cheerleading dictionary

130+ Cheerleading Terms to Know

Like all sports, cheerleading has it’s own language. Teddy bear. Buckets. Scale. Helicopter. These are common words that probably bring to mind pictures of every day items; however, they have a very different meaning in the cheer world. 

When you are first starting out, it can be a little overwhelming to learn all of the different terms for each cheerleading skill. It can also be a little intimidating – no one wants to say the wrong thing. To help give you a head start on learning the cheer lingo, I created this (almost) complete cheer dictionary that you can save and reference whenever you need it. 

This list is by no means exhaustive (though I sure tried to catch them all!), and some terms vary from team to team (for example: daggers vs. tabletop or prep vs. elevator). Cheerleading also continues to evolve, so terms can change, get added, or become obsolete over time – when was the last time you actually heard anyone say “herkie”?! 

I will continue to update this post with links to additional resources, pictures, and videos for as many terms as possible. However, I know sometimes you won’t have the time to dig for the pin or have internet connection to pull this page up. To help with this, I have also turned the cheer dictionary into a PDF that you can save to your phone or print and keep in your cheer binder for easy reference! Use the form below to download the Cheer Dictionary PDF:

Let's learn some cheer vocab!

cheerleading dictionary
  1. Aerial – tumbling skill performed without hands; often a side aerial (no-handed cartwheel)
  2. Arabesque – body position for stunting where the flyer stands on one leg with the other leg extended straight behind, arms in a T; the entire stunt group should face the side
  3. Arabian – a flip that takes off backwards, does a half turn, and lands facing the front
  4. Around the world – advanced cheerleading jump in which the legs come up in a pike, then open to a toe touch before landing
  5. Awesome – extension with flyer’s feet close together
  6. Backbend – position in which the feet and hands maintain contact with the floor while the back arches and stomach pushes up toward the ceiling (see also: bridge)
  7. Back Handspring – tumbling skill that involves jumping backwards and passing through a handstand position before landing back on the feet
  8. Back Tuck – back flip with legs in a tucked position
  9. Backspot/back base – Stunt position in the back of the stunt group responsible for maintaining contact with the flyers ankles and calling the counts for the stunt
  10. Baja – stunt in which the flyer does a front flip while maintaining contact with a brace on the floor. Technical name is a suspended roll
  11. Barrel roll – a flyer is tossed from a cradle position, executes a full twist parallel to the ground before being caught in the cradle position again. Also called a “log roll”
  12. Base – stunt position that does the lifting
  13. Basket Toss – stunt where bases throw the flyer in the air and flyer performs a skill before being caught. The bases hands interlock like a woven basket.
  14. Blades – hand position with hands flat and fingers together 
  15. Block – the bounce or pop action in the shoulders needed for tumbling skills such as a back handspring
  16. Body Position – The skill performed by a flyer in a single-legged stunt
  17. Bow and arrow – single-leg body position where the flyer extends one leg straight up, grabbing with the opposite arm. The other arm is extended in a T in front of the leg, creating a shape that resembles a bow and arrow
  18. Brace – a prep-level stunt group whose flyer maintains contact with another group’s flyer as they perform a skill
  19. Breakaway/Break through banner – A large banner the the team runs through as they enter the field or court before a game. Some teams will make a new paper banner for each game, and others will invest in a fabric or vinyl banner that can be used for multiple years
  20. Bridge – a foundational tumbling skill where the hands and feet maintain contact with the ground while the belly button extends toward the ceiling.
  21. Broken T – a motion with both arms bent parallel to the ground with fists in front of shoulders
  22. Buckets – motion with both arms extended directly in front of the body, parallel to each other and the ground; fists face toward the ground as if holding two buckets of water
  23. Bump down – stunt dismount that essentially performs the stunt in reverse to end in the beginning load position
  24. Camp – a intensive practice where cheerleaders are taught a range of skills an materials, often by an outside instructor. These can be single day or multi-day events involving travel.
  25. Candlesticks – motion with both arms extended directly in front of the body, parallel to each other and the ground; fists face inward as if holding two candles straight up
  26. Captain – a member of the team chosen by the coach or their teammates to serve as a leader. Captain responsibilities will vary from team to team
  27. Cartwheel – foundational tumbling skill that takes off from the tumblers dominant leg, passes sideways through a handstand position with the legs apart, ending on the opposite leg. It is called this because it resembles the spokes of a wagon or cart wheel as it turns
  28. Chair sit – partner stunt where the flyer is in a liberty-style position while the base has on hand under her seat and the other hand supporting her lower ankle
  29. Chant – a short phrase or series of words and letters that is yelled with motions and is repeated multiple times to encourage that crowd to yell along. These are performed throughout a game and make up a majority of sideline “cheering”
  30. Cheer – a longer string of phrases that is yelled and incorporates motions, jumps, stunts, tumbling, and often spirit props. These are generally performed between quarters, during halftime or timeouts, or as a standalone routine for a competition
  31. Chin-chin – stunting body position in which the flyer brings one leg up and hooks her foot under her chin
  32. Clap – bringing the hands together in the blade position in front of the chest; a clap is not very loud and is primarily used for appearance
  33. Clasp – bringing the hands together in a cupped position in front of the chest; a clasp is used most often in cheerleading as it creates a louder sound than a clap
  34. Clean – standing with feet together and arms pressed tightly to the sides
  35. Clinic – A shorter version of camp usually lasting a few hours; can cover several areas or focus on one specific area (a stunt clinic, for example)
  36. Competition – event where multiple cheerleading teams perform a routine and are evaluated by a panel of judges to receive the highest score
  37. Cradle – stunt dismount where the bases release the flyer’s feet and catch her in a reclined position, bases should have one arm under the flyer’s legs and the other behind her/his back
  38. Crop – long sleeve garment worn underneath a uniform shell and ending underneath the bust. Should be form fitted
  39. Cupie – partner stunt where a singular base is holding both of the flyers feet in one hand in an extended position. (This term is sometimes used interchangeably with “awesome” when referring to group stunts)
  40. Daggers – motion with both arms bent in front of chest, elbows pointing down, and fists facing each other
  41. Dead mat – a foam mat without springs underneath used by school teams for practice and competition
  42. Double – short for “double full”; a variety of skills that incorporate two full twists such as a cradle or layout
  43. Dismount – the method used to get out of a stunt
  44. Double nine – jump where one leg extend straight in front and the other bends so that the foot is touching the knee to create a “9” shape, with arms mimicking that motion
  45. Drill – an exercise or part of a skill that is performed repetitively to increase understanding and muscle memory for that specific part of the skill
  46. Elevator – also known as a prep, this is a foundational stunt. Two bases and a backspot hold the flyer at shoulder-level on both feet.
  47. Extension – stunt where the flyer stands on both feet, with the bases arms fully extended overhead.
  48. Flyer – the cheerleader that is lifted in the air during stunts
  49. Formation – the placement of cheerleaders on the floor or sideline during a routine. Common formations are windows or a V
  50. Free stretch – very similar to a heel stretch, but the flyer lets go of the foot and extends both arms to the side, using her strength to keep the leg in the air
  51. Front handspring – Tumbling skill that takes off forward and passes through the handstand position (legs together) before landing on the feet
  52. Front Hurdler – jump where one leg extends straight in the front and the other bends in the back, arms are most often in a touchdown motion, but can also be in a high V. The leg in front determines whether it is a “right” or “left” jump
  53. Front spot – stunt position that provides additional support in the front of the stunt by grabbing the flyers shins or the bases wrists. A front spot is generally used when first learning a stunt, though they are frequently used in basket tosses for added height
  54. Front Tuck/Punch Front – front flip without hands. In cheerleading a punch front with a step out is often used at the beginning of a tumbling pass before a round off to add difficulty
  55. Full – any skill with a 360 degree rotation. Often used to refer to a full-twisting layout
  56. Full down – a cradle with a full twist before the catch
  57. Full Up – when the flyer does a full spin at the beginning of the stunt in transition from the load in before hitting the final position
  58. Full-out – when a team performs all aspects of a routine during practice, including stunts, jumps, and tumbling. (During practice, a team may “mark” parts of a routine to save energy)
  59. Gameday competition – a relatively recent addition to cheerleading competition, the gameday division evaluates school teams on a band dance, a crowd involvement cheer, an offense or defense chant, and the team’s fight song dance
  60. Grip – how the bases hold the flyers foot for a stunt
  61. Heel Stretch – stunting body position where the flyer pulls one leg up diagonally in front of the body, the other arm does a high V
  62. Helicopter – flyer is tossed in a prone position and rotates on the horizontal axis before being caught again, resembling the blades of a helicopter. Can also be performed with multiple groups who all toss their flyer to the group next to them as the flyers hold hands. 
  63. Herkie – jump where one leg extends to the side as in a toe touch and the other is bent with the knee pointing down. Traditionally performed with the arms in a punch motion. Named after Lawrence Herkimer
  64. High V – motion with both arms at about a 45 degree angle overhead, fists should be facing out
  65. Hitch – Body position in stunting where a flyer stands on one leg while the other leg is bent and connects to another stunt group
  66. Hurdle – running tumbling element used by an athlete to gain power and momentum before the round off
  67. Inversion – any stunt where the flyers feet are higher than her head
  68. Jump – in cheerleading, a jump specifically refers to when a cheerleader’s feet leave the ground and he/she executes one of the recognized jump positions before landing
  69. Layout – a flip where the tumblers body stays completely straight for the duration of the skill; can be performed front or back, but is most often performed backwards in cheerleading
  70. Liberty – the easiest single leg body position, involves placing the toe of the non-standing leg to the standing knee, with both knees facing forward
  71. Load – the beginning of the stunt when the bases first grab the flyer’s feet/foot. The flyer should support her own weight in the bases shoulders
  72. Low V – motion with both arms extended about 45 degrees below chest level
  73. Main Base – This is generally the base on the flyer’s right side (or the base on the left if you are looking at the group from the front). There is little difference in bases during most two-legged stunts; however, the main base is the one who keeps the heel-toe grip during a single leg stunt.
  74. Megaphone – spirit prop that is used to help project a cheerleader’s voice further
  75. Motion – the arm and leg positions that correspond to words or counts during cheers, chants, and routines
  76. Needle – used to describe a straight-leg scorpion body position
  77. Non-building – a team that does not stunt; some competitions have divisions specifically for non-building teams
  78. Non-tumbling – a team that does not tumble; some competitions have divisions specifically for non-tumbling teams
  79. Paper doll – a pyramid where multiple flyers connect arms while doing the same body position (generally a liberty or heel stretch). The resulting visual is reminiscent of an unfolded paper doll chain.
  80. Partner Stunt – a stunt where a single base lifts a flyer; generally this is coed, but there has been an increase in all-girl partner stunts
  81. Pike – jump position where both legs extend straight in front together, like one is folding in half. A pike position can also be used in tumbling
  82. Pivot – a turning motion where one foot stays planted
  83. Pom pom – spirit prop made of shreds of colored plastic or vinyl that is used to accentuate motions and grab attention
  84. Pop off – a stunting dismount where the flyer is released with a slight toss and lands on the ground with her feet together. Bases should reach for the flyer as she comes down and slow her down significantly before she reaches the ground.
  85. Post – single leg stunt position where the non-standing leg is pressed close against the standing leg as if in a clean. This is used after extending into the single leg stunt before pulling the body position, though is not a requirement.
  86. Post up – way to get into a stunt where the flyer holds the hands or shoulders of someone on the floor in front of the stunt. This person is used as a lever that the flyer can lean on as the base(s) lift(s) the flyer
  87. Prep – used interchangeably with “elevator”; two bases and a backspot hold the flyer at shoulder-level on both feet
  88. Prone – position where the flyer is held laying face down
  89. Props – items such as pom poms, signs, flags, and megaphones that add visual appeal to routines and help elicit excitement from the crowd
  90. Punch – motion with one hand on the hip and the other extended straight up next to the ear
  91. Pyramid – when two or more stunts are connected, or when one flyer is supporting the weight of another flyer
  92. Rebound – an athlete uses the force of the landing of one tumbling skill to spring themselves straight up into a hollow position. This is used more often as a drill rather than a skill in itself
  93. Reload – stunt transition in which the flyer goes from a cradle position back to a squish or load position
  94. Rewind – an entry to a stunt where the bases toss the flyer and she does a back tuck before they catch her at the top. Can also refer to a bump down dismount with a full twist
  95. Ripple – when different groups in a routine perform the same motions on different counts, one right after the other
  96. Round-Off – Much like a cartwheel but performed with more power and landing with both feet together. This skill is the foundation of nearly every tumbling pass.
  97. Routine – a combination of dance, stunts, tumbling, and pyramids synchronized to music
  98. Scale – stunt body position where the flyer grabs one leg with one hand and pulls it up behind her at an angle. The leg should stay straight and the stunt group should face the side
  99. Scorpion – stunt body position where the flyer grabs one foot with one or both hands and extends it directly behind her, lifting the foot as high as possible. The stunt group should face the side
  100. Series – multiple back handsprings performed consecutively
  101. Set – in stunting, to “set” means to get in the starting position for the stunt. In tumbling, to “set” means to ride the upward motion of the jump before beginning to rotate
  102. Show and go – a stunt that fully extends before quickly returning to a squish or load position
  103. Side Base – generally the base on the flyer’s left side. There is little difference in bases during most two-legged stunts; however, the side base is the one whose grip changes to the middle of the foot during a single leg stunt
  104. Side Hurdler – jump where one leg extends to the side as in a toe touch and the other is bent with the knee facing forward
  105. Signs – spirit props that contains words, letters, or colors that help the crowd know what to yell and when
  106. Spanks – also called briefs, these are the spandex shorts worn underneath a cheerleading skirt.
  107. Spirit – used as a noun, spirit is the enthusiasm that one has for a team. Used as a verb, spiriting is the act of yelling quick phrases and performing jumps, kicks, or tumbling to get the crowd fired up before or after a performance or score.
  108. Spirit Stick – the spirit stick is traditionally given to the most spirited team or cheerleader at an event such as camp
  109. Spotter – In stunting, a spotter stands near a stunt to help catch the flyer should the base(s) need assistance. In tumbling, a spotter provides physical support as an athlete learns a new skill. The spot should begin heavy with full contact, but can ease up as the athlete gains confidence in the skill 
  110. Spring floor – a foam mat above a layer of springs, used in all-star cheerleading to provide extra bounce for tumbling and jumps
  111. Squish – a nickname for the load position used for two legged stunts; can also be used as a nickname for a bump down
  112. Step out – a tumbling skill that lands one foot at a time rather than both feet at the same time
  113. Stick – to land a tumbling skill without taking extra steps or to hit a stunt without bobbles
  114. Stomp n shake – a style of cheerleading that originated and is popular in the southeastern US. Stomp n shake combines traditional cheer motions with rhythmic stepping and energetic hip shaking
  115. Straight ride/straight cradle – a toss dismount or basket toss where the flyer maintains a straight body position and does not perform any additional skill
  116. Stunt – an acrobatic cheerleading skill that involves one or more cheerleaders lifting another in the air
  117. STUNT – an emerging sport that involves two teams performing a series of pre-determined routines simultaneously. A STUNT game consists of four quarters, with routines that include of stunts, tumbling, basket tosses, pyramids and jumps. The team with the best execution of each routine is awarded points for that round
  118. Swedish fall – stunt in which the top person is in an extended face down position, with one leg extended straight back and the other extended straight in the air
  119. Switch-up – a stunt that involves a flyer switching her standing leg on the way to the top of the stunt
  120. T – a motion where both arms are held straight out to the sides, making the shape of the letter “T”
  121. TableTop – another name for the “daggers” motion; also a pyramid where a top girl stands on the back of another flyer
  122. Teddy bear – stunt in which the flyer is held in a straddle at shoulder-level, often used as a transition
  123. Thigh stand – Beginner stunt in which bases stand in a side lunge position, and the flyer stands on the bases’ legs. Bases provide support by gripping the flyer’s toe and knee
  124. Tick tock – single-leg stunt where the flyer switches her standing leg while in the air
  125. Toe Touch – jump where both legs come up into a straddle position, arms in a T
  126. Top Girl – Alternate term for a flyer, specifically used for the flyer(s) at the top level of a pyramid
  127. Torch – liberty variation in which the stunt group faces the side and the flyer rotates only her upper body to face the crowd
  128. Toss up – Method of getting into a stunt that involves the base or bases tossing the flyer by her waist/legs and catching her feet in the final stunt position
  129. Touchdown – motion that involves holding both arms parallel to each other directly overhead, much like the motion a football referee makes to signify a touchdown. Can also be performed in a low touchdown variation, with both arms extending toward the ground
  130. Tryout – skills evaluation where team members are selected by the coaches and/or a panel of judges
  131. Tuck jump – beginner jump that involves pulling both knees up to the chest
  132. Tumbling – the gymnastics portion of cheerleading that includes handsprings and aerial flips; can be performed from standing or running
  133. Uniform – the outfit worn by a cheerleading team to maintain a cohesive appearance
  134. Walkover – tumbling skill that takes off from one foot and passes through the handstand position with legs in a split position; can go forward or backward
  135. Warmup – a series of motions, stretches, and light exercises done at the beginning of an athletic event or practice to loosen up the muscles and prevent injury
  136. Whip – a no-handed back handspring; often used as a connecting skill to increase difficulty in a tumbling pass
  137. X-out – a flip in which the athlete begins in a tuck position then spreads the arms and legs into a spread eagle, or “X”, position. This can be performed as a tumbling skill or basket toss

Shew – that was a lot! Like I said before, some teams will have different terms for certain skills or motions, but for the most part, this is the main vocab you will need to feel confident talking about cheerleading. If you found this helpful, please share with the other cheerleaders and coaches you know!

cheerleading dictionary
cheerleading vocabulary blog post