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Quick Glossary

Quick Glossary of Fantasy and History

 

acconzius or akontion

Early Roman javelin, derivative of Greek akontion.

 

achico

Bola with three balls.

 

acinaces

Roman straight dagger of Medo-Persian origin (word derived from Gree akinakés).

 

adarga

Moorish shield made from two layers of glued and sewn antelope hide or other leather; first round, then heart shaped, then finally formed of two ellipses with their longer sides overlapping.  Sometimes metal borders and appliques adorn this shield.

 

aikuchi or haikuchi

Japanese single-edged dagger with no guard. The name can be interpreted as ‘pleasant companion’ or flush mouth.

 

aketon; also acton or aqueton

A sleeveless, quilted cotton gambeson worn under the armor as padding to increase comfort; sometimes worn alone by those of lower ranks (from Spanish algoton and Moorish al-qutum ‘cotton’).

 

alenas 

Dagger with a rondel hilt and long sharp blade, triangular in section

 

angon

Frankish javelin that was probably a copy of the Roman pilum.

 

anime

A type of Italian armour of the second half of the sixteenth century, in which the breastplate composed of overlapping strips.

 

anlace

Broad-bladed dagger, maximum length 50 cm.

 

aor

Poetic name for Greek straight sword or xiphos.

 

aorter

Greek word for baldric, also called telemon.

 

arch-

A combining for used to denote individuals or institutions having authority over others of their same class; also means principal or prototypical.  Greek árchos: ‘leader’ from árchein ‘to be the first’.

 

archduke or grand duke

A sovereign prince, used by the ruling house of Austria.  The actual German word is pfalzgraf: ‘palatine lord’.

 

archon

Greek word for ruler;  in Athens, one of the nine rulers of the City. Greek: árchon: ‘first’ noun of árchein ‘to be first’ or ‘rule’.

 

arming doublet

A quilted, sleeved and skirted gambeson worn beneath the armor in the 14th and 15th centuries; it was intended to give protection in those places where there were gaps in the armor.

 

arming sword

Classic European battle sword, worn at the side; blades are normally straight with a slight taper and strong point, quillions are usually cruciform.  The pommel shape varies from brazil-nut to spherical. Blade length varies from 26 to 40 inches.

 

arms of the hilt

Rings that sweep forward from the quillions; originally to guard the finger held across the quillions along the ricasso;  developed into the swept-hilt.

 

ashigaru

Japanese spearman

 

aspís

Greek classical round shield;  also refers to the figure-eight shield made from ox-hide.

 

assagai

A spear with a lancet-shaped or barbed head, used by the Zulus and related tribes.  The 40" version invented by Shaka is known as the 'iklwa.'

 

atheling

Anglo-saxon man of royal blood; a prince.  Old English æthelu: ‘noble family’ + -ing: ‘one belonging to’.

 

autarchy

An absolute monarchy.  Greek autarchía: ‘self-rule’.

 

autarky

Localized economic independence. Greek autarkés: ‘self-sufficient’.

 

ayda katti

Sword from Malabar, with wide, single-edged curved blade.

 

backplate

A piece or plate of armour for the back.

 

backsword

General term for a single-edged sword with a straight blade, usually with a basket hilt or shell guard.  This sword had a thick back to give the blade extra rigidity.  A popular form was the pallasch.

 

baculus

Latin term for a heavy knobbed club or staff, somtimes sheathed in metal and used for a mace.  Also used to describe a walking stick or staff.

 

badelaire or baselard also bazelaire or basilaire

Type of scimitar with a slightly curved blade, often with a scalloped yalman.  Also refers to a straight short sword or dagger with an I-shaped hilt.  The curved version often used the I-shaped hilt, therefore the name can refer to both.

 

 

bagh nakh

Literally, tiger’s claw - an Indian ripping weapon with several short curved blades.

 

baidana or badan

Mail vest that fits over the hauberk; of Arab origin, it was widely  used in Eastern Europe.  Often well decorated, they sometimes had gilded copper rings and inscriptions on the flat surface of the rings.

 

balteus

Latin word for baldric (and linguistic ancestor of baldric)

 

bán

Hungarian name for viceroy, used in Romania, Hungary, and other Balkan states; also a monetary unit in Romania equal to 1/100 of the leu.

 

banduk

Hindian word for ‘gun’, derived from Arabic bunduk.

 

banneret

A knight or lord who could bring followers into the field under his own banner; also refers to his small, square banner.  

 

barbute

An Italian helmet of the fifteenth century, similar in shape to some early Greek helmets.  

 

bardiche or berdych

heavy, two-handed axe with a blade up to three feet long, of Russian origin, widely used throughout Eastern Europe.  Sometimes had a backspike formed from the back of the upper haft-binder 

 

bark or barque

Three-masted ship with square-rigged fore- and main-mast, and fore-and-aft rigged mizzenmast. French barque from Provençal and Latin barca; ulitimately from Greek baris: ‘flat-bottomed Egyptian boat’ from Coptic bari: ‘barge’.

 

barkentine or barquentine

Three-masted ship with a square-rigged foremast and fore-and-aft rigged main- and mizzenmast.

 

baron

European nobleman below a viscout.  Also refers to all noblemen who hold grants directly from a king.  Spanish & Italian varon, German waldgraf, Hungarian knyzates, Bulgarian hospodar

 

baronet

A British nobleman ranking below a baron.  Usually made up of distinguished commoners, this rank was something of a replacement for the grand knight or banneret.

 

bascinet or basnet

A domed, conical helmet fitted with a removable visor.  The visor is the most recognizable feature, often having a pointed beak in front known as the ‘houndskull’ or ‘pig-face’.  

 

bashaw or pasha

Title of rank in Turkish countries.  Arabic basha from Turkish pasha: ‘man of rank’.

 

basilisk

Heavy piece of artillery corresponding to the double bastard culverin, being 15 feet long and firing 48 pound shot. (1570)

 

bastard

A term most commonly used for a heavy sword with a long handle that could be grasped with both hands;  also called a ‘hand-and-a-half’ sword.  It has no connection with the big two-hand sword.  Late versions include knuckle-guards and arms of the hilt.

 

battle axe

Axe used for war; Viking style had rounded blade and scalloped heels, sometimes with a ‘bearded’ lower heel;  German style had smaller rounded blade and a thick backspike.  Sometimes made with steel shafts as well as heads.

 

bayrak

Regimental Ottoman banner.

 

bazuband

Persian vambrace covering the outside of the forearm.  Often well decorated, it sometimes includes mufflers for back side of hand

 

bearing sword

Ceremonial Sword carried a the head of processions, often well decorated though rarely useful

 

bebut

Cossack dagger similar to the kama but with a curved blade.

 

bec de corbin or be de faucon

Polearm used by knights in judicial combat; consisted of a war-hammer style head, with a strong peen and short spike above.  The name means ‘raven’s beak’ or ‘falcon’s beak’

 

bekhter; also bekhterets (diminutively)

Tartar version of jazerant armor; made from convex lames, arranged in vertical, overlapping rows.  Each lame was reinforced by two others, giving it a strong defensive value.  In shape like a tabard, it had no arms, and was sometimes worn over mail.

 

bellows

Visor for a helmet with a shape similar to the edge of a bellows.

 

besagews

Small plates protecting the gap in the armour surrounding the armpit.

 

bevor or beaver

The plate protecting the lower part of the face.

 

bey

A provincial governor of the Ottoman Empire;  also used for the former ruler of Tunis.  Turkish beg: ‘head of a clan’.

 

bhuj or kutti

A axe-like dagger from Sind in India.  Also called an ‘elephant knife’, for elephants are often working into the decoration.  It has a single-edged blade with a short back edge at the point, and is attached to a long shaft made of wood or metal.

 

bill

An English pole-arm based on the ordinary scythe blade.

 

bipennis

Latin term for an axe with two blades first used by the Scythians.  Later used by the Etruscans as a symbol of political power, it became the double-edged fasces, symbol of the Roman Empire. Greek terms are pelekus, distomos, boiplex

bireme or trireme

Multi-decked galleys used by the Greeks and Romans.  The bireme had two banks of rowers and the trireme three.  Both had large waterline rams for ramming enemy ships.  The Roman versions also had the corvus, which was a long hooked boarding plank to utilize their infantry advantage, as they were not good sailors.  Latin bi- or tri-: ‘two or three’ + remus: ‘oars’.

 

bishop

A spiritual supervisor or overseer; a rank in many Christian churches, usually an overseer of a diocese, group of churches or a single church or cathedral.  Greek epískopos from epi-: ‘over’ and skopós: ‘watcher’.

 

bodkin

A dagger or stiletto.

 

bombard

Heavy cannon used in sieges.  Often used stones for shot. (circa 1400)

 

boss

A raised ornament; a stud or knob.

 

boyar

A member of the nobility of Russia before Peter the Great, roughly equal to a count.  Russian boyárin, origin unknown, akin to Bulgarian bolyár (in).

 

branc or brand

large horse sword;  ancestor of the estoc.

 

brandistock

Trident which holds its three blades in the haft.  The central blade was much longer than the other two.  The name is derived from ‘brandished stick’.  Used by pilgrims, travelers and coachmen.

 

brant or brandt

Viking term for sword; a classic Viking or Frankish sword had a three-to-five lobed pommel, a thick crossguard that was sometimes downswept, and a long, slightly tapering blade with a vestigial point; sometimes with double or even triple fuller

 

braquemart

type of scimitar with a straight blade.

 

braquet

short sword with a slightly curving blade, used by the Walloons; forerunner of the briquet.

 

breastplate

A piece of armour protecting the front part of the body.

 

brette

another term for rapier.

 

brig

Two-masted ship, square-rigged but sail set at right angles across the ship; also has a spanker (sail). Originally short for brigantine.

 

brigandine

A type of armored, sleeveless jacket formed by small rectangluar lames arranged in vertical strips riveted to leather, with a quilted vest on attached on the inside.  Sometimes used with a similar skirt, it was a popular form of armor throughout Europe.

 

brigantine

Two-masted ship with square-rigged fore-mast and fore-and-aft rigged mainmast with two upper square sails. Italian brigantino: ‘armed escort ship’.

 

brocchiere

Italian name for a round shield with a spike in the centre.

 

buckler

English word for a small round shield strapped to the arm, or carried in the hand, which allows used of two-handed weapons; in shield categories, refers to shields carried in the hand

 

buffe

A piece of armour to protect the chin an throat, worn with a burgonet.

 

bulama

Polish pear-shaped mace

 

burgonet

A light, open-faced helmet, wich probably originated in Burgundy;  it was worn in the late sixteenth and in the seventeenth century.

 

burin

A kind of chisel of tempered steel, used in engraving.

 

buturlik

Turkish or Tartar greave consisting of a long, plate modeled to the curve of the calf, with two narrow side plates attached with leather or mail.

 

buzdygan

Turkish of Tartar flanged mace that was used widely all over the East, even as far away as China. (called the buzogany in Russian, Hungary and Poland).

 

byrnie

Northern European term for a mail hauberk.  Sometimes refers to hauberks with elbow-length sleeves.

 

caliph or kaliph

The title used by the religious and civil rulers of Islam, each claiming succession from Mohammed.  Arabic khalif: ‘successor’ (of Mohammed).

 

camail

A mail fringe fitted to the rim of a helmet.

 

canoe

Light boat often tapered at both ends, driven by paddles.  Used by nearly every culture, they range in size from a one-man birch-bark version to a carved wooden version with fifty or more paddlers, used for war by Maoris and Pacific Northwestern Indians.  Spanish canoa from Arawak kanawa ‘boat’.

 

cappellina 

Italian helmet used by light infantry or cavalry.  It had a spherical skull, a laminated tail and a pivoted fall.  Some had laminated cheek pieces as well, often hinged or riveted at the side of the fall.

 

 

 

 

caravel

Small, fast sailing ship with a broad bow and a high stern and an open main-deck, with two or three masts all of which could be lateen or square-rigged.  French caravelle, Portugese caravela, Latin carabus from late Greek karabos ‘light boat’ from Macedonian karabos ‘crayfish’.

 

carbine

A light gun originally used from horseback, more than a yard long with a stock.  Derived from the term carabin, for the French light horse called so.  In modern times it is rifled and used by elite troops and special forces.

 

carrack

Large galleon or cargo ship sometimes used for war.  Many had high decks as much as thirty feet high, especially the forecastle.  Used particularly in the Mediterranean.  Some had as many as five square-rigged mast.  First ships to carry cannon specifically for war.  The most famous was the Great Harry built for Henry the Eighth.  Old French carraque, from Arabic qurqura: ‘large cargo ship’.

 

carronade

Artillery piece that was shorter and lighter than ordinary cannon of the same caliber, used almost exclusively on ships. (1600)

 

chanfron or shamfron

Armour fitted to protect the front of a horse’s head.

 

chape

Metal mounting at the end of the sheath, to prevent a sword from striking the ground.  Also used to refer to the butt spike of a spear or polearm (sauroter).

 

char-aina

Persian composite cuirass of plate and mail.  Nepalese in origin, it first consisted of four round plates connected by mail, hence the name ‘four mirrors’.  The Persian variety ususally have a central round plate surrounded by smaller plates connected wit

 

chausse

Hose of mail that covered the legs at the height of usage of chain-mail armors.

 

chekan

Russian war hammer with long spike (related to Hungarian czákan)

 

cinqueada

A sturdy dagger whose name originated from the breadth of blade at its widest point (five fingers). Also known as ‘ox tongue’ or  sang-de-dez.  Belongs to the same family as the dagasse;  often had a four-three-two fluting in the blade.

 

claybeg

Scottish sword with a basket hilt, modelled on the Italian schiavona.  It is now known as a claymore.

 

claymore

Scottish two-handed sword;  often confused with the ordinary sword of the same period known as a claybeg.  The classic version of this sword had forward angling quillions that terminated in a quatrefoil. Derived from Gaelic claidheamoh mor or ‘great sword’

 

clipeus

Early Republican ovular Roman shield.

 

 

clipper

Large merchant vessel rigged for speed.  These came with three or four square-rigged masts, and were sleek and narrow.  The most advanced design of large sailing ships, often considered to be the pinnacle of achievement before the advent of steam.  Many modern warships have hulls based on the clipper’s hull design.

 

clunaculum

Roman dagger that hung from the small of the back.  Also refers to a sacrificial knife.

 

cog

Clinker-built sailing ship used in Northern Europe one square-rigged mast.  Military versions had crenellated ‘castles’ at bow and stern.  Old French cogue: origin uncertain.

 

coif

A hood of mail.

 

colichemarde

A 17th century smallsword blade, broad at the heel and for the first third of its length and then tapering sharply (a corruption of Königsmark, the name of its inventor).

 

comb

The crest of a helmet.

 

consul

Roman magistrate, or chief magistrate.  Latin derivative of consulere: ‘consult’ or ‘counselor’.

 

contarius (pl. contarii)

Roman cavalryman or cavalrymen; derived from contus ‘spear’.

 

contus

Roman cavalry spear; derived from Greek word kontos, which means ‘boathook’.

 

coracle

Small light boat of wooden frame and wicker or hide covering, usually for only one or two men, driven by paddles.  Welsh corwgl: ‘round boat’. 

 

coronel

Crown-like lance-tip for jousting a plaisance; derived from Latin corona (‘crown’)

 

corsair

A pirate or a pirate ship; usually refers to the Barbary Coast pirates and their low, fast ships, known as xebecs or chebeks.  Latin cursarius: ‘running, runner’.

 

corseque

A pole-arm with three-pointed blade, used mainly in Italy and France in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century.

 

corslet or corselet

Half-armor of plate, mail, or composite;  includes collar, back & breast, vambraces, tasses, guantlets;  occasionally omits vambraces & guantlets

 

corune or ropalon

Greek words for a club.

 

corvette

Small warship with a flush deck and only one tier of guns, often used for communications. Dutch corver: ‘pursuit’.

count

A nobleman equivalent in rank to the English earl, the French comte, Spanish conde, Italian conte, German graf, Hungarian voivodes.   Latin comitem or comes: ‘retainer’ or literally ‘companion’.  

 

counterguard

Part of the hilt of a sword;  a system of loops, rings, and bars to guard the inner side of the hand.  Usually joined the knuckle-guard.

 

cousil à croix:

Shord sword with a blade that is very broad at the heel.

 

coutille or coustille

Bastard sword similiar to the broad-heeled dagger.  This sword was used by the custrel, as the experienced, non-noble squire was called, both for fighting and for the coup, whence the name probably originated.  Used mainly in the 15th century.

 

cowter

Elbow-joint armor.

 

-cracy

A combining for meaning ‘rule’ or ‘government’ specifying the type by the initial element.  Greek krát: ‘rule, strength, might’. The applied form is -crat.

 

cranequin

Crossbow spanner with a series of cogwheels in a housing with two rotating handles.  Also called the rack.

 

cuirass

Armour for protecting the breast and back, also called in the early modern period the ‘back-and-breast’.  Word derives from Latin coriaceus (made of leather) and French curasse (cured leather)

 

cuirass-breaker

Heavy dagger with a square section.

 

cuisse

The upper part of a legharness;  used in place of tassets.  It covered the thigh to the knee, and was often riveted to the poleyn.  It replaced the earlier chauses of mail.

 

culverin

Artillery piece that was up to a third longer than cannon of the same caliber and shot weight. (circa 1500)

 

cup-hilt

Cup-shaped guard on rapier, which came into use during the second quarter of the seventeenth century.

 

currach or curragh

Open boat made of skin or canvas stretched over withes; a form of canoe, driven by paddling. Some were covered and sail-driven and were rumored to have reached America in the 400s.  Gaelic curach: ‘carcass’.

 

cut & thrust sword

Rival of the rapier, this sword had a slender ricasso which widened into a narrow, triangular blade with a diamond section.  Two sets of side-rings and arms of the hilt, were normal parts of the sword;  valued for its quickness and sturdy cutting ability.

 

 

cutlass

Another term for badelaire. Used extensively in the new world and by sailors and pirates.  Often used with a basket hilt.

 

cutter

Small, armed ship used for shore patrol, especially against smuggling.  Rigged like a sloop with slightly more canvas.  Also a ship’s boat, used for transferring supplies.

 

czákan

Hungarian war hammer with long spike (related to Russian chekan).

 

dagasse

Large dagger related to the cinquedea.

 

daisho

Japanese sword set, meaning ‘large-small’.  On formal occasions, the tachi and tanto were worn with court dress or armor, hanging from the girdle by a cord.  Civilian dress was accompanied by a katana and wakizashi tucked through the girdle with edges up.

 

damascening

Inlaying or overlaying iron or steel with another metal, usually gold, silver, or copper.  Also refers to the watered effect of welded iron and steel, as used in ‘Damascus steel’.

 

daraq

Moorish shield; originally round, sometimes heart-shaped.  Predecessor to the adarga.

 

deer

A herd animal of the family Cervidæ; in most species only males grow and shed antlers.  Also refers to the smaller species of this family.  Old English deor: ‘wild animal’ from Old Frisian diar, Old High German tior, Old Norse dyr, and Gothic dius.

 

deity

A god or goddess, their character and nature; divinity.  Also, the estate and rank of a god.  Latin deitas from de(us): ‘god’ and itas: ‘state or condition’.  Debased from Latin divinitas: ‘divinity’.

 

demi-lance

Light lance; somtimes refers to lancers.

 

demilune

A half-moon or crescent.

 

despot

A king or ruler with absolute, unlimited power; an autocrat.  Also refers to any tyrant or oppressor.  A title of Byzantine Emperors, thereafter it refered to Byzantine vassal rulers and governors.  Greek despótes: ‘master’

 

dey

A Turkish or Berber title of nobility, used in Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli. Turkish dayi: ‘maternal uncle’.

 

dha

Burmese sword; bamboo or hardwood handle with a katana-like blade.  The point was usually more tapered than a Japanese sword. 

 

dhow

Ship with two or three masts with lateen sails, sometimes tied together with leather thongs instead of nails.  Used in Arabia, Africa and India.  Arabic dawa: ‘sailing ship’

dinghy

Small rowboat, or a small boat used as a tender by large ship.  Hindi dinghi: ‘small boat’.

 

dirk

Scottish dagger with a long blade; single edge with a yalman on the foible.  No quillions with a phallic grip and pommel.  Sometimes with a serrated edge on the back of the terzo and forte.

 

do or do maru

Japanese light cuirass.  Beginning as a lacquered leather, whalebone or metal lamellar armor, it became full metal cuirass. The two main styles are the do-maru, which opens at the side, and the hamaki, which opens at the back.

 

dory

Rowboat with a narrow, flat bottom and high flaring sides, almost pointed at the stern, often used by fishermen.  Miskito (Nicaragua) dori: canoe.

 

dragoon

A hobiler or mounted infantryman armed with short muskets, used by European armies from the 17th century to WWI.  The word is derived from ‘dragon’, applied first to the dragon-shaped musket-hammer, then the firearm, then the troops so armed.

 

drakkar or dragonship

Viking longship used for war, often longer than a hundred feet, some were purported to be as long as three hundred feet and to have more than a hundred rowers.  They had carved prows made to resemble dragons.  Norse drakkar: ‘dragon’.  

 

dromond or dromon

Large, fast sailing ship of the middle ages, sometimes equipped with oars.  Greek dromon: ‘light vessel’

 

duke

European nobleman holding highest rank outside the royal family; also refers to the sovereign of a small state.  Equal to Italian duce or doge (Venice/Genoa), French duc, Spanish duque, German herzog, Hungarian ispán.   Latin dux: ‘leader, commander’.

 

Düsack

Weapon of Bohemian origin, widely used by German peasants in the 16th century.  Developed from the tésak and sometimes called the ‘messer’ (knife).  The predecessor of the infantry hanger, most had a knuckle guard and a short rear quillion.

 

earl

A British nobleman below a marquess and above a viscount; often called a count after the Norman Conquest.  Anglo-saxon eorl: ‘chieftain’.

 

emir or amir

A chieftain or leader in Arab countries.  Often used as a title of nobility.  Originally the title of honor for the descendents of Mohammed.  Arabic amir: ‘commander’.

 

enarmes

Shield grips & braces.

 

English pot

English version of the shishak; often used with lobster-tail.  It had a spherical skull, a low comb, and a laminated tail, which was partially shaped to the neck then projected backwards.  The cheekpieces were hinged and fastened with a chin strap.

 

 

episemon

Greek word for blazon.

 

esclavone

Another term for the schiavona.

 

espadon

Two-handed sword with a wavy blade; later used for any long broad sword.  The term demi-espadon is used for a sword with a flat, straight blade

 

estoc

Large sword or horse sword;  successor to the old branc.  Often wielded by two hands for thrusting.  This was a favourite weapon for single judicial combat.  

 

estocade

Term sometimes used for the heavy sword carried by lancers at the end of the 16th century.

 

etching

Designs on metal or glass formed by controlled action of acid.

 

exarch

A provincal governor of the Byzantine Empire, or an Orthodox Christian bishop next below the rank of archbishop. Originally refered to a patriarch, but then indicated a bishop between the rank of metropolitan and patriarch.  Greek éxarchos: overseer.  

 

falarica

Heavy pilum used by legionaries of Republican Rome.  It had a long, narrow head, with a barbed point, which was attached to the haft by a rounded or squared joint.  Often used in hand-to-hand combat, it could also be thrown as a javelin.

 

falchion

Another term for badelaire, this sword had a straight or slightly concave back, while the edge had a sharply convex curve that broadened considerably.  A curved, cut-out yalman was often used as well.  The hilt reflects the period in which it is found.

 

falcione

Another name for the glaive.

 

falcon

Small artillery piece used in the late 16th century.  Fired 1 to 6 pound shot.  

 

falconet

Small artillery piece used in the late 16th century.  Fired 1 to 3 pound shots.

 

fall

Visor of a burgonet or other helmet; similar to the visor of a baseball cap.

 

fauchard

Long bladed polearm with a knife-like blade and a curved parrying spike on the back.

 

fauld

A skirt of armour, often made up of a series of narrow plates.

 

fess undy

A heraldic term for a wavy bar on a coat of arms.

 

 

firangi

Hindian sword with an imported straight, two-edged blade.  Typically had a knuckle-guard, a disk-shaped pommel, and a curved ‘horn’, or backspike.

 

flamberg or flamberge  

Popular name for long swords, especially two-handed swords with wavy blades.  In England used to  mean a rapier; later only in a pejorative sense in France.

 

flammard aslo flambe or flambard

Medium-weight sword with wavy blade.

 

fleuret

Original name for the foil.

 

flissa or flyssa

Algerian yataghan. It had a straight back, with a double-curved cutting edge.  The sword usually narrowed through the terzo, then widened slightly broader than the heel.  It had a long point thereafter.

 

fluke

Crescent-shaped barb on a spear, axe, or polearm.  Shaped like the arm of a heraldic fleur-de-lis.

 

foible

Lowest third of the blade; a yalman may be located on the blunt side of a single edged sword.

 

fokos

Hungarian battle-axe with downward curving head.

 

fore-and-aft rigged

Fore-and-aft rigged sails are a derivative of the lateen, but instead of the booms intersecting, the top and bottom boom connect with the mast separately, and the upper boom can be raised and lowered at will.  A very efficient design, fore-and-aft or derivatives are used on almost all modern sailing vessels.

 

forte

Highest third of the blade, directly below the hilt; often uses half or more of its length as a ricasso.

 

fragata or fregata

Small oared ship with one lateen-rigged mast, used in the Mediterranean as a patrol vessel. Italian, origin uncertain.

 

franc-taupin

Sword with blade that tapered abruptly half-way along its length; similar to the colichemarde.

 

francisa

Frankish throwing and battle-axe with a down-turned head.

 

franklin

A freeholder not of noble birth; mostly used in the 14th to 15th centuries.  Norman fraunc: ‘free’ + Old English ling: ‘

 

frigate

Fast, three-masted ship carrying usually fewer than forty guns on one or two decks; counted  fifth rate under British  ratings of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Square-rigged with a spanker on the mizzenmast.  In modern times, frigates are mostly used in an anti-submarine capacity. French fregate from Italian or Sicilian fregata: origin uncertain.  

fringe

A collar of mail attached to the helmet.  Shorter than an aventail or camail, it was replaced by the gorget.

 

fuller

The channel cut into a blade to reduce weight.  Often called incorrectly a ‘blood-rill’ or ‘blood-channel’

 

gaffe or goat’s hook

Spanning lever for a crossbow.

 

gaidos Greek word for light javelin used by Peltasts.

 

galea

Roman or Celtic helmet with cheek-guards and a derby-like or reverse baseball-cap type of visor.  Galea is the Roman word referring to the originators, the Gauls.

 

galiot

Small, fast galley with oars and sails.  Similar to the fragata.  Often carried a single forward mounted cannon.  French galiote (diminutive) from Greek galea.

 

galleas or galleass

Large, heavy galley, low built but with a high forecastle.  Used most famously in the Mediterranean by the Italians and Turks, the late versions had many cannon mounted in the forecastle.

 

galleon

Large three-masted ship, often with three or four decks.  Square-rigged fore- and main-mast, with a square- or lateen-rigged mizzenmast.  Some had four masts with the after mast lateen rigged.  Used for both trade and war, these came in many sizes.  Usually one deck of cannon, but some had as many as three.  Spanish galeon, from Greek galea: galley.

 

galley

Long, narrow ship, usually with one square-rigged mast, an underwater ram and a bank of oars.  Many versions exist from the earliest days of ships.  The ancient Greeks and Romans had multiple banks of oars in their war-galleys, while the medieval Italian version had two or three lateen-rigged masts and a high ram, as well as a forecastle with forward-facing cannon. From Greek galea.

 

garniture

A double set of armor, with interchanging pieces; also the accompaniment pieces of a weapon set with a single major article.

 

gaseum

Light Roman javelin used by Velites.

 

gauntlet

Armour to protect the hand.

 

giornea

Italian garment like a Herald’s tabard; sometimes plated as armor.

 

gladius

Short, broad-bladed Roman sword.  The forte and terzo have parallel blades, and the foible is shaped like an  isosceles triangle.

 

glaive

Term used for a pole-arm with large knife-like blade with a spike on the back edge. Also used for a short sword with a broad blade in the 16th century only.

godendag

Flemish pole-axe (‘good day’).

 

golok

A Malay jungle knife with a straight back and a pronounced convex edge.  The hilt often has a disc guard or none at all. 

 

gorget

Plate armour to protect the throat.

 

grandguard

Pieces used to reinforce the left side of armour worn for tilting.

 

great galley

Italian merchant galley, used from the fourteenth century.  Standing high from the water, it usually carried more than a hundred oars with three rowers apiece and had two lateen rigged masts.

 

greave

Armour to protect the lower leg.

 

guige

Shoulder strap for a shield.

 

guisarme also gisarme or giserne

Long bladed polearm with a strong point, a fluke on the bladed side and a backspike opposite.

 

hachi

Bowl of a Japanese helmet.

 

hajji

Pilgrim who has made the trek to Mecca.  Arabic hajj: ‘pilgrimage’.

 

halberd

An axe-like weapon with a hook or pick on its back and a long shaft; saw their heyday in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.  Considered by some to be instrumental in the decline of chivalry.

 

hamidashi

Japanese dagger with small guard to hilt.

 

hanger

English smallsword with forward turned shell guard and often a knuckle-guard.  Usually had a single edged blade with a straight back and a straight or slightly curved edge.  Also refers to a short infantyman’s regulation sidearm in the 17th century.

 

hauberk

Mail shirt which protected the head, arms, torso, and legs to the knees.  Later referred to any suit of armor.

 

haute-piece

A projection or flange from the pauldron to protect the neck from attack. Typically used on both pauldrons.

 

hegyestör

Hungarian version of the branc and the estoc; long sword designed to pierce armor and take the place of the lance.

 

hilt

The handle of a sword or dagger.

 

hornsilver

Cerargyrite: a horn-like mineral, silver chloride.

 

howizter

A short piece of artillery that fired a curving trajectory, but with longer range than a mortar.  Also called a ‘short cannon’. (circa 1600)

 

hussar

Originally a Hungarian light cavalryman from the 15th century; soon the name was used for similar troops with flamboyant uniforms all over Europe.  Hungarian huszár from Croatian hósar: ‘brigand, pirate’, from Latin cursarius: ‘runner’

 

imam

Muslim leader of the faithful. Arabic imam: ‘leader’.  The definition is quite different between the Sunni and Shi’a branches of Islam.

 

jambiya

Arab knife, usually with an acutely angled blade.

 

janissary or janizary

A member of an elite Turkish military unit which existed from the 14th to the 19th centuries.  Originally they were Christian boys captured and kept as ‘sons’ of the Turkish Sultan.  Turkish yeniçeri: ‘new soldiery’.

 

jarid or djerid

Oriental javelin (Persian).

 

jarl

Norse nobleman equivalent to an earl.  Norse jarl: ‘chieftain’.

 

jazerant or khazaghand

A mail shirt cloth-lined and covered with good quality fabric which was sometimes padded and often decorated.  Popular in Turkey, Persian and Arabia.  (Arabic)

 

kabuto

Japanese helmet.  Consists of the hoshi, or skull, the shikoro, or neck-guard, the mabezashi, or fell, and the fukigayeshi, two small flaps that folded backwards beside the face.  Ths hoshi was either one piece or composite, with laminated shikoro.

 

kaddara

Persian infantry sword in shape like the Kama but much longer.

 

kalkan

Persian wicker and silk shield with a large metal umbo in the center.  Used from India to Poland.

 

kama or qama

Short Cossack sword shaped like Roman gladius with straight sides and a triagular point.

 

kaman

Hindian reflex composite recurve bow.  Used all over the orient, it is also referred to as the Tartar’s bow.  Some kaman were made entirely from steel.

 

karabela

Sabre/scimetar with eagle-head shaped pommel; not necessarily with eagle-head detail.

karacena

Polish word for korazin.

 

kard

Guardless Arabic dagger with single edge.

 

kardiophylax

Samnite reverse clover-shaped cuirass with three disks.

 

karwasz

Polish vambrace, often well decorated, includes mittens for back side of hand (based on the Persian bazaband).

 

kaskara

Saharan sword used by the mailed cavalry of the Barghirmi Sultanate; in shape like a classic Frankish broadsword.  It usually had a mushroom-shaped pommel and a crude cross-guard.

 

katana

Long-bladed one- or two-handed Japanese sword, slightly curved with a round guard known as a tsuba.  Made from the finest steel, this form of sword is often considered to the the apotheosis of the sword-making art.

 

katar

Indian dagger distinguished by its horizontal grip, with two steel brackets parallel to each other, connected to the blade.

 

keelboat

Large shallow barge, with a keel and covered deck, used in rivers and propelled by a single square sail or poles.

 

ken

Early Japanese sword in shape like a classic Frankish broadsword

 

ketch

Small, strongly built two-masted ship, with fore-and-aft or modern rig.  Early versions were called a bomb ketch, because they had a mortar where the foremast would usually sit.  Name probably derives from catch, for it was used as a chase-ship.

 

khanda

Straight, single-edged, blunt Hindian sword with large, curved horn, or backspike.

 

khanjar or handshar

Persian and Indian generic term for a dagger (Arabic ‘knife’).

 

khanjarli

Hindian dagger with double-curved blade and triangular hilt possible derivative of Greek maichaira.

 

kia

Chinese hide cuirass.

 

kiai

Chinese leather scale armor.

 

kilij

Turkish generic term for the classic Arabian sabre or scimetar.  The word is derived from Turkish kilic, or sword.  Specifically, it refers to a curved sword with a small crossguard and a round, down-curved pommel.  The blade often has a widened yalman.

kinjal

Russian generic term for a dagger.

 

knarr

Viking merchant or cargo ship, fat, double-ended and clinker built, with a single square-rigged mast.  Carried oars for calms, but were generally sailing ships.  Norse knarr: possibly related to Old English knarre: ‘knot in wood’. 

 

knee cop

See poleyn.

 

knight

A mounted soldier serving under a feudal superior; also, a man of noble birth raised to honorable military rank after a training period as a page and squire.  Old English cniht: ‘boy, manservant’.  Related to Old High German kneht and Old Saxon knecht.

 

knuckle bow

Part of the hilt; a bar which went from the pommel to the bottom of the grip.

 

korazin

Oriental scale armor.

 

kozuka

Small knife fitting into a slot at the side of the scabbard of a Japanese katana or wakisashi.

 

kris

Indonesian dagger, which had either a straight or wavy blade, tapering widely from the heel, and connected to the grip with a narrow or rounded tang.  The heel flares away from the tang on the upper side.

 

kukri

Heavy Nepalese dagger with downswept blade; single edged on the convex side for powerful cutting blows.  Two small quarter circle cuts near the hilt represent the female genitalia and are believed to give the knife its power

 

kulah khud

Persian conical spiked helm with camail & movable nasal; the shishak and English pot are derivatives.

 

kulah zirah

A helmet of mail worn in India and Persia.

 

kuwagata

The forecrest of a Japanese helmet.

 

kuyak

Tartar bringandine-like armor adopted by Russians.

 

lame

A fairly pliable iron or steel plate used in making up part of an armor.  

 

lamella

A small, thing, oblong lame, quite pliable, and of various contours.  Lamellae were used in brigandine armor.

 

landsknecht

A mercenary foot soldier of the sixteenth century.

langue de boeuf or beeftongue

Shovel-like polearm used by squires, with a wide, flat blade that tapered in a flat isoceles triangle.

 

lansquenette or katzbalger

Short sword carried by the landsknechts.  The blade was straight and double edged, with horizontal S-shaped quillions that sometimes end in a sphere, and a faceted grip widening at the pommel. Katzbalger is German for ‘cat gutter’.

 

lateen or lateen-rigged

Lateen sails are triangular, attached the the mast with two joining booms.  Used originally in the Mediterranean, they came to be used on many European, African, Arabic and Hindian ships.

 

legate

Roman assistant to a general or to the governor of a province; also, a provincial governor appointed by the emperor.  Latin legatus: ‘commisioned agent’.

 

leu

Basic monetary unit of Romania. Romanian leu: ‘lion’.

 

lochaber axe

Scottish variation of the vouge;  the point was often curved back or rounded off unlike the Swiss vouge.

 

longboat

Largest of the ship’s boats; among whalers, a double-ended boat with alternating oars, used for harpooning whales.  

 

longship

Swift, narrow, open Viking ship, propelled by oars and a single square sail, double-ended and clinker-built.  Most were near eighty feet in length and had a high prow and stern.  In war, shields were hung from the sides to protect rowers from arrows.

 

lorica

Roman cuirass; scale-mail (squamata), chain-mail (hamata), composite plate (segmentata), and muscled bronze (kardiophylax) versions used at different times.

 

lugger

Early version of the schooner, with lugsails, similar to fore-and-aft rigging.  Dutch logger.

 

mace

A metal or metal-headed war-club, spiked or flanged.  The first main group has a ferrule from which extends knot- or node-shaped pieces in no particular pattern;  the other, which was geometric in design, had vanes or conical flanges.

 

mage

A word refering to magicians of various sorts.  Derived from Magus, which refers to one of the Magi, and also a Zoroastrian priest.  Greek mágos from Persian magus from Avestan moyu: ‘wise man or priest’.

 

mail

Defence made up of interconnected metal rings.  There are various types, with riveted links, solid links, mixtures of the two, and interwoven wire.

 

mail-piercer

A heavy dagger with a square section.  Sometimes had a reinforced head.

 

 

main gauche

left-hand dagger used for parrying and secondary attacks with a rapier; usually about 18” with a wide crossguard and side-mounted ring guard, sometimes with a stirrup-guard as well.

 

malak also melech or melek

A middle-eastern King.  Malak is Arabic, melek is Aramaic, and melech is Hebrew.

 

malchus

A type of falchion.  The name is a reference to the Biblical character whose ear was cut off by St. Peter.

 

malik A Turkish military leader, especially in the Seljuk Empire.  Possibly a derivative of Arabic malak.

 

mamluk or mameluke

A member of an Egyptian military slave class, which held power from 1250 to 1517, and remained influential until 1811.  Arabic mamluk: ‘slave’.

 

man of war or man o’war

Large warship, particularly British.  The British rated them according to decks and guns, from a 1st rate with four decks to a 6th rate, with a single deck and not more than 24 guns.  The 1st through 3rd rates were known as Ships of the Line, and carried  a minimum of 64 guns.  The 4th rate or ‘cruiser’ had between 44 and 64 guns.  The frigate was the  5th rate, and the sloop the 6th rate, but  neither was usually called a Man of War.  

 

-mancy

A combining form meaning divination, specified by the first combining element.  Greek manteía: ‘divination’.  The applied forms are -mancer and -mant.

 

markgraf

A military governor of a German border province; final form is margrave.  German marke: ‘border’ and graf: ‘count’.

 

marquis

European nobleman below a duke and above a count, equal to the English marquess, the Italian marchese, French marquis, Spanish marqués, German margrave, Anglo-saxon march-reeve.  Latin marchensis: ‘(comes) of a borderland’.

 

Mars

Latin mythical god of war and agriculture, identified with the Greek god Ares.

 

Marzuq

Legendary maker of Muhammed’s sword.

 

mempo

Japanese face guard.

 

merchantman

Ship used in trade, merchant vessel.  The name came into common parlance in the eighteenth century, and referred to many different size vessels.  Brigs, barques, galleons and snows all fell under this name, but the standard merchantman of the eighteenth century was similar in size and speed to a frigate.

 

misericorde

Sharp dagger for penetrating between joints of cuirasses.

 

 

mon

Japanese word for blazon.

 

morgenstern

Original German word for the morning-star; looks like a cylinder with spikes jutting out in all directions symmetrically.

 

morion

Popular helmet, usually with a high crown terminating in a talk; sixteenth century.  It is sometimes known as a ‘Conquistador helmet’ 

 

mortar

Short piece of artillery that fired an extreme curved trajectory.  Used explosive shot when it became available. (circa 1500)

 

muezzin

Islamic caller of the faithful to prayer. From the Arabic: mu’adhdhin (compare minaret).

 

mufflers

Mittens of mail fitted to the sleeves of a hauberk.

 

mufti

Jurist or judge of the law, specifically, the law or teachings of the Koran. Mostly used by the Turks.  Arabic: mufti ‘one who delivers a judgement’.  The British military uses the term ‘in mufti’ to refer to undress uniforms for officers.

 

mullah

Teacher of the faith. Arabic mawla: ‘master’.

 

muzhik

A Russian peasant.  Russian muzhík: from muzh ‘man, husband’ and -ik: diminutive suffix.

 

nagamaki

Japanese polearm shaped like a straight, double-edged sword-blade on the end of a pole (straight naginata).

 

nao or não

Large caravel with a covered main-deck and three lateen or square-rigged masts.  The forecastle was sometimes covered.  Forerunner of the carrack and galleon, it was the first true deep-water vessel.  The Santa Maria of Columbus is believed to be of this type. Spanish nao, Catalan nau, from Latin navis: ‘ship’. 

 

nasal

A strip of metal which slides through the peak of a helmet and can be adjusted by a screw, designed to protect the face from a slashing cut.  On early helmets it was fixed, and the Vikings fixed goggles alongside it.

 

necro-

A combining form meaning the dead or corpse.  Greek nekrós: ‘corpse’.

 

necromancy

A method of divination by communication with the dead.  Also refers to magic in general, especially witchcraft, and conjuration of demons.  Greek nekromanteía: ‘death divination’.

 

 

 

 

nimcha

Moroccan sabre with a rectangular knuckle-guard and drooping quillions terminating in pear-shaped knobs.  The quillions swept almost as far forward as arms of the hilt.  The grip was usually of horn, though wood was sometimes used.

 

Nisroch

Assyrian Moon-god; name could mean ‘one who hears’

 

no-dachi

Huge (6’) Japanese field sword which was carried on the back by exceptionally strong soldiers.  It was extremely curved to allow it to be drawn from over the shoulder.

 

obad, obed

Hebrew: servant

 

oligarchy

A government in which power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or caste.  Greek oligarchía: ‘few rule’.

 

ono

Japanese pole-axe with a convex edge.  

 

padishah

Great King or Emperor.  Persian padi: ‘lord’ shah: ‘king’.

 

palá

Short, heavy sabre of Arabian style, most resembles the khilij.  Defining feature is its enormous raised yalman.  Possibly the origin of ‘pallasch’

 

palash

Russian word for pallasch.

 

palasz

Polish word for the pallasch.

 

palatine

Nobleman having royal priveliges; also refers to the Elector of the Palatinate in Germany.  Often used with other ranks, i.e. count palatine, earl palatine.  Latin palatinus: ‘of the imperial house’.  Derived from the hill Palatium in Rome.

 

pallasch

Popular form of backsword, usually with cavalry-sabre style knuckle-guard.  Used mainly for cutting, it sometimes had a yalman for thrusting.

 

pallos

Hungarian word for the pallasch.

 

paragnatide

Greek word for the cheek-flaps of a helmet.

 

partisan

A kind of halberd used by infantry in the sixteenth and seventeeth centuries.

 

pasguard

A peice of armour to reinforce the left arm.

 

 

passot sword

Very sharp sword carried by foot-soldiers.  Shaped like an isoceles triangle.

 

pata

Indian cavalry sword with a long, straight, double-edged blade and a horizontal grip.  It protected the hand with a bowl-shaped guard connected to a long arm-guard.

 

pauldron, also spauldron or spaulder

Armour for shoulder and upper arm.  Spauldron refers to a composite version of overlapping plates like a lobster-tail.  Spaulder is merely an Anglicization of both words.

 

pavise

Footman’s shield with central runnel; can stand alone to protect archers or crossbowmen; often used in sieges; in shield categories, used to refer to body shields.

 

peascod 

A style of breastplate with a central ridge terminating in a point just above the waist, in imitation of civilian dress  of the sixteenth century.

 

pedarme

Heavy sword carried by cuirassiers at the end of the 16th century.  Square section.

 

peen

Curved backspike of an axe or polearm.

 

Pekhah

Babylonian: Provincial Governor, i.e. satrap

 

pelta

Greek light shield, round or of half-moon shape, made of wicker (carried by Peltasts).

 

pennon

Any triangular banner

 

pennonsel or pennoncelle; also pensel

Ribbon-like pennon carried on lances.  Sometimes called a guidon.

 

phasganon

Mycenæn straight bronze sword

 

pichanguti

Hindian single-edged knife with belled foible and round yalman, usually without quillions (‘hand knife’)

 

piha-kaetta

A knife from Ceylon

 

pike

A long spear with a small leaf-shaped point, used in sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  Usually used en masse in company with halberds and two-handed swords, the pike is considered by many to be a primary cause of the decline of chivalry.

 

pilum

Roman javelin, used by legionaries throughout the history of the Empire.  It had a four-foot shaft, and a long, thin head which was round or polygonal. Of Etruscan origin, it was called the ussos by the Greeks.

 

pinnace

Ship’s boat, sometimes rigged with a sail.  Also the smallest ocean-going vessel of the seventeenth century, carrying ten to twelve guns, often used by pirates.  French pinace, Italian pinaccia, Spanish pinaza from Latin pinus: ‘pine’.

 

pizaine

‘Bishop’s mantle’ style of aventail.  It covers the shoulders up to the neck.

 

plate sword

sharp sword designed for piercing early suits of armour; a typical style had a long isoceles-shaped blade with three fullers that narrowed to two;  could be used with one or two hands

 

plutocracy

A state in which the wealthy class rules.  Greek ploutokratía: ‘wealth-rule’.

 

poleyn

Plate or lame to protect the knee.

 

polis

An ancient Greek city-state; also a combining form meaning city, often used in the formation of the name.  Greek pólis: ‘city’ plural póleis.

 

pommel

A knob at the end of the hilt.

 

prie-à-Dieu:

Another term for misericorde.

 

prince

A non-reigning member of a royal family or a ruler of a small or subordinate state; often used to refer to any ruler or sovereign.  Latin princeps: ‘first’ from primus capere: ‘to take first’

 

proconsul

Roman provincial governor and army commander with similar powers to the consul, usually a former consul (sub-consul).

 

procurator

Roman financial governor of a province or governor of a sub-provincial territory.  Latin procurator: ‘manager’.

 

pugio

Roman dagger with sharply pointed, often leaf-shaped blade, used as a tertiary weapon in the legions.

 

qadi

Judge of the faith. Arabic qadi: ‘judge’.

 

quillon

A guard fitted at the top of a sword blade just below the grip.  Often referred to as the ‘cross-guard’ because of the cruciform style of most medieval European swords.

 

quiver 

A case for arrows.

 

rabh

Hebrew: master

 

ranseur or ransom  also chauve souris, rhonka or runka

Spear-like polearm with side-spikes or blades to keep an enemy at bay or to trap or deflect enemy attacks.

 

rapier

Sword with a broad, sharp blade.  The term rapière disappeared from French in the 15th century  only to reappear in English and German in the form ‘rapier’.  From the 16th century onwards it was used only in a pejorative sense in France, like flamberg.

 

repousse

Formed in relief, as a pattern on thin metal beaten up from underneath.

 

ricasso

A blunted section of the blade situated just below the hilt, which permitted the finger to curl around the blade for a better grip.

 

rondache

A type of round shield with a spike in the centre.

 

rowel

A small revolving wheel, with sharp projecting points, at the end of the spur.

 

saddle sword

Specialized two-hand horse sword used alternatively with the branc and estoc;  had a diamond-section forte that widened to a blade for the terzo and foible.  

 

saker

A 15-foot, 12 pounder culverin. (circa 1450)

 

sákos

Greek tower shield.

 

sanjak

Large Ottoman banner.

 

sapara

Assyrian sword with a crescent or sickle-shape on the foible of the blade .

 

sarisa or sarissa

Macedonian pike, invented by Phillip II; usually eighteen to twenty feet long with a long blade and a weighted butt, used with rimless round shield in phalanx.

 

sashimono

Japanese cuirass banner, carried attached to the back of the cuirass.

 

satrap

A provincial governor in ancient Persia; a subordinate ruler, often with a despotic connotation.  From Latin satrapa, Greek satrápes, or Persian khshathra-pavan: ‘country protector’.

 

sauroter

Spike or point at the butt of a spear. (also chape)

 

savoyard

Close helmet of the early sixteenth century, with a visor, fashioned in the form of a face, and a moveable peak.

 

 

sax or seax, also scramasax

Short sword or large dagger; a weapon of Saxons and Vikings, it was single-edged and pointed.

 

sayf

Arabic sabre like the nimcha, with a chain instead of a knuckle-guard, and triple-pointed pommel.

 

sayyid

Arab word for a teacher descended from Mohammed through his grandson Hussein.  Arabic sayyid: ‘lord’.

 

schiavona or schiavone

Heavy Venetian sword; original basket-hilted sword; pommel shaped like cat’s head, usually had single quillion; blade usually shaped like classic Medieval battle sword; the name refers to the Slavs, who are thought to have first designed the sword.

 

schooner

Fast, narrow ship with two to four fore-and-aft rigged masts.  Mostly used for merchant traffic, it was sometimes armed with a few cannon for patrol work.  A very able ship, suited for coastal or deep water travel.  Old English scyndan: ‘scud or shake’.

 

scimitar

Oriental curved sword; from the Persian chimchir, shamshir, or chimichir.  In Latin it is called simiterra, French is cimiterre.

 

scutum

Classic Roman legionary shield.  

 

sepoy or spahi

A cavalry soldier; sepoy refers to a Hindian soldier in British service, while spahi refers to a Persian or Turkish cavalryman.  Persian sipahi: ‘horseman’ derives from sipah: ‘army’.

 

serpentine

Early matchlock with a ‘serpentine’ firing match. (1400)

 

shah

Persian king or sovereign.  Persian shah: ‘king’.

 

shallop

Any small open boat, with sail, oar or both.  Also used militarily for the sloop.  Dutch sloep: ‘guide’

 

shashka

Cossack sabre with no quillions and a down-turned, heavy pommel.  The point is convex and slightly weighted.

 

sheik or sheikh

The chief or patriarch of a tribe or family in Arab countries.  Also used as a title of nobility.  Arabic shaykh: ‘old man’.

 

sherif or sharif

Arab, Turkish or Moorish word for prince or chief.  Indicates a governor of Mecca descended from Mohammed.  Arabic: sharif ‘exalted [person]’.

 

shestoper

Russian mace with six flanges (‘six feathers’)

 

 

shikoro

Neck guard of a Japanese helmet.

 

shishak

Turkish helmet derived from Persian kulah khud; conical/onion in shape with point and spike; usually does not have ventail, but does have moveable nasal.

 

shotel

Ethiopian sickle-like sabre; extremely curved with very small quillions.

 

sica

Greco-Roman forerunner of the kukri; dagger with downswept blade, single edged on the convex side;  very powerful chopping blows.

 

side ring

Ring-shaped guard that juts out on either or both sides of the blade at the crossguard, or at the terminus of the ricasso, or both; developed into disk-shaped guard of the walloon sword.

 

sipar

Persian round, steel, convex shield with flat or rolled back edges. It was usually 24 inches in diameter.

 

skene dhu

Tiny Scottish knife of recent origin (Gaelic sgian ‘black’ dubh ‘knife’).

 

skiff

A small, light rowboat with a round bottom and flat stern.  Also a small sailing boat with a single lateen sail.  Italian schifo, German schif: ‘ship’.

 

skull

The main part of a helmet.

 

sloop

Small sailing ship with a single fore-and-aft rigged mast and one or more jibs.  In the eighteenth century, it was the sixth rate, the smallest independent naval vessel, with fifteen to twenty guns.  Dutch sloep: ‘guide’.

 

smack

Small sailboat with one mast, usually fore-and-aft rigged, used as a coaster and fishing boat.  Dutch smak: origin uncertain.

 

smallsword

Ornate civilian rapier used as part of gentleman’s dress;  very ornate, usually came with double shell guards and a knuckle-guard.  Blades varied, some being normal rapier-type blades, other being of the colichemarde style.

 

spanker

Last sail on a sailing ship; usually fore-and-aft or lateen rigged.

 

spatha

Early long-bladed sword used by Roman cavalry, with round pommel and rounded guard with no quillions.  The blade was straight and double-edged, with a triangular point.

 

Spear

Essentially a knife on a long stick.  Hundreds of varieties, from every culture in history.  One of the earliest weapons, it was originally a sharpened stick, spears have been made from every material possible.  Still used in bayonet form today.  Lengths from 4 feet to 20 feet.

spetum

Trident-like spear with a long central blade and two secondary blades jutting at 45° angles.

 

spontoon

A small-headed halberd formerly carried by some officers in the eighteenth and also in the early nineteenth century.

 

stiletto or stylet

Small dagger of triangular section with only a point; often had spherical quillions and pommel;  used by diplomats and assassins.  The name derives from stylus, or pen, because of its shape.

 

stramazon or stramaçon

Name given to swords of the Italian schiavona type or the Scottish claybeg type.

 

sultan

The sovereign of an Islamic country; used most often by the Turks.  Arabic sultan: ‘sovereign’.

 

swept-hilt rapier

A rapier with a guard composed of metal bars of various shapes, often very ornate or damascened.

 

tabar

Hindian battle-axe; some look like tomahawk, others are two-edged with a double spike at the top (related to Russian topor).

 

tachi

Curved Japanese sword with a blade of 17-26 inches, carried on slings and not pushed through the sash, it was generally a war-sword worn only with armor.

 

takouba

Straight bladed sword used by the Tuareg tribes of the Sahara.  Simple cruciform quillions look like the Byzantine sword, while the pommel is mushroom-shaped.  The point is usually rounded.

 

tang

The portion of the blade which is enclosed inside the hilt of a sword or dagger.

 

targe

English word for shield (from Anglo-saxon); in shield-categories, used to refer to shields carried on the arm.

 

targon

Six foot Italian shield used on horseback for jousts and tournaments.

 

tassets

Armour to protect the loins and thighs.  Available both as a skirt, which is more often called the fauld, or front leggings that reach to the knees.  Usually composite or laminated in composition.

 

tau-kien

Chinese sword resembling the rapier; small round quillions usually used; the blade was straight and without edges, with a square or diamond section.

 

telek

Straight dagger of the Tuaregs of the Sahara.  The cruciform hilt and round pommel resemble European daggers, as does the diamond-shaped section and triangular blade.

 

terzo

Middle third of the blade.

 

tetarch

Ruler of a part of a province, originally one fourth.  Greek tetrárches: ‘fourth ruler’.

 

thane also thain or thegn

An Anglo-saxon nobleman ranking between an earl and a freeman, holding land of the king or a lord.  Also a Scottish word for baron.  Old English thegn: ‘subject’. Related to Old High German degan: ‘servant’ possibly akin to Greek téknon: ‘child’.

 

thaumaturgist

A worker of wonders, sometimes refering to a magician.  Greek thamatourgós: ‘wonder worker’.

 

theo- or the-

A combining for indicating ‘god’.   Greek theós: ‘god’.

 

theurgist

Worker of divine purposes.  Also refers to a magician or healer.  Greek theourgeía: ‘magic’.

 

thórax

Greek word for cuirass.

 

thrall

Anglo-saxon slave; the thrall could purchase his freedom, marry with his owner’s permission, and was protected by law from overly-harsh treatment.  Old English thræl: ‘slave’.

 

tilting

Combat between two contestants carried out over the top of a safety fence.

 

Tirshatha

Persian: Provincial Governor; early form of satrap

 

todenkopf

see Savoyard.

 

tomahawk

Fighting hatchet of the Northeastern American Indians.  Originally of stone, it was converted to iron by the advent of Colonialism.  Usually had a small head with a straight edge, but some French varieties were diamond shaped or even fleur-de-lis shaped.

 

top

Hindian version of the kulah khud; usually with mail on the helmet itself, and less restrictive (and protective) overall.

 

topor

Russian and Polish word for battle-axe (related to Hindian tabar).

 

topus

Turkish pear-shaped mace.

 

tosei-gusoku

Japanese suit of armour with a one-piece breastplate. (Second half of the sixteenth century; Muromachi period).

 

tribune

Roman defender of the plebeians from the patricians.  Also refers to the six commander of a legion that rotated through the year.  From Latin tribunus, a derivative of tribus: ‘tribe’.

 

 

tsuba

Disc-like guard of a Japanese sword, often ornately carved.

 

tuck or tucke

Another term for rapier used in 16th-century England.  It also refers to a two-handed, diamond section sword that could be used almost like a lance from horseback.

 

two-hand sword

Big sword of Swiss or German origin;  used by the Confederacy armies and the landsknechts.

 

tyrant

A sovereign or ruler who uses power unjustly or oppresively.  In ancient Greece and Sicily, an absolute ruler or king.

 

umbo

Boss in the exact center of the shield.

 

-urgy

A combining form indicating making or production of the initial element, often used in various sciences.  Greek ourgia from érgon: ‘work’.  The applied form is -urgist, meaning worker.

 

vavasor

A feudal vassal ranking below a baron, usually holding land of a higher noble and not directly from the Throne.  Latin: vassas vassorum: ‘vassal of vassals’.

 

Venus

Latin mythical goddess of love and beauty, identified with the Greek goddess Aphrodite.  Latin Venus: ‘sexual attractiveness’ from vener-: ‘physical desire’. 

 

verdun

Type of very long, narrow sword made at Verdun;  in use only as a duelling sword by the end of the 16th century.

 

verutum

Latin/Etruscan/Celtic javelin with a barbed or curved head; Greek word is saunion.

 

vireton

Heavy quarrel that spun in its flight.  From the French word virer, ‘to turn’.

 

viscount

European nobleman below a count and above a baron; equal to the French vicomte.  Latin vicis comes: ‘alternate companion’.

 

visor

A part of a helmet covering the face or the upper part of the face, movable, and perforated for sight and ventilation.

 

vizier or wazir

A high governmental official in Islamic nations; usually the chief counselor or aide to a sovereign.  Turkish vezir from Arab wazir.

 

volte

When a horse rears; volte is to full height, i.e. the forehooves reach the same height as the haunches.  A demivolte is when the forehooves are between one and two feet from the ground.

 

 

 

vouge or voulge

Swiss polearm derived from the poleaxe; consists of a long blade with a reverse curve creating the point.  Usually with a backspike.  Forerunner of the halberd, it is still debated whether this form of weapon is based on the Scottish lochaber axe or was the original.

 

wakisashi

The shorter of two swords carried by Japanese Samurai.

 

waldgrave or waldgraf

An officer having jurisdiction over a royal forest in the Holy Roman Empire.  German wald: ‘forest’ and graf: ‘count’.

 

walloon sword

Sabre or broadsword with disk-like guard, with knuckle-guard and an upper quillion only.

 

war hammer

Horseman’s weapon, with hammer head and spike, popular in the late sixteenth and early.

 

wish

To desire or long for, also a request or hope.  Often refers to a magical request made of some supernatural being.  Old English wyscan, Old High German wunsken, from Old Norse æskja: ‘desire’; akin to won and wynn; possibly from Latin Venus.

 

wizard

A magician; originally referred to a wise man.  Old English wisard: ‘wise strength’.

 

won

To dwell, abide, or stay.  Old English wunian, Old Saxon wonon, Old High German wonen, from Old Norse una: ‘to dwell, be content’.

 

wood

The hard, fibrous substance composing most of the stem and branches of a tree or shrub, and lying beneath the bark.  From Old English wudu, Old High German witu, Old Norse vithr, akin to Welsh gwydd.

 

wynn or wen

An Old English rune representing the letter ‘w’; the rune had the same phonetic value.  Old English wyn: ‘joy’.

 

xebec or zebec

Small, three-masted galley with lateen sails.  Cannon were mounted over the oars and in the forecastle.  Made famous by the Barbary Corsairs, they were very effective pirate ships.  Sometimes called a corsair.  French chebec, Italian schiabecco, Arabic shabbak.

 

yacht

Pleasure or racing boat, with sails or engines.  Dutch jaghtship: ‘pursuit ship’.

 

yalman

Edged top foible of the blade on a single-edged sword.  Usually refers the the slightly raised variety, allowing a heavier blow.  Also incorrectly spelled jelman.

 

yataghan

Single-edged sword with double-curved blade.  The widest portion of the blade is near the point, to deliver a powerful cutting blow.

 

 

 

yawl

Sailing boat with one mast before the cockpit and another behind.  Fore-and-aft or modern rigged.  Originally a ship’s boat with four to six oars.  Dutch yol.

 

yumi

Japanese long-bow, with the arrow-rest being set two-thirds from the top.

 

yushman

Tartar jazerant armor consisting of a complete mail hauberk reinforced by plates on the arms, chest, and legs.

 

zafar takien

Hindian short sword, slightly curved, single-edged with knuckle-guard and an upswept backspike; carried by princes in diplomatic circumstances (‘cushion of victory).

 

zaghaya

variant term for Zulu/South African assegai

 

zertsalo

Russian composite cuirass of plate and mail (derived from the Persian char-aina)  The Russian style used a central round plate with several smaller plates around it, most often cut away at the neck and reaching to the belt.


Quick Glossary