased at the price of $2 to $5.


Invitational Meet – A meet hosted by one club who invites members from several other clubs to participate. Usually there is no limit on the number of swimmers that clubs can enter, but certain entry restrictions are usually applied. The number of heats of each event is determined by the number of entrants for that event.

Lap – 1 lap = 2 lengths of the pool.

Lap Counter – A set of plastic display numbers used to keep track of laps during a distance race. Also, a person who counts for the swimmer, stationed at the opposite end of the start.

Length – The distance from one end of the pool to the other.

Log Book – A book in which swimmers record their time achieved at any given meet or time.

Long Course – A type of competitive pool that measures 50 meters in length. The standard size of all international competition and all world record swimming is the 50 meter course.

Medley – A race in which all four basic competitive strokes are used, each for one-fourth of the total distance. In an Individual Medley one swimmer performs all the strokes in the order of butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, freestyle; in the Medley Relay four teammates each swim a different stroke (backstroke, breaststroke, butterfly, freestyle)

Middle Distances – Term used to refer to events of 200 meters to 400 meters in length.

National Age Group Times Standards – Time standards derived from the previous years’ reported results that are broken down by age and gender. These designations are NATIONAL and may be used for entry or qualifying purposes.

Negative Split – Swimming the second half of the race equal to or faster than the first half..

Pace Clock – Large clock with a large second hand and a small minute hand to determine pace for workouts.

Prelims – In certain meets, the qualifying rounds held for each event to determine the finalists.

Proof of Time – A requirement at some meets to make certain that all swimmers have legally met the time standards for that meet.

PR (Personal Record) – Is also known as individual best time and is the best time a swimmer has swum for an event.

Qualifying Time – Also known as “cut time”. (a time standard necessary to attend a particular meet or event)


Ready Bench – An area at the meet where swimmers report before their event to be arranged into their heat and lane assignments.

Referee – The official who has the authority over all other officials at the meet. He/she makes all the final decisions and sees to the efficient running of the meet.

Relay – An event in which four individuals on each team swim with the same stroke or, in prescribed order, one of the four different strokes. Each competitor swims one-quarter of the race distance.

Sanction – A permit issued by Swimming Canada to conduct an event or meet. (Note: All athletes participating in any Swimming Canada sanctioned swim meet must be registered Swimming Canada swimmers.)

Scratch – Withdrawal of an entry from competition. The coach should be notified in the case of a scratch. Proper withdrawal procedures must be taken.

Seeding – Distributing the swimmers among the required number of heats or lanes, according to submitted or preliminary times. Heats may be pre-seeded heats or deck-seeded heats.

Pre-seeded Heats – Swimmers are arranged in heats or events according to submitted times, and heat sheets are prepared listing lane and heat assignments.

Deck Seeded Heats – Swimmers are called to report to the clerk of course for their event on the day of the meet. After scratches, remaining swimmers are seeded in the proper heats.

Senior National Championships - The highest level of meet in Canada. To qualify for this meet swimmers must have achieved Senior National Qualifying times as defined by Swimming Canada.

Set – A specific segment of a daily practice.

Shock – A pool operator adds a prescribed amount of chemicals to the pool to take care of contamination (i.e., fecal or vomitous incident). A pool generally cannot be used for 24 hours after it has been shocked.

Short Course – Refers to competition conducted in 25-meter pools.

Split– An intermediate section of a race. Often used by the coaches to teach the concept of pacing.

Sprint – Describes the shorter events (50 and 100). In training, it means to swim as fast as possible for a short distance.

Starter – The official at a meet responsible for starting each heat and calling the next to the blocks.

Streamline – The position used to gain maximum distance during a start and/or push-off from the wall.

Stroke Judge – A certified official who determines the legality of swimmers’ strokes and disqualifies those who do not conform to swimming rules.

Submitted Times – Times previously accepted

Swim Bench – A piece of equipment used for dry land training that allows the swimmer to exercise on land using actual pulling patterns.

Taper – The resting process in training. Prior to major competition, training is completed in a rested state.

Time Trials – An event or series of events where swimmers may achieve or better a required time standard.

Timed Finals – Competition in which only heats are swum and final placing determined those heats.

Time Standards - qualifying times usually grouped by gender and age group. Provincial time standards are set by SwimBC, national standards are set by Swimming Canada.

Touch Pad – The part of an electronic timing system that rests in the water at the finishing end of each lane. Times are recorded electronically as the pad is touched.


Unattached – The status a swimmer receives when they are not part of a club. The swimmer must be unattached for 120 days from his/her last competition with the previous club. During this time they may compete individually, but not in relays.

Warm Down – Low intensity swimming used by swimmers after a race or main practice to rid the body of excess acid and to gradually reduce heart rate and respiration.

Warm-up – The period before the start of each session set aside to allow swimmers to enter the pool to loosen up, practice turns, etc.

Western Championships (Westerns) – A highly competitive age group competition held in western Canada. Swimmers compete for their provincial team not their club. Swimmers must achieve a Westerns qualifying time as defined by Swimming Canada to attend the meet.