COMMON SWORD TERMINOLOGY
More information on Japanese blade types, click here
Backsword — A sword blade, which has a cutting edge only on one side. Most commonly found on curved blades, such as sabers, falchion, and cutlass.
Basket — An arrangement of steel bars, and panels that form a basket-like cage around the grip (and the wielder’s hand). These are most commonly found on Scottish basket-hilted swords, and European rapiers.
Blade — The section of the sword, which is not part of the hilt.
Boshi- The curved edge of the point on a Samurai sword.
Chappe — A flap of leather attached to a sword’s crossguard, which serves to protect the mouth of the scabbard and prevent water from entering. Also called a Rain Guard.
Cruciform — A generic term for any sword which when inverted point downward will form the shape of a crucifix. This was, to a degree, a religious symbol to the knights of the crusading era.
Daisho — The primary swords of the Samurai, a set of the Katana and Wakizashi.
Edge — The cutting portion of the sword’s blade.
Ferrule — A metal band at either end of the grip used to secure the leather or wire wraps. Also used as a decoration.
Finger guard — A small crescent shape bar which extends from the sword’s guard, and rises parallel to the sword’s ricasso, which enables a user to loop their finger over the guard (which increases point control, but decreases cutting power), without fear of being injured by an opponent’s blade sliding down their own.
Fuchi — The collar on the guard of a Japanese sword.
Fuller — A groove down the center of a blade, used to both lighten a sword, and conserve sword steel (making a wider blade possible with less material). Often mistakenly called a “Blood Groove.”
Full tang — A sword tang that passes the entire length of the grip, and is attached directly to the sword’s pommel.
Grip — The part of the hilt held by the user (the handle).
Guard/Cross-guard — The section of the sword hilt whose purpose is to protect the wielder’s hand. It may take of the shape of a simple bar, a steel basket, a flat disc, or several other forms.
Habaki — The blade collar on a Japanese sword.
Hamon — The “line” or visual characteristic typical of Japanese blades caused by the use of differential hardening.
Hilt — All of a sword, except for the blade, including the cross-guard, grip, and pommel.
Kashiri — The pommel on a Japanese sword.
Katana — A long Japanese sword.
Kissaki — The point of a blade on a Samurai sword.
Kogatana — A mini Tanto Japanese sword.
Kozuka — The grip on a small Japanese knife.
Knuckle guard — A curved bar which extends from the guard to pommel, designed to prevent the user’s hand from being cut by a sliding blow from an opponent’s weapon.
Menuki — The decorative ornament on the handle of a Japanese sword.
Mune — The back of the blade on a Samurai sword.
Pas d’An –- The portion of a rapier’s guard, which surrounds the base of the sword blade.
Point — The tip of the sword’s blade.
Pommel — A counter-weight at the end of a sword’s hilt, used to balance the sword. Also may be used as a striking implement.
Quillon(s) — Renaissance term for the crossguard. Used almost exclusively when referring to rapiers.
Quillon block — Section of the rapier’s hilt where the guard’s arms (both bars, and rings) are attached. The tang of the sword blade also passes through this point, with the ricasso on one side, and the sword’s grip on the other.
Rat-tail tang — A more modern method of manufacturing involving a small diameter rod being welded onto a normal tang. This method has proven faulty in many low-end swords in that they often break due to poor welds.
Ricasso — Any narrowing or thickening of a sword’s blade, which remains unsharpened, just above the guard. Increases the user’s ability to loop a finger over the guard, to increase control of the point.
Saya — The scabbard for a Japanese sword.
Scent stopper — Pommel type which resembles the stopper in an antique perfume jar.
Shinogi — The grind edge of the blade on a Japanese sword.
Tachi — The original Samurai sword worn suspended from an intricate belt.
Tang — The section of the sword blade that the hilt is attached to. This part of the sword is not visible when the blade is fully mounted.
Tanto — A short Japanese sword.
Tsuba — The hand guard on a Japanese sword.
Tsuka — The handle or grip of a Japanese sword.
Tsukaito — The cord wrapping on the handle of a Japanese sword.
Wakizashi — A medium length Japanese sword.
Welded tang — A tang where the steel of the blade has had another piece of steel (very often low carbon steel) welded on to it as an extension.
Wheel — A pommel that is in the shape of a flat disc. It may have added features, such as beveled edges, or raised center sections.
Wire-wrap — Spun and twisted metal wire (may be iron, brass, bronze, copper, etc.), which is then wrapped around the sword grip, often used to increase the ability to grip a sword’s handle. Also a sign of wealth, as these grips tended to be more expensive to manufacture.
Yakiba — The edge of the blade on a Samurai sword.
To See how a Katana is made, click here