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Swiss longsword, 15th- or 16th-century

A sword is a bladed weapon intended for both cutting and thrusting. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographical region under consideration. A sword in the most narrow sense consists of a straight blade with two edges and a hilt, but depending on context, the term is also often used to refer to bladed weapons with a single edge (also referred to as a backsword).

Historically, the sword developed in the Bronze Age, evolving from the dagger; the earliest specimens date to ca. 1600 BC. The Iron Age sword remained fairly short and without a crossguard. The spatha as it developed in the Late Roman army became the predecessor of the European sword of the Middle Ages, at first adopted as the Migration period sword, and only in the High Middle Ages developed into the classical arming sword with crossguard. The word sword continues Old English sweord.<ref>cognate to Old High German swert, Old Norse sverð, from a Proto-Indo-European root *swer- "to wound, to cut". Before c. 1500, the spelling swerd(e) was much more common than sword(e). The irregular loss of /w/ in English pronunciation also dates to about 1500, and is found in a small number of other words, such as answer (c.f. swear), conquer (c.f. query). Charles Barber, Joan Beal, Philip Shaw, The English Language, Canto Classics, 2nd revised edition , Cambridge University Press, 2012, p. 206. Latin had ensis, gladius and spatha; as the term for the sword used by the Late Roman army, spatha became the source of the words for "sword" in Romance languages, such as Italian spada, Iberian espada and French epée. Both gladius and spatha are loanwords in Latin; ensis was the generic term for "sword" in Classical Latin, and was again widely used in Renaissance Latin, while Middle Latin mostly used gladius as the generic term.</ref>

The use of a sword is known as swordsmanship or (in an early modern or modern context) as fencing. In the Early Modern period, the sword developed into the rapier and eventually the smallsword, surviving into the 18th century only in the role of duelling weapon. By the 19th century, swords were reduced to the status of either ceremonial weapon or sport equipment in modern fencing.

Non-European weapons called "sword" include single-edged weapons such as the Middle Eastern saif, the Chinese dao and the related Japanese katana. The Chinese jian is an example of a non-European double-edged sword, like the European models derived from the double-edged Iron Age sword.


Sword sections
Intro  History  Morphology  Typology  See also   References   External links  

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