Figure skating has a long and rich history, and with that, a long list of terms that every figure skater needs to know!
From leg positions and equipment to spins and scoring, we’ve rounded up over 60 terms you may hear in competitive and recreational ice skating and what it means. Bookmark this page so you can return to it whenever you’re unsure what a term means!1
Attitude: A leg position where the skater’s free leg lifts behind, and the knee bends at a 90° angle.
Arabesque: A leg position where the free leg is extended straight behind the body.
Axel Jump: A forward-approach jump with an extra half-rotation, meaning ice skaters land backwards. A single axel is one and a half turns, a double axel is two and a half turns, and a triple axel is three and a half turns.
Backspin: An upright spin performed on the back outside edge of a skater's blade.
Base Value: A number value assigned to each element in a figure skater’s program. The International Skating Union introduced base values to standardise competitive figure skating scoring and make judging more impartial.
Besti Squat: A move similar to the spread eagle, where the skater glides on two outside edges with toes turned out and heels facing each other. The skater’s knees also bend in a squat position with the torso upright. This move is unofficially named after the Russian ice dancer Natalia Bestemianova.
Biellmann Spin: A catch-foot spin or spiral where the free leg is held above the head from behind the skater. The position is named after Denise Biellmann, who popularised and perfected the technique.
Camel Spin: A spin move where the free leg extends straight behind the body in an arabesque position.
Catch-Foot: A spin or spiral where the free leg is held by one or both of the skater’s hands; the most famous catch-foot position is the Beillmann spin.
Centred Spin: A spin where the skater stays in one spot on the ice, opposite to a travelling spin.
Choreographic Sequence: A required element in a figure skater’s free skating program. It consists of any movement such as steps, turns, spirals, arabesques, and jumps with a maximum of two revolutions. Skaters get judged on the choreographic sequence as a whole and not each element.
Crossovers: A foot movement performed either forwards or backwards, where the skater crosses one foot over the other to gain speed and turn corners.
Deduction: Any points subtracted from a skater’s final score due to violations. These include going over the time limit, adding in extra or illegal elements, a fall, or a costume/prop violation.
Discipline: The different ice skating specialities that are governed by unique rules. For example, the Olympics has four disciplines of ice skating — Men’s singles, Ladies’ singles, pair skating and ice dance.
Draw: The method for determining the starting order for competitors in a figure skating competition. The draw can either be closed (only the judges are present) or open (where the competitors themselves will draw a number to determine their order).
Edges: In figure skating, edges can refer to the blade of an ice skate, which has an inside and outside edge. Edges also refer to the skater performing on that part of the blade.
Edge Jump: A rotational jump that takes off from an edge of the skating foot without the free foot making contact with the ice to assist takeoff. The three edge jumps in figure skating are the Axel, Loop and Salchow.
Element: An individual component in a figure skater’s program. Spins, spirals, jumps, and footwork are all classed as elements.
Flip Jump: A toe-jump where the skater takes off from the back inside edge of their skate, and lands on the back outside edge of the other skate.
Flutz: An unofficial term for an improperly-executed Lutz jump. A Lutz is ‘Flutzed’ when the skater mistakenly switches from the outside edge to the inside edge just before takeoff, making it a flip instead of a Lutz.
Flying Spin: A spin that is entered into with a jump. Common flying spins include flying camel spins and flying sit spins.
Footwork: A choreographed sequence of steps, edges, turns and hops (also known as step sequence) that is performed in sync with the skater’s music. It demonstrates to the judges the skater’s precision and agility and can be performed in straight, circular or serpentine movements.
Free Skate: Also known as the long program, the free skate is performed after the short program and lasts between 3:50 and 4:10 minutes for ladies’ singles and 4:20 and 4:40 minutes for men’s singles and pairs.
Grade Of Execution: The score that each judge will award a skater for each technical element under the ISU Judging System. Each element can be scored from -3 to +3.
Ina Bauer: A two-footed element where the skater glides on parallel blades. One foot is on the forward edge, and the back foot is on the opposite edge. The front leg is bent, and the back leg is trailing straight behind.
I-Spin: An upright spin where the skater holds the free leg in a splits position in front of them, creating an ‘I’ shape.
International Skating Union: The international governing body for competitive ice skating disciplines. The International Skating Union is responsible for the certification and training of judges and the scoring system used in competitive figure skating. The ISU also hosts championship-level figure skating competitions such as the World Figure Skating Championships, the World Junior Figure Skating Championships, the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships, and the European Figure Skating Championships.
ISU Judging System: A cumulative points judging system that produces the total score for a skater from their technical element score and program components score. It replaced the old 6.0 judging system and was first implemented in the Grand Prix circuit in the 2003-04 season.
Jump Combination: A combination of two or more jumps performed in consecutive order without steps or turns. The second in a combination jump must take off from the same foot the first jump landed on. Jump combinations usually involve the toe loop or loop as second jumps as both of these take off from the back outside edge — the typical landing edge for jumps.
Jump Sequence: A combination of two or more consecutive jumps connected with hops, steps or turns. They are connected more loosely than a jump combination, but a sequence cannot contain crossovers.
Kiss And Cry: The area next to an ice rink in major competitions where skaters wait to receive their scores.
Layback Spin: An upright spin where the skater's back is arched, and the head is dropped backwards with their back leg bent behind.
Level: The difficulty of an element as described by the ISU Judging System. The levels are between 1–4, with level 4 being the most difficult and carrying a higher base value than level 1.
Lip: An unofficial term for an improperly-executed flip jump. A flip becomes a lip when the skater mistakenly switches from the inside edge to the outside edge just before takeoff, making it a Lutz instead of a flip.
Long Program: The unofficial term for the free skate portion of a figure skater’s routine in competition.
Loop Jump: A jump where the skater takes off from the back outside edge and lands on the same back outside edge of the same foot.
Lutz Jump: A toe-jump where the skater takes off from the back outside edge of their skate, rotates in the opposite direction to the curve they’re skating, and lands on the back inside edge of the opposite foot.
Pancake Spin: A sit spin where the free leg crosses over the other leg, and the skater’s torso bends over the legs.
Program Components: The components of a skater’s program that demonstrate their overall presentation and artistry. A judge will score on the five program components: skating skills, transitions, performance, composition, and interpretation.
Program Component Score: Also known informally as the ‘second mark’, a skater’s program component score is between 0.25–10 for each of the five program components. These scores are then multiplied and added to produce the factored program component score.
Rippon Jump: A rotational jump where the skater holds their hands above their head during the jump instead of folded across their chest. This jump is named after the American figure skater Adam Rippon.
Rocker Turn: A one-footed turn where the skater changes direction from one circle onto another circle while staying on the same edge.
Rotational Jump: A jump where the skater rotates in the air and typically lands on one skate while moving backwards. The seven rotational jumps in figure skating are the Axel, Salchow, Loop, Toe Loop, Flip, Lutz and Waltz.
Russian Split: A split jump where the skater creates a straddle position, forming a V with their legs.
Salchow Jump: A jump where the skater takes off from the back inside edge of one foot and lands on the back outside edge of their other foot. This jump is named after the Swedish figure skater Ulrich Salchow, who first landed this jump during a competition in 1909.
Scratch Spin: An upright spin where the skater extends their free leg in front of them with their knee bent. As the skater brings their free leg down and crosses over the ankle of the spinning leg while drawing the arms in, the spin accelerates.
Short Program: The first part of a figure skater’s competitive routine that lasts for 2 minutes and 40 seconds. During the short program, skaters must perform seven required elements.
Shoot-The-Duck: A skating position where the skater lowers into a pistol squat position with their skating leg bent at the knee and their free leg extended forward.
Sit Spin: A spin where the skater is in a sitting position low to the ice, with the skating leg bent at the knee and their free leg extended forward.
Spin: An element where the skater rotates their body on the ice. There are three basic spins in figure skating: The upright spin, the sit spin and the camel spin.
Spiral: A move where the skater glides with the free leg extended backwards. This move is usually executed on a deep inside or outside edge, depending on the direction of the spiral.
Spread Eagle: A move where the skater glides on the ice on the inside or outside edges, with toes pointing out and heels facing each other.
Step Sequence: A sequence of choreographed footwork that the skater performs in sync with the music. It can be executed in straight, circular or serpentine movements across the ice.
Stroking: A move where the skater uses the inside edges of their blades to push themselves forwards and gain momentum on the ice.
Technical Element: Any element, such as a jump or spin with a definable skill that the judges can score.
Toe Jump: Any jump where the skater uses their toe pick to propel themselves upwards into the jump. The three toe jumps are the flip, Lutz and toe loop.
Toe Loop Jump: A toe jump where the skater takes off from the back outside edge and lands on the back outside edge of the same foot.
Toe Pick: The serrated front part of a figure skate blade that assists skaters with spinning and jumping.
Travelling Spin: A spin where the skater travels across the ice — opposite to a centred spin.
Upright Spin: A spin where the skater spins in an upright standing position, with the free foot held next to the skating foot.
Waltz Jump: A jump where the skater takes off from an outside edge, executes a 180° turn, and lands on the back outside edge of the opposite foot. This jump is usually not performed in competition and is one of the first jumps that new figure skaters will learn.Want to learn more about figure skating or get started on your ice skating journey? Check out our blog for all the expert advice, and shop online for all your figure skating essentials!