Thursday, June 22, 2017

Western Sword Vocabulary

If you are versed in Western/European swords, you will be able to add many more terms to this list. But, these are the basics. I will feature Asian and African sword vocabulary in other posts.

Backsword -- A sword blade, which has a cutting edge only on one side. Most commonly found on curved blades, such as sabers, falchion, and cutlass.
Basket -- An arrangement of steel bars, and panels that form a basket-like cage around the grip (and the wielder's hand). These are most commonly found on Scottish basket-hilted swords, and European rapiers.
Blade -- The section of the sword, which is not part of the hilt.
Cruciform -- A generic term for any sword which when inverted point downward will form the shape of a crucifix. 
Edge -- The cutting portion of the sword's blade.
Ferrule -- A metal band at either end of the grip used to secure the leather or wire wraps. Also used as a decoration.
Finger guard -- A small crescent shape bar which extends from the sword's guard, and rises parallel to the sword's ricasso, which enables a user to loop their finger over the guard (which increases point control, but decreases cutting power), without fear of being injured by an opponent's blade sliding down their own.
Fuller -- A groove down the center of a blade, used to both lighten a sword, and conserve sword steel (making a wider blade possible with less material). Often mistakenly called a "Blood Groove."
Full tang -- A sword tang that passes the entire length of the grip, and is attached directly to the sword's pommel.
Grip -- The handle.
Guard -- The section of the sword hilt whose purpose is to protect the wielder's hand. It may take of the shape of a simple bar, a steel basket, a flat disc, or several other forms.
Hilt -- All of a sword, except for the blade proper.  
Knuckle guard -- A curved bar which extends from the guard to pommel, designed to prevent the user's hand from being cut by a sliding blow from an opponent's weapon.
Main Guache -- "Left hand." A dagger used in the 16th and 17th centuries, wielded in the left hand and used for parrying assailing swords.
Point -- The tip of the sword's blade.
Pommel -- A counter-weight at the end of a sword's hilt, used to balance the sword. Also may be used as a striking implement.
Quillon(s) -- Renaissance term for the crossguard. Used almost exclusively when referring to rapiers.
Quillon block -- Section of the rapier's hilt where the guard's arms (both bars, and rings) are attached. 
Ricasso -- Any narrowing or thickening of a sword's blade, which remains unsharpened, just above the guard. Increases the user's ability to loop a finger over the guard, to increase control of the point.
Tang -- The section of the sword blade that the hilt is attached to. This part of the sword is not visible when the blade is fully mounted.
Welded tang -- A tang where the steel of the blade has had another piece of steel (very often low carbon steel) welded on to it as an extension.
Wheel -- A pommel that is in the shape of a flat disc. It may have added features, such as beveled edges, or raised center sections.
Wire-wrap -- Spun and twisted metal wire, which is wrapped around the sword grip. Often used to increase the ability to grip a sword's handle. Also a sign of wealth, as these grips tended to be more expensive to manufacture. 

For a more exhaustive list, go to It is a fantastic resource for Western swords.

And now, for those really wanting to delve into Western "swordery," I give you, The Princess Bride...

Until the next round at, get blood on your pages.