In the modern world, table tennis and ping pong are essentially the same sport

While table tennis is the official ‘sporting’ term and is commonly used in Europe, ping pong is the more popular term in the US – especially for more ‘casual’ descriptions of the sport. 

But for the majority of table tennis and ping pong players – there’s no difference between the two terms. It’s just the name you choose to describe it! 

There is a difference, however, in the origins of the two terms and their history, and that’s what I explore in this guide!

Differences between ping pong and table tennis

Table tennis has a long and storied history. Early versions of the game were played in England in the 1800s, where it was known as “whiff-whaff” or “gossima.” The game eventually evolved into the modern version of table tennis, which was standardised in the 1920s.

Ping pong, on the other hand, has its roots in the United States, where it was first played in the late 1800s. The name “ping pong” was trademarked in the US by Parker Brothers in 1901, and the game gained widespread popularity in the early 1900s.

The two games had some notable differences in equipment and rules. Table tennis was played with a celluloid ball, while ping pong was played with a plastic ball. The bats used in table tennis were typically made of rubber and wood, while those used in ping pong were often made of plastic. Additionally, the rules of each game differed slightly, with table tennis having a more complex set of rules than ping pong.

However, these days ping pong is virtually the same as table tennis – and that goes for the equipment and rules of the games too.

Table Tennis vs Ping Pong: Game Play

Ball size and weight used to differ between the two games. Table tennis balls were smaller and lighter than ping pong balls, making them more difficult to hit and control. The table used in table tennis was also larger than what was used in ping pong, with a surface made of a different material.

Due to the different equipment and table, playing styles and strategies also differed between table tennis and ping pong. Table tennis players often used more spin and speed in their shots, while ping pong players focused more on control and placement.

Table Tennis and Ping Pong: Popularity and Competitions

Table tennis is a global sport, with millions of players and fans around the world. The game is especially popular in Asia, where it is a national pastime in countries like China and Japan. There are numerous international competitions and tournaments held for table tennis players, including the Olympics and the World Table Tennis Championships.

Ping pong, on the other hand, is often associated with recreational play and popular culture. The game has been featured in movies, TV shows, and music videos, and is often played in bars and clubs. There are also some organised competitions and tournaments for ping pong players, such as the World Series of Ping Pong.


While table tennis and ping pong used to share many similarities, they are now largely considered one and the same sport (even the ‘ping pong’ page on Wikipedia redirects to ‘table tennis’!) But it’s interesting to read about the different history of each sport and how the terms originated.

Related: Read my guide on the official rules of table tennis

Is there a difference between the balls used in table tennis and ping pong?

No, modern table tennis balls are identical to modern ping pong balls.

Are the bats used in table tennis and ping pong different?

No, nowadays table tennis bats are the same as ping pong paddles.

Is there a difference in the way table tennis and ping pong games are scored?

No, both table tennis and ping pong share the same rules.

Is table tennis or ping pong more popular?

Table tennis is generally considered to be a more popular and competitive term for the sport, while ping pong is often associated with recreational play and popular culture.

Can I use the same table for both table tennis and ping pong?

Yes, the same table can be used for both games, and you can also use the same equipment.