Learning the Lingo: Splashy Pool Terms From Black Bottom to Infinity and Beyond

In this installment of Learning the Lingo, we're throwing a pool party, and you're invited! And not a moment too soon: Gone are the days of the basic "cement pond" in your backyard; today's swimming pools are far more sophisticated, incorporating elements once only found at elegant hotels.

So whether you're looking to buy a place with a pool, install one, or add some extra features to your existing pool, these are the terms you'll need to know to make a big splash.

Infinity pool

This is the hottest trend of all, seen in sloping backyards, on the terraces of chic high-rise apartment buildings, and at beachfront homes.

The infinity pool is also known as a "negative edge" or "vanishing edge" pool, and is built so the water appears to vanish into the horizon. At the horizon line, the water usually flows unseen over the edge of the pool in waterfall fashion and collects in a decorative retaining pool from which it is recirculated. This adds an attractive aesthetic to the other side of the pool.

See a gorgeous infinity pool at this Broad Beach house that was once frequented by Frank and Barbara Sinatra.

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Black-bottom pool

The interesting thing about black-bottom pools is that the color is not black, nor is that shade exclusively on the bottom. Perfect for those who shun the bright turquoise glare of a white concrete pool, black bottoms are typically gray or taupe, resulting in water of a more natural-looking indigo hue.

A bonus of the black-bottom pool is that dark colors absorb heat, so the pool will naturally warm up -- much like your blacktop driveway.

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Saltwater pool

This may sound self-explanatory, but there's saltwater and then there's saltwater. No, you can't keep a dolphin for a pet in this type of pool, because the salinity will be about one-tenth that of the ocean, and it contains chlorine. But a saltwater purification system produces its own gentle, naturally sanitizing chlorine, essential for maintaining a safe and algae-free pool without harsh chemicals. A saltwater pool is easier on your skin, eyes, hair, and allergies -- no more worries about red eyes and green, dry hair. Woo-hoo!

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Solar-heated pool

It's easier than you think to harness the power of the sun to keep your pool warm: Just purchase a solar cover that, when placed on the water's surface, absorbs the sun's rays and increases the water temperature beneath. If you want to go all out, a solar heating system uses solar panels to warm the water and circulate it through the pool. The cost ranges from about $2,500 to $7,000, but it saves you the expense of a traditional heating system that runs on gas.

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Lap pool

These streamlined pools are ideal for homes where ground space is limited. They're also called "exercise pools" or "personal pools." Designed for swimming laps, they're long and narrow, accommodating one lane or two. The "swim spa" variety also has jets that provide resistance and have attachment apparatuses so you can swim in place. Some of the more luxurious Hollywood homes feature private lap pools as part of the master suite; rumor has it that Kim and Kanye have one in their boudoir.

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They're not just for Playboy bunnies: These swim-in caves made from synthetic rocks can also sport diving platforms, waterslides, or waterfalls cascading down over the entrance, which are actually helpful because they aerate and circulate the water. Although Hugh Hefner had the most infamous grotto, fabulous ones also once belonged to Mark Wahlberg and former NFL player (and "Dancing With the Stars" contender) Hines Ward.

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Free-form pool

Taking its free-flowing form from nature, this pool (also called biomorphic) has amoeba-like curves and is meant to resemble a pond or a lake. They've actually been around for quite some time, one of the first being built in 1920 for the notorious Pickfair, the home of original Hollywood power couple Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Mary Pickford. That pool also featured a sandy shore with a beach entry (see below).

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Beach entry

The pool at Pickfair was ahead of its time with its sandy shore and gently graded entry. This style is also known as "zero entry," because instead of stairs or a ladder, there's a gradual slope from the pool deck into the water's depths, just like at the beach. An option for owners who don't want their "shorelines" to be covered in sand that gets into the rest of the pool is to use Pebble Tec or some other natural-feeling surface. Today there are famous beach-entry pools at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas and at Denise Richards' former estate.

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Baja shelf

This shallow end of a pool, typically 5 to 8 inches deep, is popular for children as well as sunbathers who place their pool furniture in the water so they can keep cool while soaking up rays -- which is why it's also known as a " tanning ledge." It also bears a resemblance to the ledge where SeaWorld's famous killer whale presents himself to audiences -- hence its other nickname, the "Shamu shelf."

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Pool robot

This is the best invention since the pool boy: This underwater Roomba-like device propels itself around your pool using scrubbers, brushes, and suction technology to remove debris. Granted, a pool robot costs $500 to $1,000, but when you compare that with the cost of human pool service, it doesn't take long to pay for itself.