Skip to Content

Top Skydiving Phrases


Curtis Posted by: Curtis White 10 months ago

Ready for an experience you’ll never forget? Let’s start with a vocabulary lesson that will make your skydiving experience even richer! 

If you’re new to the world of skydiving, you might feel like you’re stepping into a whole new culture, complete with its own baffling language … and, well, you are. But fear not! We’ve got your back, and we’re here to help you get up to speed with some of the most important skydiving phrases, skydiving slang, and skydiving lingo before you hit the DZ.*

*As we covered in our Skydiving Terminology article, DZ is short for dropzone. It’s the official skydiving facility where all the action happens. It’s where you’ll meet fellow skydivers, board the aircraft, experience the adrenaline rush of jumping out of a plane, and learn never, ever, ever to use the term “chute” in polite company! Parachute or canopy only, please. 

Ahem. Class is in session.

A License

The A License is your very own ticket to becoming a skilled solo skydiver. Not only is it the first entry in this edition of our skydiving terms glossary—it’s the first step in your journey to jumping solo and with friends at dropzones around the world. To earn this license issued by the United States Parachute Association (USPA), you’ll need to complete a checklist of skills detailed on the A License proficiency card, signed off by your AFF instructor.

“Are you planning to get your A License?”


Short for Accelerated Freefall, “AFF” has, for all intents and purposes, become a skydiving word even though it’s an acronym. You’ll hear around the DZ all the time, so commit it to memory! AFF is the most common and efficient new-jumper training method in modern skydiving. It has replaced older methods like static line progression training and instructor-assisted deployment. With AFF, you’ll get right into it. You’ll experience the thrill of freefall from the very beginning of your skydiving journey. (If you’re looking for a New England AFF program, we know a great one… 😉)

“I can’t wait to start AFF! I’ll be one step closer to getting my A License!”

Belly Jumping

This cute little skydiving term refers to a discipline that’s also called, interchangeably, RW (for Relative Work) or Formation Skydiving. Belly jumping involves skydivers falling belly-to-earth and creating predetermined formations with their bodies. If you’ve seen images of skydivers making shapes, letters and other patterns in the sky, you’ve seen formation skydiving! When skydivers intentionally link up by two, it’s a two-way; by three, a three-way … by 300, it’s a 300-way. On any given day at dropzones worldwide, you’re likely to see some configuration of people doing “belly jumps” together in various numbers.

“Did you see Dr. Pete’s organizing some belly jumps?”

belly jump

Blue Skies!

What do skydivers say to other skydivers when they’re taking their leave? The same thing they wish for themselves: “Blue skies.” Like “Keep the shiny side up!” in motorcycling, or “Hang loose!” in surfing, it’s an endearing expression that doesn’t show any signs of falling out of favor.

“I’m headed out for the day, but I’ll see you tomorrow. Blue skies!”


During a group skydive, breakoff is the critical moment when all jumpers need to separate from each other to avoid dangerous canopy collisions. If you watch the sky carefully after jumpers leave the plane, you can generally see groups breaking off with your bare eyes. It’s, well, pretty cool.

“Let’s talk about our breakoff altitude.”


That most magical of all backpacks that holds both your canopies (among many other small, essential pieces of kit) is casually called a container. Less-casually, it’s called a container system or harness container.

“Cool new container – matches your jumpsuit!!”


Don’t worry; this isn’t just, like, a creepy person ogling from the dark corners of the dropzone. It’s a person-shaped skateboard-type-thing used by skydivers while practicing Relative Work (RW) to simulate freefall maneuvers on the ground. They’ll zoom around a reserved area at the dropzone, belly on the board, rehearsing who will do what and when – this rehearsal is called a dirt dive (bonus word!). The sequence of maneuvers they practice on creepers, or on foot walking around each other, simulates the positions they’ll take in the sky. Practice, after all, makes perfect—or, if not perfect, safer.

“Let’s do another dirt dive on creepers before the next load.”


Also known as Canopy Relative Work (hence the acronym) or Canopy Formation, you’ll hear folks on the dropzone refer to this discipline – which involves skydivers flying their canopies close to each other in the sky and physically linking up – as “crew.” And what’s the phrase skydivers use to refer to athletes who practice crew? Why, crew dogs of course!

“We’ll exit the plane right before the crew dogs.”


Short for the less-used skydiving phrase “demonstration jump,” a demo is a skydive performed at a public place, usually in front of a cheering crowd. It’s a thrilling display of skydiving skill and spectacle. Also known as exhibition jumps.

“Did you hear? They’re doing a demo at tonight’s baseball game.”

Hot Load

Skydivers are a heat-lovin’ bunch, right?! A “hot load” refers to a skydiving aircraft that lands, picks up a new group of jumpers, and takes off again without shutting down its engines. Taking it a step further, “hot fueling” involves fueling the plane while the engines are still running, allowing for a quick turnaround for the next load of skydivers.

“Hurry! We’re getting on this hot load.”

Jump Run

The flight path taken by the aircraft as skydivers exit is known as the “jump run.” It’s strategically planned to position skydivers correctly over the airport based on atmospheric conditions.

“The wind changed direction. The jump run will be different for the next couple of loads.”

Off Landing

Ooooopsie-daisy. Someone landed outside the designated landing area—an off landing. No big deal! It happens occasionally, and a truck is usually dispatched to pick up the sheepish skydiver who missed the mark.

“Yep! That’s going to be an off landing. Let’s go get him.”


“The peas” refers to the accuracy target for type-A skydivers (and practitioners of the accuracy discipline). It is so named because it’s usually covered in pea gravel to provide a softer landing than the surrounding ground. (Fun fact: when people train seriously—or compete in—the accuracy discipline, a big ol’ vinyl pillow stands in for the peas.

“I landed in the peas!”


The opposite of a hot load, shutdown refers to an aircraft landing and shutting down its engines before picking up the next load of skydivers. As skydiving words go, this one is a word we like to hear less than others.

“No big rush – there’s a shutdown ahead of our load.”

parachute swooping


This skydiving discipline is the realm of those thrill-seekers who love flying their itty-bitty speed-racer canopies close to the ground. Swooping involves aggressive landing techniques performed in a fast and precise manner. There’s usually an allocated “swoop lane” or “swoop pond” that no one with a normal-sized canopy is allowed to go near. Tempting as it may be, refrain from saying “swoop, there it is” – it’s not funny anymore. 

“Did you see that? I swooped it in on my butt.”

Now that you have a handle on more of the top skydiving phrases, you’ll be better equipped to immerse yourself in the world of skydiving – or at least understand what everyone’s talking about! So go ahead, buckle up, and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime! Come jump with us. Blue skies.

WORLD SKYDIVING DAY - Book for Saturday, July 13 2024 and be part of a world record!! MORE INFO!