A rapier is a sharp-pointed sword used for thrusting attacks. It’s characterized by a complex basket hilt aimed to protect the wielder’s hand. The word ‘rapier’ was derived from the Spanish espada ropera or dress sword.
It was used in defense along with daggers and cloaks. It gave way to the evolution of the epee sword, used in fencing. It has been used in movies like The Princess Bride and Reine Margot.
This sword belongs to the Viking Era. These were double-edged with triangle, lobed, or cocked-hat pommels. A subset of these swords, ‘Ulfberht’, were made of higher carbon content and few impurities, and probably procured from high-quality steel ingots from Central Asia.
Steel of this quality were made in crucibles, a container that could withstand intense temperatures.
Medieval swords owe their designs to the Chinese, the progenitor of swords. Long swords were used by the Franks and Celts. With the coming of the Vikings, they changed the hilt and made different pommels for a better grip.
The Normans invented the cross guard, which improved their defense. With the advent of the Holy Church, the hilt was designed in a cruciform, and has retained its form till the present day.
About 3′ long, these swords all have a curved, single edged blade and were a popular cavalry weapon and military blade with the scimitar, an Arabic sword, having a more noticeable curve.The Falchion was the principal side arm of medieval peasant conscript soldiers as it was easy to use and its heavy blade weighted towards the point was capable of delivering tremendous blows that were effective against heavy armor (and everything underneath it!). Indeed, due to this factor and it’s relative ease of use, it was probably the most numerous medieval sword of all time!You can read more about modern replicas of these three main types of swords on our Slicers, Scimitars and Choppers page here.
This one was a single-edged curved blade with a large hand guard, used by the cavalry and infantrymen of the British army. Though sabers are used for cut and slash, the French preferred it for its clean thrust, which made for a clean kill.
It was usually placed in a scabbard and worn at the side. Saber blades are worn by the army, navy, air force, marine and coast guard officers as a part of their ceremonial uniform. It bears little resemblance to the sabers used in modern fencing, which has a thin blade used for fast movements.
Short Swords usually have a total length of around 2’ (which of course for a sword, is relatively – short) and historically were almost always used with a shield in the other one hand. Favored especially by the Roman Army (but also by the Greeks and other ancient world warriors) these swords have within their family the Spatha, the Gladius and several other variations. Click on the link for more information on these Ancient Swords.
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The Chinese were the first to create swords from high carbon content instead of stainless steel. Their swords were more lean and sharp, unlike the Medieval swords which were heavy and meant for hacking.
Their swords are characterized with a single fuller in the middle. Chinese swords are categorized into Jian (dual-edged) and Dao (single-edged). Though, Jian probably consists of swords and Dao of sabers.
Most blades which were attached to pole arms were also called dao.
Foils have tapered blades with a sharp tip that bends when striking an opponent. The foil is used as a thrusting weapon for training purposes. It’s mainly responsible for the evolution of the sport of fencing.
It has descended from the small sword. The foil is of 2 varieties, namely electric and non-electric. The electric ones are used for keeping score in fencing matches.
This was a curved blade wielded by Turkish mercenaries, and later held by Mameluke slaves who ruled over Egypt. The blade was more curved than the shamshir, with a diamond-shaped hilt and a handguard. It was later adopted by the French, when they tried to conquer Egypt.
It made its way to the Western shores where it was adopted by the United States Marine force, and is still used for ceremonial purposes.
The components of a shinai are made from dried bamboo. Some may be treated by soaking or smoking them in resin. It’s mainly used for practicing Kendo. A shinai is used as a practice sword in order to simulate the weight of a bokken or katana, without injuring the user or the target.
The user also wears a bogu, intended to protect oneself from kendo attacks. Shinai is used in Kendo, which is a Japanese form of fencing.
This one had a straight blade with a 3-shaped hilt, mostly favored by naval officers. It had a five-ball stirrup for a hilt. A spadroon had a central fuller with a single edge. It was similar to the German rapier, except that it had a double edge.
This style spread to France, and was called a’la anglaise (English sword). The US adopted this pattern to create Federal Period eagleheads.
The Bronze Age is the time when civilizations were formed and writing was invented. Societies were at an infant stage, and needed to be defended from the barbarians who still followed the rules of old.
These were perhaps the first weapons that were made before they discovered steel.
This was a companion sword worn by the samurai class, always hanging on the left side. It was more suitable for indoor fighting. If a wakizashi’s length is similar to a katana, it is called o-wakizashi, and if the length is similar to a tanto, it is called ko-wakizashi.
The one who used a katana with a wakizashi was the founder of the Niten Ichi-ryu technique, Miyamoto Musashi, also known as the sword-saint. It was sometimes used to commit harakiri by samurai who refused to obey a new master.
Egyptian swords were bronze weapons, typically elongated daggers and dirks, and like many ancient swords were used more as a weapon of last resort, with ancient armies favoring spears, pikes, javelins and the bow and arrow.Of note though is the exotic combination of sword and sickle called the Khopesh, which was commonly used to ritualistically behead captured enemies after a battle and was the most feared sword of the ancient world.Click here for information on modern replica Khopesh.
The bokken is a Japanese wooden sword used in place of a katana. The length of the sword ranges from 40 – 42 inches The bokken is made from flexible bamboo, and is deadly in the hands of a regular sword user.
The blade differs when practicing different martial arts, as aikido is practiced with a blunt edge, and kenjutsu is practiced with a sharp edge. It was kept by the bedside of warriors who could handle any intruder without spilling any blood.
Kaoru, from the anime Rurouni Kenshin, used this type of sword regularly.
This is a sword used in contemporary Wushu exercises. Its blade is straight with an even hilt. Though most dao are curved, this one was probably influenced by the jian sword.
Nice and easy, but of course this refers to Western swords only. So below we have grouped together a few basic types of swords not so much by their length but geographic and cultural region as well as their primary function.
Foils and Rapiers were long, slender bladed swords designed to empathize the thrust and were one of a very few civilian swords ever devised. Appearing first in the 16th century, these swords were primarily used for dueling, a popular fad of these times and for several centuries after…Surprisingly heavy, a true rapier was much longer and slower than the types of swords used in modern fencing. There are also several types of swords related to the rapier, such as the epee or the ‘smallsword’.For more information on Rapiers and Renaissance swords in general click here.
The epee is as long as the foil with a rectangular cross-section. It has a three-sided blade and a pistol grip. It was the most commonly used dueling sword in the 19th century, replacing the rapier. Battles were fought until first blood, i.
e., a sufficient nick was enough to end the game.
The Rapier Sword was forged with an exceptionally slender, sharp point which made the blade optimal for thrusting attacks. A noticeable component of a Rapier Sword is the often complex hilt that was designed to protect the wielder’s hand from opposing attackers. A Rapier such as the one to the left would have been used to train men in the art of sword fighting in 17th Century Europe which was part of a gentleman’s education. Some of the most famous men to wield Rapiers during battle were Alexandre Dumas’s fictional characters “The Three Musketeers.”
This is a straight two-edged sword used in the training of the martial art Taijiquan. A tassel is always attached to the pommel, which makes a noise when hit by the opponent. A thinner version is used in Chinese street plays for theatrical purposes, intended to add visual appeal to the performance.
Perhaps the most diverse and exotic types of swords, Asian swords include straight, doubled edged Chinese longswords (Jian) and single edged Chinese Sabers (Dao), as well as a myriad of other exotic weapons favored by martial artists the world over. Click here for information on functional replica Chinese swords.However, probably the most impressive and specialized of all Asian swords are the Japanese swords most notably the Katana, a single edged, slightly curved sword with a blade around 2.5’ in length.Designed specifically to cut through human flesh and bone, in the hands of an expert swordsman the Katana was fully capable of cutting a man diagonally in half with one clean blow (though it was a highly specialized sword and could not cut gun barrels in half, chop down trees or cut stone as some modern Manga and Anime may have you believe). Click on the link below for more information on Authentic Japanese Swords.
This was a Scottish two-handed sword developed during the Medieval Age, and was most probably influenced by the longsword. It’s characterized by its cruciform hilt, double-edged blade, and lobed pommels on either side.
It was wielded by mostly foot soldiers. Excalibur, the sword wielded by King Arthur, was a claymore. It was even dramatized in an anime series called Claymore. For a familiar reference, a claymore was used by William Wallace fighting for Scottish independence, portrayed by Mel Gibson in the movie ‘Braveheart’.
The Swiss saber is a type of backsword with a straight blade or a curved blade. These were set in regular hilts as well as pommels of different designs, usually plated with gold or silver. They were usually worn in a sheath.
Two handed swords or Great swords were a specialized weapon up to 6’ long that were especially popular in the 1500s to 1600s. The precise military role of these swords is a matter of debate for scholars, though many tend to believe that they were primarily used in 1 on 1 duels and single combat, yet no doubt were also quite useful to ‘shock troops’ in the front lines to cleave a path through the enemy.The term Claymore is a derivation of the Gaelic “claidheamh-more” (great sword) and was frequently used by the Scottish Highlanders against the English in the 16th Century.Flamberges were unusual swords somewhat popular with officers and the upper classes in the 1600s. With scalloped, serrated edges these swords were believed to slow an opponent’s blade slightly as it passed along its length and deliver a more deadly wound (ouch).You read more about these types of swords on our medieval swords page here.
Tanto had a thin blade, akin to a knife, and was worn in the absence of a wakizashi. Its design was popular enough to make it into America in the form of tactical knives. Because of its small size, it was used in martial arts such as aikido, jujutsu, and ninjutsu.
The common tanto blade types are shinogi, hira, and shobu.
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A heavy bladed weapon with a curved hilt, it was a sword primarily used by civilians. It was called the oxtail saber, seen in kung fu movies today. It was usually placed in a scabbard, and hung at the waist.
‘Sword’ was derived from the Proto-Indo-European root swer, which means to wound or cut.
Fencing originated in Spain, where it was prominent in the Basque region. It traveled to Europe where it was taught to aristocrats by Domenico Angelo. Though fencing was aimed to hit the vital points, Domenico was the first to emphasize on the health benefits of fencing.
He founded most of the rules present today in his book ‘The School of Fencing’.
A favorite of the people residing in Afghanistan, the pulwar is used for hunting as well as defense. It had a curved blade, influenced by the shamshir, and a cup-shaped hilt with bells attached to the crossguard.
This is a deeply curved dao meant for slashing and draw-cutting. It bore a strong resemblance to the scimitar and shamshir. It was used by skirmishers in conjunction with a shield.
When most people think of a “battle ready” sword, an image of an expertly crafted Japanese Katana probably pops into their mind. Another popular name for this weapon is the Samurai Sword which refers to the class of Japanese warriors who carried the sword during battle. There is a science behind the making of these blades that sword masters have been perfecting for thousands of years. The typical Katana measures between 3 to 4 feet and weighs less than three pounds but the elegance and the functionality of the sword far exceeds its competitors. A Katana also have a characteristic curvature which makes it an effective slashing weapon, but the point of the sword is also very solid which allows for it to be used as a stabbing weapon also.
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The term ‘longsword’ is actually quite nebulous and can refer to many different types of swords depending on the context and time period (as we saw earlier, Colonel D.H. Gordon defines a ‘longsword’ as a sword with a blade over 28” long!)In previous time periods, longswords referred to one handed swords that were typically used in conjunction with a shield or buckler (also known as ‘broadswords or arming swords’).However, these days, it is generally accepted by modern sword scholars that the term long sword is used to describe a sword words a straight, double edged sword that is between 4 to 4 and ½ feet long, with an average weight of 3 to 4lbs and a pommel that reaches your armpit when it is laid tip first to the ground.And a bastard sword? Well, it’s very similar to a Longsword but less pointy (and can be used either one handed, but preferably with the off hand guiding the pommel).Within these two broad groups, there are many types of swords classified by the late, great sword scholar Ewart Oakeshott – but I try to steer clear of his typology as it is very advanced, and tends to cause flame wars on the various sword forums as the distinctions between the different types of swords he identifies are often somewhat nebulous and can make people act like – er – well..For more information on longs and bastards check out this section of our medieval swords page.
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The Zweihander is simply a larger version of the longsword. It was a two-handed sword used by German mercenaries. It was not worn at the waist but carried across the shoulder. Later, they only seemed to be used for ceremonial purposes.
Guts in the anime Berserk wields a Zweihander, to kill off his enemies.
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Scimitars are hunting swords, popular with the Persians. They had a distinct curved blade, ending with a sharp point. They were most prominently used by Saladin and his army against the crusaders who fought for The Holy Church.
The lion sword and serpent sword that the Prince wields in Prince of Persia are scimitars, signifying their influence in Babylon as well.
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Swordsmiths were the first to dwell into the art of metallurgy. Their opinions were valued before any king went into battle. Now, as swords have been replaced by guns, it is becoming a lost art.
Derived from the Greek word ‘machaira’, it resembled a knife more than a sword, that had a single-edged blade with a curved edge. People may mistake it for a boomerang, but it was a small sword intended to be used by the cavalry.
Sabers have an elongated blade as compared to the epee, with the pommel extending outward to protect the hand from any injury. Sabers are mostly in use in the sport of fencing. These lightweight blades make it easy for thrusting attacks.
A male wielder is called a sabreur, while a female is known as a sabreuse.
The Celtic sword was a double-edged sword with a lenticular cross-section. It was used by the infantry division, and would later be responsible for the evolution of the claymore.
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The katana is a single-bladed sword with a curved tip. The circular or squared guard was used to block swinging attacks. It was mostly associated with the Feudal Period, where samurai could wear their swords in public.
It was banned in the Meiji Period, and only worn by the military police. The katana was popularized by many samurai soap operas and Period dramas. In popular culture, it’ seen wielded by Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai.
The longsword was known for its longer grip, which made it a two-handed sword, and was nicknamed ‘hand and a half’ sword. The sword was used in conjunction with armor mostly during the ‘Hundred Years War’.
It was rendered obsolete by the Zweihander, which was used by the Germans in the 16th century. The sword laid the foundation for later weapons, such as polearms, staves, and spears. Later weapons also adopted the use in fencing.
Swords have been in use since ancient times, to defend our lands and mostly our pride. Though our cultures and languages differ, our values remain the same. Swords became popular because they are easier to use and swing around.
While some love it for its dexterity, some prefer it for its sharpness, and others love it aesthetically because of the various designs of sword hilts. The knives and daggers that we know today have been made in reflection of swords.
The quality of a sword even reflected the respect that an individual garnered in society. Swords have been used to spread the word of God as well as uphold it. It is a symbol of liberty and virtue. By the 19th century, swords were used for ceremonial purposes mostly.
They have been popularized by the famous samurai movies, and revered for their use in movies like Kill Bill.
I hope this information on different types of swords has been useful. To return to WARNING: Do Not Buy Swords Online Until You Read This From Types of Swords, click here.
Japanese swords have been popular with the advent of media and popular television. During the Meiji Period, swords were banned to be worn in public. This caused the samurai class to vanish. But with the Showa Era, Japanese swords made a comeback, in the form of military swords.
Swords have been tempered and forged, dipped in the flames of hell, to come out shining as a beacon of hope. What made these swords so enchanting was that people spent a lifetime perfecting them and making them a part of their daily lives.
Let’s have a look at the different types of swords over the centuries, for better understanding.
Many of the swords that are considered Anime or that are utilized in animation fall into the “fantasy” sword category. These swords tend to have a vibrant flare to them which make them easily distinguishable from classic sword patterns. One of the most recognizable and popular anime swords of all time is Link’s Master Sword from the Zelda video game. Anime swords are also seen on the cosplay scene. Particpants of cosplay (costume play) dress up as a character from a popluar movie, book, or video game. The Japanese genres of anime and manga are particularly popular with cosplay enthusiasts.
The shamshir is a curved saber, which only tapers at the tip. It takes its origin from the city of Shamshir, which means paw claw. Shamshir also means ‘sword’ in the native Persian language. The shamshir was used for swift attacks while on horseback, and was beneficial in most war strategies.
Man at Arms were professional warriors who trained constantly to become skilled in combat with numerous types of weapons. Because the Man at Arms was a warrior built for battle like no other, he needed a sword that would do his title justice. This Norman Sword is an example of one of the swords that would have been utilized by these fighters. The sheer size of these beasts is intimidating coming in at 36 3/4″ overall. Each piece in Cold Steel’s Man at Arms collection is rugged, reliable and built to perform.
This was a short, broad saber, with a straight or slightly curved blade, mostly used by the navy. It had a pistol-like grip, which made it easy for drawing at a moment’s notice. It gained notoriety because it was constantly used by pirates like William Kidd and Blackbeard.
In the 20th century, it was declared by rule that cutlasses would be used for ceremonial purposes and not by landing parties.
There are so many different types of Swords that it can be difficult to conclusively classify them into neat groups and categories.One respected sword scholar, Colonel D.H. Gordon, a British army officer trained in sabre and bayonet fencing pre-WWI suggested that weapons less than 14″ long should be classified as daggers, 14-20″ long as dirks, those 20-28″ as short swords and anything over that length as longswords.
This was the earliest of the Medieval swords from the 6th century. The broadsword had a dual-edged blade with a single fuller that stretched towards the edge. Though most broadswords had a basket hilt, it was eventually replaced by an even hilt, and used as a two-handed sword.
It was termed ‘broad’ to distinguish itself from the rapier, which was its thinner version. They later influenced the designs of sabers and claymores.
This weapon was a favorite among the gladiators who fought in arenas for entertainment. Gladius was a dual-edged sword with a wooden hilt, used by Roman soldiers. It was of three main types: Mainz, Fulham, and Pompeii.
The Mainz had a longer blade length, while the Fulham was derived from the Mainz, but with a triangular tip. The last and most popular one, the Pompeii, was the shortest among the three, which made it easier to handle.
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Yet another favorite of sword collectors are replicas of blades used in various wars throughout history. A replica display sword is a tangible relic that serves to keep history alive and well in the minds of modern society. Leonidas and his well outnumbered Spartans faced off against the Persians in a legendary battle of courage and valor. This King Leonidas Spartan Sword Replica is a collector’s dream. The photo to the left is an exact replica of the sword carried by the famed King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae.