Swimming Jargon

A (A Cut)

Is a time classification for a swimmer or a swim. Known as the National Age Group

Time Standard A. A times are faster than the BB time standards and slower than the AA

time standards.

AA (AA Cut)

Is a time classification for a swimmer or a swim. AA is faster than A time standard.


Is a time classification for a swimmer or a swim sometimes called a Zone cut. AAA is

faster than the AA time standard.


Is a time classification for a swimmer or a swim. It is faster than the AAA time standard

and is the fastest typically listed in times standards.


A swim meet that requires swimmers to have previously swam an A time standard in

events they wish to enter.

A-B Meet

Swim meet that offers separate competition for both A swimmers and B swimmers.

Swimmers compete in separate brackets against other swimmers of similar ability.


Swim meet similar to an A-B meet except that there are 3 divisions. Swimmers compete

in separate brackets against other swimmers of similar ability.

Add Up Aggregate Time

For a relay, the times achieved by 4 swimmers in individual events are added together to

arrive at an entry time.

Age Group

The National Age Group divisions are: 10-under, 11-12, 13-14, 15-16, and 17-18.

Occasionally, a meet will use non-standard divisions such as: 8-under, 13-Over, and 15-

Over. Age grouping is used so that swimmers compete against others of similar size and



In some meets, swimmers participate in prelims round and the fastest quality to swim in

finals. These meets are called Prelims/Finals meets. After the finalists are determined,

the next two fastest swimmers are called the alternates. If a finalist cannot participate, the

alternates are called to take their place.


The last swimmer in a relay.

Approved Meet

Swimmers may use times achieved at an approved or sanctioned meet to qualify for

zones, nationals and other meets that require time standards. If a meet is not approved,

the times cannot be used for qualification.

B (B Cut)

Is a classification for a swimmer or a swim. National Age Group Time Standard B time is

faster than the C time standard and slower than the BB time standard.

BB (B Cut)

Is a classification for a swimmer or a swim. National Age Group Time Standard BB time

is faster than the B time standard and slower than the A time standard.


A swim meet that requires swimmers to have previously swam an A time standard in

events they wish to enter.

B-C Meet

Swim meet that offers separate competition for both B swimmers and C swimmers.


One of the 4 competitive racing strokes. The start is unique, typically from in the water

rather than off the blocks. It is the first stroke in the Medley Relay.


The starting platforms for each lane.

Bonus Heat

In a Prelims/Finals meet, there may be either 2 or 3 finals heats. If there are three heats,

the first or slowest, is called the bonus heat.


One of the 4 competitive racing strokes. It is the second stroke in the Medley Relay and

the third stroke in the I.M. It has a unique frog style kick.


One of the 4 competitive racing strokes. The butterfly, also called the fly, is swam as the

third stroke in the Medley Relay and first stroke in the I.M. It has a unique dolphin style



Serves several purposes including protecting hair from pool chemicals and can improve

hydrodynamics. They are made from several different materials. Logo's, flags, and other

decorations can adorn them, although some organizations limit the size of these



At some swim meets, cards are used to help keep the meet organized. Each card lists the

swimmer’s name along with event, heat, and lane assignment. It will sometimes include

the swimmer’s USA number, seed time, or other info. After races, times are written on

these cards by lane timers. Cards are collected and used to determine the order of

finishes, times, etc.

Championship Meet

A meet held at the end of a season. Qualification times are nearly always necessary to

enter a championship meet.

Championship Finals

The fastest qualifying swimmers in a Prelims/Finals meet. The number of qualifiers

depends on the pool and meet rules.


Before the beginning of some swim meets, swimmers must check off or circle their name

to signify that they have made it to the meet.


The chemical used by most pools to keep it clear and safe to swim in.

Circle Seeding

A method of determining who swims in which lanes. The fastest 18 to 24 swimmers

(depends on pool) are seeded in the last three heats of an event. The fastest swimmer is

in lane 4 of the last heat, the next fastest is in lane 4 of next to last heat, and so on until all

lanes are filled.


A registered swim team that pays dues to USA Swimming.


A set of rules, ethics, and conduct that both swimmers and coaches are required to sign at

certain USA/LSC sponsored events. The Code is not strict and involves common sense

and proper behavior.

Consolation Finals

In a Prelims/Finals meet, the next to fastest heat in finals is referred to as the consolation

finals. Regardless of how fast a swimmer is in the consolation finals, their rank finish in

the event cannot move up past those in the fastest finals heat.


The length of the pool. Long Course = 50 meters / Short Course = 25 yards or 25 meters.


The date meet entries must be postmarked to be accepted by the meet host.


The area around the swimming pool. At USA swim meets, only authorized USA

members, swimmers, and coaches may be on the deck during a swim competition.

Deck Entries

Most of the time, swim meet entries are made will ahead of a swim meet. But some

swim meets allow swimmers to enter an event during a meet.


A kind of meet or competition held for the purpose of allowing all levels of swimmers to

compete in a low pressure environment.


A swimmer’s performance is not counted because at least one rule concerning

performance was broken. A disqualification is signaled by an official typically by raising

one arm with open hand.

Dropped Time

When a swimmer goes faster than the previous best performance they have dropped their



The exercises and various strength programs swimmers do out of the water.


An Individual, Relay team, or Club roster's list indicating who will swim what events in

a swim competition.

Entry Fees

The amount per event a swimmer or relay pays to participate.

Electronic Timing

The timing system usually has touchpads in the water, buttons humans press for backup

timing, and a computer type console that prints out the results of each race. Some systems

are hooked up to a scoreboard that displays swimmer’s times.


A race or stroke over a given distance. Events have one or more heats depending on the

number of swimmers entered in the event.

False Start

When a swimmer leaves the starting block too early or moves while they are supposed to

remain still. A false start will disqualify a swimmer or a relay team.

Fastest to Slowest

A seeding method used on many longer events such as the mile or 1500 meters. The

fastest swimmers are seeded in the first heat followed by the next fastest and so on. Many

times one girl’s heat will alternate with one boy’s heat.

Format (of the meet)

The order of events and type of swim meet being conducted.


One of the four competitive racing strokes. Freestyle, also called Free is swum as the

fourth stroke in the Medley Relay and fourth stroke in the I.M. Most swimmers use the

crawl, the fastest swimming stroke.


Eye protection devices worn by swimmers to keep their eyes from being irritated by the

chlorine in the water.

Gun Lap

In longer races, when the swimmer has 2 pool lengths plus 5 yards to go, the starter fires

a gun shot (or rings a bell) over the lane of the lead swimmer (and sometimes each



When there are too many swimmers in an event for all to compete at the same time, the

swimmers are split into heats. The results of the event are compiled over all the heats of

the event.

Heat Award

Sometimes a ribbon or prize is given to the winner of each heat.

Heat Sheet

The pre-meet listings of swimmers indicating which events and heats each swimmer is

assigned to. It is based on meet entry times. Heat sheets are usually available at the meet

for purchase and sometimes available on the web.

High Point

Some meets give an award to the swimmer scoring the most points in a given group at a

swim meet.

Individual Medley (IM)

A swimming event in which a swimmer must swim all 4 of the competitive strokes in the

following order: Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke, and Freestyle.


Type of meet that requires a club to request an invitation to attend the meet.

Kick Board

A flotation device used by swimmers during practice to work on swim kicking.


A swimmer is assigned to swim in a particular area of the pool, usually designated by a

number. Lanes are separated by lane lines.

Lane Lines

Floating markers that separating each lane and reduce the waves created by swimmers.


Depending on the context, can either refer to either one length of the pool or two lengths

of the pool, one down and one back.

Lap Counter

During events 500 yards or longer, lap counters are used to help swimmers know how far

they have swum. Counting is done from the end opposite the starting end. Typically,

counting is done on large cards that are held in the water for swimmers to see as they

approach the end of the lap.

Late Entries

Meet entries from a club or individual received by the meet host after the entry deadline.

These entries are usually not accepted and are returned to sender.


The part of a relay event swam by a single team member and occasionally used to refer to

a single stroke in the IM.


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

Long Course

A 50 meter pool.


The command for swimmers to take their starting position as in “Take your Mark”.


The individual(s) responsible for controlling the crowd and swimmers at a swim meet.


Awards given to the swimmers at meets.


A series of events held in one or more days.

Meet Director

The official in charge of the administration of the meet is called the Meet Director.


A building constructed for the purpose of housing a swimming pool.

Non-Conforming Time

A short course time submitted to qualify for a long course meet, or vice versa.

Novelty Meet

A meet that has limited events, unusual events, sessions, or age brackets.

No Time (NT).

The abbreviation used on a heat sheet to designate that the swimmer had not swum that

event before (or at least did not include a time when the entry was submitted).


The certified volunteers, who control the start of events and judge a swim competition.

Official Time (OT)

The swimmers event time recorded to one hundredth of a second (.01).

Out Touched

In a close race, when one swimmer reaches the touchpad first the winner is said to have

out touched the other. Often limited to only the top two swimmers in a heat and

especially when someone who has an excellent finish and appears to get the win because

of that good finish.

Pre-seeded Meet

A meet in which swimmers knows what lane and heat they are in by looking at the Meet

heat sheet, or posted meet program.

Psyche Sheet

Similar to a Heat Sheet or meet program, although typically a psyche sheet does not

indicate lane assignments for the heats of the events.

Qualifying Times

Published times necessary to enter certain meets, or the times necessary to achieve a

specific category of swimmer.


A swimming event in which swimmers participate as a group is known as a relay. The

two most common types of relays are the Medley Relay (One swims backstroke, one

swims breaststroke, one swims butterfly, one swims freestyle) and the Freestyle Relay

(each swims freestyle).

Rest Area

A designated area (such as a gymnasium) that is set aside for swimmers to rest, camp,

and hangout during a meet.


A permit issued to a USA group member to conduct an event or meet.


To withdraw from an event after having declared an intention to participate is to scratch

the event. Some meets have scratch deadlines and specific scratch rules, and if not

followed, swimmer can be disqualified from remaining events.


The assignment of the swimmers to heats and lanes according to their submitted or

preliminary times is known as their seed.

Deck Seeding

After scratches and deck entries are determined, the event is re-seeded.


Refers to a time block in a long meet, such as a prelims/finals meet or a multi-day meet.

Short Course

A 25 yard or 25 meter pool.


A portion of an event, usually a number of lengths, that is timed.


The official in charge of signaling the beginning of a race and insuring that all swimmers

start legally.


The command given by the Starter or Referee to release the swimmers from their starting



The command given by the Starter or Referee to have the swimmers move off the blocks.


There are 4 competitive strokes: Butterfly, Backstroke, Breaststroke, Freestyle.

Stroke Judge

Official(s) at the meet responsible for making sure swimmers perform according to the

rules. If a Stroke Judge sees something illegal, they report to the referee and the swimmer

may be disqualified.

Submitted Time

Times used to enter swimmers in meets. These times must have been achieved by the

swimmer at a previous meet.


In a Prelims/Finals type competition, when swimmers tie during prelims, a race may be

needed to decide who swims in finals.


The resting phase for a swimmer usually before the championship meet that allows the

swimmer to enter the meet in a rested, but optimal condition. Rarely needed for young


Timed Finals

Competition in which final place of each swimmer in an event is determined by a single


Time Standard

A time set by a meet that a swimmer must achieve for qualification or recognition.


A volunteer who sits behind the starting blocks and times races.

Touch Pad

The removable panels put in the pool and connected to an automatic timing system. They

are sensitive to swimmers touching them.


An athlete who competes, but does not represent a club or team is referred to as an

unattached swimmer.

Unofficial Time

The time displayed immediately after a race. Such times may be inaccurate or the swim

may be disqualified.

USA Swimming

The governing body of swimming in the USA used to be known as USS.

USA Number

A number assigned to a swimmer after they have filled out the proper forms and paid

their annual dues.

Warm-down or Cool down

Relaxed swimming done after a race is referred to as either warm-down or cool down.


The practice a swimmer does before a meet or his or her event is swum.