The 20 Most Popular Sword Names From Legends and History
What’s in this article?
Swords have been used for more than just combat throughout history. They have also been used as symbols of power, rank, and honor. With this symbolism comes the habit of naming various types of swords. The practice of giving names to swords can be traced to the Bronze Age when swords started appearing. Because they were linked with their rulers, people often believed that swords possessed magical powers and regarded them as sacred items.
This practice of giving swords mythical names has been handed down from generation to generation verbally, in written form, and through myths and legends. In this article, we will review some of the most famous sword names from historical myths and explain their lore and background.
What Went into Naming Swords?
Names for swords don’t just appear out of nowhere. No matter where a sword’s story comes from, a few factors come into play when choosing the sword’s name or connection to its wielder. Here are the most important ones:
- Original Story – A story about an important historical event that has been told for a long time and turned into either a sizable story that resembles the truth or several smaller stories that are further from the truth.
- Heroes – A certain character or hero based on a real or fictional person from the past with a strong build. This person can outsmart their enemies and benefit the local populace.
- Creation – The magical and mystical elements in the sword’s creation are usually linked with iron or steel production, certain swordsmiths, or a god or deity.
- Magic & Supernatural Powers – The blessing or giving of magical attributes to the sword by certain mysterious creatures or deities will give the sword supernatural attributes, affecting its name.
- Religion – The removal of old Pagan names and attributes, making it more adaptable to the new religion. A good example is the Christianization of Europe and some of its most popular sword names.
Whether it’s a small manga, anime, a big movie like the Lord of the Rings series, or an old Celtic or Greek story, the names of the main characters’ swords have always come from the tale behind them. Sometimes the names of these swords make sense based on their magical or real properties, but other times it’s unclear and leaves sword enthusiasts guessing.
1. Joyeuse – The Sword of the Father of Europe
- Meaning of Name – Joyful
Charlemagne is called the Father of Europe by some, having a great historical background in the creation of the Holy Roman Empire. Being one of the more notable characters in the Middle Ages led to the creation of many myths surrounding his sword, Joyeuse. The blade is said to have been created by Wayland the Smith, a heroic master blacksmith. He also created the Curtana, Durandal, and the Almace, described in the 11th-century poem Song of Roland.
It has Christian elements, such as being the blade that belonged to Longinus, who pierced Jesus’ side with a lance during his crucifixion. It is also said that no other sword could match its strength and appearance, as it changed its color 30 times a day. Some believe that this sword was a curved sabre and that it survived through the ages and is being held today in the Louvre Museum in Paris.
2. Ascalon – Saint George’s Dragon Slayer Sword
- Meaning of Name – Levantine city called Ashkelon in Israel
Ascalon was the spear or sword Saint George wielded in his adventure to rescue the princess in distress and kill the evil dragon that tormented a village in modern-day Israel. There are different sources of how George is depicted, but in the most popular tale, he is a Christian knight of valor.
The tale says that George walked upon a village that was forced to sacrifice its sheep as a form of paying taxes to a ruthless dragon. When the villagers had no more sheep, the dragon took their princess away. Saint George then took upon his horse and slew the dragon after the villagers accepted Christianity.
3. Arondight – The Sword of Sir Lancelot
- Meaning of Name – Unclear (Chastiser of Fools in some cases)
Arondight is the sword wielded by the mighty Sir Lancelot, a character added to French Arthurian tales that developed much later than the original. The Arondight is an enchanted and magical blade that almost killed Arthur in a battle against his powerful Excalibur.
Arondight as a sword name is first seen in the 14th-century narrative Bevis of Hampton. Here, Arondight is wielded by Guy of Warwick and not Lancelot himself. Arondight’s original name was Secace or Chastiefol and Gastiga Folli, which both mean chastiser of fools. It is possible that this name was popularized because it was commonly grouped with Joyeuse, Durendal, and Excalibur.
4. Caladbolg – The Rainbow Swinging Sword
- Meaning of Name – Hard sheath or hard blade (possibly generic word for greatswords)
The large and two-handed sword found in Irish tales that could summon rainbows wielded by the Irish hero, Fergus Mac Roich, is called Caladbolg. Its story is linked with many great battles and elements of the surrounding nature and earth, like being able to cut through hills.
The Caladbolg name might be related to the Gae Bolg, or Cuchulainn spear found in the Ulster cycle of Irish mythology. This also could be an analog or early source for the Excalibur, called Caledfwich in early Welsh.
5. Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi – The Japanese Air Controlling Sword
- Meaning of Name – Grass Cutting Sword
The Kusanagi no Tsurugi is a Japanese sword originally called Ame-no Murakumo-no-Tsurugi (Sword of the Gathering Clouds of Heaven). These names might be euphemisms and mean something more, but today are part of the imperial regalia and are held in the Atsuta Shrine in Japan.
The name Grass Cutting Sword could be given to the weapon because of the tale of Yamato Takeru. This sword was passed down from gods, starting with Susano-O and Amaterasu, and eventually passed down to a warrior surrounded by fire. The gods gave the warrior the power to control the air, and he was able to redirect the fire on the grass around him.
6. Balmung and Gram – The Norse Sword Stuck in a Tree
- Meaning of Name – Unclear (possibly anointing or impregnating)
Balmung is the name of the legendary sword wielded by the Nordic hero Sigurd or Siegfried found in many sagas. This blade can also sometimes be named Gram, which could be the same sword as Balmung. According to the tale, when the sword Gram breaks apart into many pieces, these pieces will get reforged, and Balmung will be created.
Gram means wrath in Old Norse, which translates to grief in modern German. Balmung is a sword based on a popular folktale theme, where a blade is stuck inside a stone or a tree, and only a certain person can break it free. Sometimes it can also be called Notung, a term coined by Wagner in his 19th-century work, Der Ring des Nibelungen.
7. Tizona – The Legendary Sword of El Cid
- Meaning of Name – Firebrand or Burning Stick
El Cid’s sword, used to frighten and slay many great foes of this medieval Spanish hero, was called Tizona. This is a term more commonly used for the blade used in Spanish legends, and some believe that the same sword still exists today.
Tizona, a historical sword with inscriptions on its blade dating from the early 11th century, is described in the tales as having magical powers. This sword was taken from a Moor captain and used as a means for defeating Christian enemies at the time by glowing brightly and being able to cut through anything.
8. Colada – El Cid’s Less Popular Sword
- Meaning of Name – Unclear (possibly strained or cast when making blades with impurities)
The other sword used by the brave Spanish medieval hero El Cid is called the Colada. The first time this term is mentioned is in Cantar de Mio Cid, a Spanish mythologized tale that tells of the adventures and bravery of El Cid.
9. Durendal – The Magical Sword of Roland
- Meaning of Name – The enduring
The Song of Roland is a source for many of the great sword names we know today. From this same manuscript, we get the Durendal or Durandal, the magical and legendary blade used by Roland to defeat many of his enemies.
Like the Joyeuse and the Curtana swords, this blade was forged by the Anglo-Saxon, Wayland the Smith, or in some legends, the Norse god, Odin. Despite this, the magical properties of the Durendal do not come from Pagan beliefs and culture but rather from relics of Christian saints like the tooth of Saint Peter in its pommel, for example, as well as other relics from the Saints Basil, Denis, and the Virgin Mary.
10. Almace – Sword of Archbishop Turpin
- Meaning of Name – Unclear (possibly Arabic)
Almace is the name of another sword found in Song of Roland. It is a blade wielded by the hero Turpin, in the famous Battle of Roncevaux, who was one of the last Frankish soldiers to die.
However, based on an old Norse saga, the Sword of Turpin was created by the legendary Wayland the Smith. Upon making it, it was presented to Charlemagne so that he would release a Norse prisoner of war upon testing its cutting might on steel and metal. Charlemagne took a liking to these gifts and gave Almace to his trusty warrior, Turpin.
11. Crocea Mors – Caesars Leading Sword
- Meaning of Name – Yellow Death (yellow comes from hardening and creating high carbon steel blade)
Julius Caesar, a Roman leader and one of the greatest military commanders in history, is said to have been wielding the Crocea Mors Gladius into battle. However, this term and sword aren’t found anywhere in Roman literature or spoken about by Caesar himself.
Instead, the name and blade Crocea Mors, comes from the 12th-century Historia Regum Britanniae, the imaginative history of the invasion of Brittain by Geoffrey of Monmouth. The story says that Caesar dueled with Nennius, a British Prince, and the blade got stuck in his shield, and he then used it to cut down many enemies on his road. It is worth mentioning that this book made a connection between this sword and King Arthur’s Excalibur.
12. Chandrahas – The Indian Head Chopping Sword
- Meaning of Name – The laughter of the Moon (possibly a crescent moon or a scimitar)
The powerful and indestructible sword popular in myths and legends of Hinduism, wielded by the mighty King of India, Ravana, is called Chandrahas. This blade was used for cutting through many objects in nature, like mountains and hills, but also as a means for Ravana to show penance and appease Brahma, the creator god.
To do so, Ravana cut his own head off ten times as a sacrifice. Each time he did so, another head would arise from his neck, and he could continue his penance.
13. Curtana – The Mystical Sword of Ogier the Dane
- Meaning of Name – The Shortened
The Curtana is a very popular sword today commonly linked with Vikings in media, used by Ogier the Dane in the 9th century. The direct translation comes from the tale surrounding it.
Curtana was initially used by Tristan, a mythological character who killed a dragon to save Iseult. This sword was then cut down, or shortened in size, to be used by Ogier. Ogier is said to have introduced Christianity to Denmark and saved the life of Charlemagne. Today, the Curtana is a popular ceremonial sword used for knighting ceremonies in England.
14. Freedom’s Sword – William Wallace’s Greatsword
- Meaning of Name – Stood for Scottish freedom.
The large and two-handed greatsword used by William Wallace in the fight for Scottish freedom in the Middle Ages is commonly called the Freedom’s Sword today. Wallace’s sword is depicted as a large claymore blade that would have been used as a cleaver to sever people in half.
Some people believe the sword has survived and is being kept in a museum in Scotland today. However, that seems highly unlikely as a longsword of the type wouldn’t have been used in Wallace’s time.
15. Excalibur – King Arthur’s Legendary Sword
- Meaning of Name – Shining sword, cut steel, battle hard.
The most legendary sword in the world is the Excalibur, used by King Arthur, which is seen throughout modern media. The name of this sword comes from the Welsh Caledfwlch, which Geoffrey of Monmouth then Latinized to Caliburnus. The final and modern term Exclabiur came into being when this Latinized form entered French literature.
There are various tales surrounding the Exclabiur and disagreements about whether it is the sword pulled from the stone or given by the Lady of the Lake. They all share the characteristic of being a magical sword that gave supernatural strength and invulnerability to Arthur, who used it to unite Britain in the battle against its invaders.
16. Hrunting – The First Sword of Beowulf
- Meaning of Name – Thrusting
Beowulf is the most popular figure in Anglo-Saxon lore and is commonly depicted using multiple swords. The Hrunting is a blade given to him by Unferth and was tempered and created in blood, making it very powerful for thrusting.
Although, in the story, the Hrunting was useless when used in the battle against Grendel’s mother. This sword was also seen as an heirloom in stories and, despite being a great weapon, would fall out of Beowulf’s hand in combat.
17. Zulfiqar – The Islamic Prophet Sword
- Meaning of Name – Bifurcated, spine splitter
The Zulfiqar is a name of a sword that is engraved and rooted in Islamic culture today. It is believed that Muhammad used this sword and then passed it down to Imam Ali, his cousin and son-in-law.
The name comes from its very shape, having the two separate blade tips split in the middle. There are different variations of how this sword came to be, but it is commonly believed that it was taken as part of a plunder after the Battle of Badr, after which Muhammad gave a sword called Al-Dhulfiqar to Imam Ali.
18. Thuan Thien – The Vietnamese Sword of Freedom
- Meaning of Name – Heaven’s will
The Thuan Thien is the mythical sword used by the Vietnamese King Le Lo, who fought against the Ming Dynasty in China to liberate Vietnam. The name comes from the same legends surrounding this sword as the freedom of Vietnam that was the will of the heavens.
It is said that this sword was given by Kim Qui, a powerful god turtle, or Long Vuong, a local dragon king god. Le Lo then received the power of 10,000 soldiers and grew in size, making him giant-like. Combined with the magical powers of the sword, he fought successfully against China.
19. Shamshir-e Zomorrodnegar – King Solomon’s Sword
- Meaning of Name – The Emerald Studded Sword
The Persian sword that is said to have been wielded by King Solomon and found in the written tale, Amir Arsalan, is called Shamshir e Zomorrodnegar. The sword was of utmost importance and beautifully ornamented.
The tale goes that this sword was guarded by a terrifying demon named Fulad-Zereh, that regularly abducted women and wandered the skies. Only the Shamshir-e Zomorrodnegar could kill this demon, and the wounds inflicted could only be treated by making a special potion out of the brains of the demon itself.
20. Mimung – Wayland the Smith’s Sword
- Meaning of Name – In Memory of Mime (or dedicated to Mime)
Some sword names can be given based on the hero’s teacher or influencer in life. That is why the Mimung sword was named after Mime, the dwarf blacksmith teacher of Wayland the Smith.
The story starts with a contest between Wayland and another smith, Amilias, who both serve an evil king named Nidung. Wayland makes a better sword in the contest but is not satisfied with it and, as a result, breaks it down into a powder and feeds it to a goose. He then picks up the goose’s manure and repeats the process until he makes the perfect sword with the sharpest blade.