Climbing Jargon You Need to Know

If you are new to climbing, you may find yourself in the climbing gym more often, but whenever you go, it feels like you've entered another country. Climber lingo and jargon fly all around, and you're left nodding 'uh-huh' while internally you're thinking 'what-the-heck are these people saying?' No worries, we've got you covered with your one-stop shop for essential climbing vocabulary dictionary so you can join in the next climbing convo without missing a beat.

Definitions and Contextual Examples of Climbing Jargon

Types of Climbing Holds:

Climbing walls contain a variety of holds, either natural rock (outdoors) or plastic/wood (indoors). As you progress onto more challenging climbs, you'll hear climbers refer to different types of holds with several names. Now, if someone beta-sprays you (aka shouts at you where to move while climbing), at least you'll know what they mean by 'that crimp!'


Definition: Very small hold, usually only enough to get your fingertips on.

Example: "That route is pretty crimpy. I don't know if my fingers are warmed up enough for it."


Definition: Large hold that you can get a really good grip on

Example: "Dude, that hold is good! It's a big jug!"


Definition: A larger, rounded hold that is difficult to hold onto. (Keep your elbows tucked in and engage those biceps!)

Example: "Slopers suck."


Definition: A hold (can be various sizes) that you, literally, have to pull from the side for the best leverage.

Example: "Grab that hold the other way! It's a sidepull!"


Definition: A hold in which the portion you grab onto is facing downward, thus forcing you to engage your biceps and pull upward against the hold.

Example: "Really stand up into that undercling! It'll get better the more you stand into it."


Definition: Hold that you, literally, pinch. Usually rectangular or blocky. Pinch it with your thumb on one side and fingers on the other and squeeze hard! (Beware of the pump!)

Example: "Commit to the move - that pinch is pretty solid."


Definition: A notably small foothold that can sometimes be used as an intermediate hold when making a larger reach. Jibs are traditionally too small for bolts and are screwed onto the wall.

Example: "You have a jib for your left foot that is right below your knee."

Climbing Disciplines

There are a variety of climbing disciplines that exist. Here are some of the most common you'll hear discussed among the climbing community:


Definition: A sequence of complicated moves on walls, usually about 15 feet. Climbs set on a boulder are called 'problems.'

Example: "You won't need your harness. We're bouldering today."

Top Rope

Definition: The rope is anchored at the top of the wall above the climbers. The climber ties into one end of the rope, and the belayer hooks into the other and takes up the excess rope (slack) while the climber moves up the wall. Climbs on top-rope are called 'routes.'

Example: "Hey! Do you want to be my top-rope partner today?"

Lead/Sport Climbing

Definition: The rope begins on the ground with the climber and belayer. The belayer feeds rope (aka gives slack) to the climber as they move up the wall, and the climber clips the rope into pre-bolted hanging carabiners (aka quickdraws) as they climb.

Example: "Hey! Do you want to lead today? I brought my rope with me."

Trad Climbing

Definition: Similar to lead climbing, but the climber must place their own gear into natural cracks in the wall to secure themselves as they climb. They are only done outside.

Example: "We climbed a 5.6 trad route yesterday."

Free Solo

Definition: Climbing a route without a rope or protection. Please do not do this.