[Editor's note: This list is subject to revision. Please contact the moderators if you think a term needs to be added or changed. Compiled by Susan J. B. and copied from General Forum 4/27/04.]

List of Commonly-used Terms

We seem to have a lot of newbies about. So I asked Bjorn Hellqvist for a copy of his marvelous list to post. Here it is hope it helps folks. Thanks to Dave Counts and Gus Trim for comments and additions. A&A: Arms & Armor Inc. US maker of fine replicas.

ABS: American Bladesmith Society; the "guild" for US knife- and swordmakers.

Annellet: "C"-shaped rings originating in the quillons and bent towards the blade. Used to protect the fore-finger when it is curled around the quillon to improve the grip.

ArmArt: Czech-based team of makers of historically accurate reproductions of antique swords, headed by Pavel Neumann, represented on store.swordforum.com

Art sword: A sword, usually functional and not always in traditional style, which is often custom-made for collectors.

Atrim: Angus "Gus" Trim, sword fabricator, a.k.a. Gus Trim, a.k.a. Auld Dawg, a.k.a. Dirty Dawg. His swords are represented on store.swordforum.com

Back-sword: A single-edged European sword with a straight blade.

Basket hilt: A type of guard that enclose your hand, found on (among others) Scottish swords.

Bastard sword: A sword that can be used with either one or both hands. Also called "hand-and-a-half sword".

Battle-ready, -worthy: A sword that is supposed to be able to take the strain of live steel combat. Not always a true claim in sales literature.

Beak breaker: SFI slang for a scent stopper pommel.

Beater: An affordable sword that you can use for training without worrying if it gets damaged.

Blood groove: Erroneous, vulgar name for the fuller.

Boffer: A "sword" made of foam rubber around a semi-rigid core (like PVC tubing) and covered with latex or duct-tape. Used for training, live role-playing, etc.

Bokken: A Japanese training sword made of wood.

Buckler: A small, round shield, usually 12" across.

CAS, CASI: C.A.S. Iberia. Importer of swords made in the Philippines, China and Spain.

Center of Gravity: See: Point of balance

Center of Percussion: See: CoP

Claymore: Scottish for "great sword". Can be of two main types; either the 16th century two-handed sword with a downward-angled cross-guard, or the later basket-hilted broadsword.

CoG: See “Point of balance”

CoP: Center of percussion; the point on the blade with the least vibration on hard contact. The spot on the blade that transmits the most power to the target in a hard chop.

Cross (-guard): The cross-piece that prevents the opponent's blade to injure your hand.

Cup hilt: A guard on fencing swords resembling a shallow bowl.

Daisho: A set of Japanese swords (a katana and a wakizashi).

Damascus steel: A collective term for both pattern-welded steel and the the original "Damascus" steel called Wootz or bulat.

Differential hardening: One method to achieve a blade with harder edges and a "softer", springier back. Using this method, the edge is cooled more rapidly than the back. Used for Japanese swords.

Differential tempering: One method to achieve a blade with harder edges and a "softer", springier back. Using this method, the back is tempered more than the edge. See also: Differential hardening.


DT: Del Tin Armi Antiche, s.n.c. Italian maker of quality swords.

Falchion: A European cutting sword, usually quite heavy, with a curved, single-edged blade.

Flambard: A wavy-bladed two-handed sword.

Flex: The give a European sword should have in order to not break during combat.

Forged blade: A traditionally made blade.

Fuller: The groove that runs along some sword blades. It can be wide or narrow. It's there to lighten the blade without sacrificing the strength of it. Contrary to popular belief, its function is not to lead off blood.

Full tang: See: Tang

Gladius: A Roman short-sword. Plural: gladii.

Ground blade: A sword blade made from bar stock by using grinders. Also known as “stock removal”.

Gunto: A katana used by Japanese officers and NCO's during WW2. Often mass-produced and of inferior quality.

Hamon: The (usually) wavy temper line along the edge of a Japanese blade. On cheap replicas, the hamon is faked by etching or grinding the pattern.

Hand-and-a-half sword: See: Bastard sword

Hardening: The process in which a blade is heated to the point where it becomes non-magnetic (around 1400 degrees) and is then immediately quenched (quckly cooled) in one of a variety of liquids. This process makes the steel very hard, but also very brittle. (from Danny G.)

Harmonically balanced: When the placement of the vibrational nodes (see: COP) is optimized. The primary node is about 25-30% of the blade-length from the tip, while the secondary node is in the forward part of the grip.

Heat Treating: The combined processes of Hardening and Tempering.

Hilt: The cross-guard, grip and pommel as a whole.

Katas: a set series of practise combat tecniques, both for armed and unarmed combat. ( Philip Harris)

Katana: A Japanese sword, carried with the edge upward.

Katzbalger: A rather short German 16th century sword with a "S"-shaped cross-guard in the horizontal plane. Used by the Landsknecht mercenary troops. The name means “cat-brawler”, referring to the close-quarter fighting where the Katzbalger was employed.

KC: Kris Cutlery, maker of non-traditional, affordable katanas, as well as European swords.

Live steel combat: Fighting with blunted metal weapons. This takes training and proper safety measures. The blows are pulled to avoid injury.

Main gauche: A parrying dagger used in 17th century fencing. The name is French for "left hand".

Mekugi: The bamboo retaining pin used to hold a Japanese blade in place.

MRL: Museum Replicas Limited. US dealer owned by Windlass Instruments of India.

Partial tang: See: Tang

Pas d'Ane: See: Annellet

Pattern-welding: A forging technique where thin bars of different quality steels and/or iron are twisted and forged into a blade. It is then chemically treated (etched) to bring forth a pattern not unlike the grain of wood, or even more complex. See also Damascus steel and Wootz.

Point of balance: POB; the point on a sword where the sword will balance when held horizontally on a fulcrum. Usually expressed as a distance from the guard, but from any set point on a sword would work (tip, end of pommel, etc.) Also known as “center of gravity” (COG).

POB: See: Point of balance

Pommel: The counter-weight at the end of the hilt used to give the sword the right balance.

Quenching: see Heat Treating.

Quillons: A more elaborate cross-guard, usually together with knuckle-bows, etc, encountered on post-medieval swords. Often mistakenly used for the simpler cross-guard.

Rapier: A 16th - 17th century sword made primarily for thrusting.

Rat-tail tang: See: Tang

Re-enactor sword: A sword with blunted edges and point, used for live steel combat.

Rebated edge: A blunt edge for stage combat.

Replica: Word usually used to describe a reproduction, which in the case of a sword can mean that it is made in as accurate a way as possible, using an original sword as model. To confuse matters, the word "replica" is used by some to indicate modern-made swords in general. Also, some smiths might be offended if someone says they make replicas; they prefer "reproductions".

Real sword: A fully functional sword.

Ricasso: The blunted part of the blade closest to the hilt.

Ring-sword: A sword with a ring-shaped pommel. Most well-known is the Irish variant.

Rockwell, Rc: A unit used when specifying the hardness of a blade. The higher, the harder (and more brittle). A good Rc hardness for swords is c. 50.

Saya: A Japanese sword scabbard.

SCA: The Society for Creative Anachronism; a society devoted to the European cultures between the years 600-1600 AD. Central activities are full-contact fighting with rattan weapons in full armor, and "period fencing" with foils and schlagers.

Schlager (blade): A modern fencing blade used instead of the lighter foil or epee. Originally a sword used in German "mensur", a type of "first blood" student fencing.

Scimitar: A generic name for several types of curved, single-edged swords from the Middle East, Persia, India, etc. Derived as a corrupted form from "shamshir". a/k/a cimcir, shimshir.

SFI: Sword Forum International (may also be refered to as "Sword Forum" - not "the Sword Forum" (no "the"), "SwordForum" (use two words instead) and "Sword Forums" (not plural).

SFMO: Our previous identity as Sword Forum Magazine Online - an educational e-zine. Archived issues are available on the root of this website.

Shinai: A Japanese training sword made of bamboo.

SLO: Sword-like Object. Derogatory name for wallhangers and other swords of inferior quality.

Small-sword: A light thrusting sword used in the 18th century. The precursor of the modern fencing foil and epee.

SSO: Sword-shaped Object. See: SLO

Stage combat: A way to fight with swords for the stage. There are usually few manoeuvres and it is mostly used for dramatical effect, with a lot of clashing blade contact.

Stock removal: See: Ground blade

Sword prop: A sword intended for movie use. Often fitted with an aluminium blade. Can also be made of plastic, rubber or glass fiber.

Tachi: A Japanese sword, sometimes longer than the katana. Carried with the edge downward.

Talhoffer fencing: A fencing style from 15th century Germany, named after the fencing master Hans Talhoffer, the author of some famous manuals.

Tang: The part of the blade that is part of the hilt. A full tang is preferred in European swords, while a partial tang is best for Japanese swords. A rat-tail tang (often used for cheap wallhangers) is usually too weak to withstand abuse, and should be avoided if possible.

Tanto: A Japanese knife.

Tempering: The process whereby a blade is brought up to a certain temperature (from about 200-800 degrees Fahrenheit) in order to create a proper combination of hardness and strength/shock resistance. Performed after the blade has been quenched (hardened). (from Danny G.) For further information about tempering, see this post by Kevin Cashen

Tsuba: The disc-shaped guard of a Japanese sword.

Tsuka: The grip on a Japanese sword.

Wakizashi: A Japanese short-sword.

Wallhanger: A fancy sword, more garish than practical, that is best hung on a wall instead of being used.

Wootz: A steel with very high carbon content. It is believed to have originated in India, but it became known to Westerners via Damascus in Syria, hence the alternative name Damascus steel. The surface of a Wootz blade has a "watery" or rippling appearance, similar to that found on pattern-welded blades.

WS: Windlass Steelcrafts, India-based manufacturer of swords.

Zweihänder: German for "twohanded (sword)", meaning the great 16th century twohanders.