30 Types of Swords from Around the World
With different communities come unique customs, beliefs, and weapons. As a means of defense and a result of warfare throughout the years, there are many different types of swords in almost every culture. In the ancient days before the invention of more advanced weapons, sword bearers were venerated as warriors.
For this reason, it is no surprise that there are many sword collectors, be it for the lore of the sword, origin, or purpose. No matter your reason for your interest in swords, the love and respect for this symbolism begins with a collection. Gaining one leads to new appreciation and insight. In this article, we will briefly look at the different swords throughout different cultures and options on how to acquire one if you are interested.
Swords: Authentic Vs Replica
Given that there are thousands of communities worldwide, the number of bladed weapons smelted since the medieval times is almost immeasurable. There are thousands of different swords depending on size, weight, sharpness, and design. It is difficult to come across identical swords as most ancient swords were hand-crafted making them one of a kind. Today, you can find many identical swords because most are mass-produced in factories.
Swords, in general, represent freedom and virtue, which explains their frequent use in religious texts. At the same time, swords were used for ceremonial occasions in the nineteenth century, and the renowned samurai movies helped popularize swords. Since the sword-fighting era is long gone, most sword collectors today keep them as displays, mementos, or cosplay.
For these purposes, replicas are a great option as they are much more affordable and easier to acquire. On the other hand, high end collectors can find authentic swords via websites and private sellers, but due to its rarity, authentic swords are very expensive with prices ranging from thousands to tens of thousands.
The Europeans optimized their swords as the medieval era progressed, from the 11th to the 16th centuries, with technical advancements to match situations. In Europe, swords were developed for various purposes, with many being used for rapid movements such as cut and thrust activities, so they were made of light material and others for heavy tasks. As a result, several types of European swords were crafted.
Celtic weapons were commonly used during battles in 225 BC, and these are known to be the oldest long iron swords known to humans. These blades were the most sophisticated iron and steel weapons of the time, illustrating new cutting levels when it came to incorporating iron and steel. In fact, a Celt’s sword was so symbolic that swords were buried with their master with the blade intentionally broken so only the deceased Celt could wield it. According to historians, there are two main types of Celtic swords;
Long – A long Celtic Sword is an anthropomorphic handle created using organic material, including wood or horn. Evolved from the short Celtic sword, they are also distinguished by an ironing board in front of the shield that is molded to complement the scabbard mouth.
Around three feet in length, this sword is straight and double-edged. Described by Greek historian Diodorus Siculus to be “as long as the javelin of others”, it has a hilt with a small guard and two curved quillons near the pommel. Primarily a slashing weapon, it has a rounded tip that is not suited for stabbing or thrusting. This eventually evolved into the roman Gladius and influenced Viking swords.
Short – A short Celtic sword is made using a real anthropomorphic handle from copper alloy. The short Celtic sword was an earlier version as little was known about how to produce a longer blade. Perfect for close combat, this lethal sword’s size falls between a knife and a full sized sword.
Featuring a straight double edge that tapers to a fine point, it has a unique hilt with outspread copper limbs as the guard and pommel. Some may even have ornate bone accents on the grip with its blade encased in a brown leather scabbard. The Celtic short sword is recommended for warriors who prefer something smaller, or even as a side weapon for dual wielders.
Greek Cavalrymen are commonly known to use curved swords known as Kopis. Scholars argue that their name emphasizes that it was used to kill enemies. An Ancient Greek Sword with a forward-facing curvaceous blade, it was generally used for precise cutting, slaughtering animals, animal ritual animal sacrifice offerings, and it could also be utilized during combat. Crafted for use with only one hand, this sword was incredibly light. Measuring about 3 feet in length, this blade would wielded over the shoulder for the most power against their adversary.
Cutlass the Pirate Swords
During the Golden Age of Piracy, pirates used all sorts of weapons to attack ships and steal their precious cargoes. During this era, the most common weapon used was the pirate sword, characterized by a single short cutting edge with a curved blade for easy swinging. Alongside the sword, pirates often carried a basket hilt that protected the hand and could be improvised as a small shield. Pirate swords were also curved for aesthetic purposes and quick and efficient cutting. Since pirates would often raid other ships, they would possess other types of swords.
Fencing is a structured sport in which participants use a sword for offense or defense in accordance with predetermined movements and rules. Even though the use of swords predates back to prehistoric times while swordplay dates back to ancient civilizations, the sport of fencing did not begin until the end of the nineteenth century. While it once began as a field of military coaching, it has since progressed into a sport. The main types of fencing swords include
The foil weighs 500 grams at most and is perfect for thrusting. Many years back, military personnel would use the foil to train inexperienced soldiers as it was light enough and the most ideal demonstration weapon. According to the International Fencing Federation, the foil is about 110 cm long and has an agile blade measuring about 90 cm long. What makes it an ideal fencing sword is its weight. Only the blade tip counts as the relevant part of the target area, which is the torso.
The epee is also used for thrusting but weighs 775 grams at most. This sword is regarded as the first feuding sword. It was created in the mid-nineteenth century to train people for duels. If you’ve ever seen a film that involves plenty of swordplays, you’ve probably seen epee. The blade of the sword is triangular and quite rigid to flex. Because the entire body is a target, the defender is large and bell-shaped to safeguard the hand from strikes. The only part of the blade used to strike the target is the tip.
Contrary to the foil and epee, which are only thrusting swords, the saber (or sabre) can cut and slash. Saber athletes can thus win by using both the tip and the sides of their swords. The saber is believed to be approximately 105 cm long, but the blade itself measures 88 cm. This sword was initially created for military use but later evolved to be a sporting tool.
A longsword is described as a two-handed rapier with a double-edged blade and sharp tip for thrusting. These were employed from the 13th to the 17th century. Popular in Germany and Italy, much of the literature describing its use comes from both countries. Longswords are generally measured between 101 cm – 122 cm and weigh between 1.13 kg – 2.04 kg. When we look at drawings in Fechtbuchen, we quickly notice that the swords displayed typically reach from the armpit to the forehead. The main type of longsword is the Feder. This was also referred to as a feather sword, and Germans commonly used it to train new students.
The claymore is a Scottish double-handed longsword resembling a medieval double-handed longsword. Classical claymores, which were used from the 15th to the 17th centuries, had crossguards that slanted down towards the blade and quatrefoils at the ends of the quillons. Because of the huge size of the Scottish sword, the holder had to use both hands to utilize it, making them a representation of physical prowess.
Also referred to as hand and a half sword, bastard swords were devised in the mid-1400s as a variant of the longsword with specially designed grips for one- or two-handed battle. These blades customarily had longer handlebars that allowed their use with one or both hands. The Bastard Sword was an intimidating combat weapon used for pushing or slashing. It was a remote-combat weapon that could deliver a devastating blow.
Its thrusts were more lethal, making them more effective against plate armor. Such swords’ blades could also be keenly pointed, allowing them to find shortfalls in breastplates. The sword could have been the same size as a single-handed sword, but the tang and grip were long enough to encompass two hands, providing better grip and more control.
While the main weapon used by Asians during ancient times was the bow and crossbow, the sword played a great part, particularly when soldiers needed to face their enemies at close quarters. Swordsmiths first made Asian swords from bronze, then evolved to iron, and finally steel.
Among the Asians, the Japanese were and still are the most renowned with swords because of their famous samurai legends. For every samurai, the blade was the most revered and valuable weapon. A sword was presented into the house when a samurai was born and laid next to him when he passed away. A samurai even slept with his sword beneath his pillow.
A single-edged iron sword used by Samurais during the sixth century. They were common among mountain warriors for cutting and slashing. Since the Tachi sword had a long blade, they altered with time to suit the warrior’s needs.
The Japanese designed this after realizing the long Tachi blade was a burden. The Katana was made with a shorter blade and curved at the tip. The short blade allowed warriors to wear it into the belt, allowing them to locomote without disturbance. It also features a longer grip to accommodate holding it with two hands.
Defined as the standard sized blade in the Japanese world, the katana is characterized by a single edged slender curved blade with a square or circular guard. Used in close combat, western historians have complimented this sword as one of the finest cutting weapons in military history.
Nodachi or Odachi
This is a large model of the Tachi sword utilized by Samurais in the late 14th century. The sword’s name means “field sword,” and it was mainly crafted for foot soldiers because it worked effectively in field condition battles and against troops. This Japanese blade was lengthier and much bigger than the Katana, but it was ineffective for fighting in narrow areas or at close distances.
Samurai or Ninja Swords?
Ninja swords were also commonly used among the Japanese. There are two alternative explanations about what a Ninja sword resembled. According to the first theory, every sword used by Feudal Japan’s Ninja assassins was unique, a basic principle that Hollywood has endorsed.
The second theory suggests that the Ninja swords were not distinctive to avoid drawing the attention of neutral viewers. This is due to the Ninja’s primary role as spies and assassins. Nonetheless, there are two main types of Ninja Swords popularly used by the Japanese during ancient times.
This sword has a straight blade and is very comparable to the Katana, a Samurai sword. However, because they were crafted with inferior steel, Ninja swords were frequently weaker compared to Samurai swords. One potential explanation is that the Ninjas were regarded as a poorer social class in Japan, and therefore, unable to employ a skilled swordsmith. Furthermore, their own swordsmiths lacked the equipment or materials required to create curved edge blades. Conquering a samurai would need exceptional skill on the part of a Ninja.
Historians believe that China produced swords long before the Japanese, as supported by archeological evidence. The Chinese frequently crafted their traditional swords using various materials, including iron and bronze. Most Chinese swords feature a single-edge, but some designs allow a double-edge blade known as Jian. Unlike Japanese swords, these shorter and less advantageous than long samurai swords are often featured in martial arts films.
The Jian is the most popular Chinese sword dating back to more than four thousand years back. The Jian, like most blades in Western civilization, is decorative, incorporating sophistication and fatal power. In ancient Chinese history, male soldiers from the highest-ranking official down to the lowest would carry a Jian, and the profoundness of the sword was an acknowledgment of rank in the Chinese community.
The Dao, like many other popular swords all across history, was produced in large numbers and was available in different variants. Also known as the Chinese broadsword, it had a short to medium blade, a minimal curve, and a single edge. Due to its shortened length, the Dao was frequently referred to as a sword knife. In addition, the Dao had a cylindrical guard with subtle cupping along with it. Not only did this keep the wielders from injuring themselves, it also kept water from leaking into the layers and jeopardizing the blade.
Indians are known for their numerous swords used for decorative and combat purposes. Although not spoken about as often, Indians were the largest producers of swords in the medieval period. Among the most common Indian swords include;
This was equally as lethal as it was decorative. Indian swordsmiths designed it in many styles, with several shades of decorative silver, bronze, rubies, and gold. The Tulwar is a single edged sword used by cavalrymen and infantrymen in its simplest form.
The Khanda is one of the most ancient Indian swords dating back to the 2nd century A.D. Traditional Khandas were heavy, large, and double-edged. In the 17th century, basket hilts were added to the sword, making it more efficient.
Swords are a core component of the Philippines’ heritage and history, as they have a powerful blade culture. The warrior class would carry their swords into the battlefield while the remaining would work in the fields. Two of the most recognized prehistoric Filipino swords include:
The Filipinos believe that this sword was used to strike down a famous explorer known as Ferdinand Magellan. First-line soldiers would always carry a Kampilan sword, a very lethal weapon. With just one swing of the sword, the enemy could be knocked down with their head chopped off.
This was a classical double edged sword used to propagate the pain. It has a distinctive look, with a variety of forms and sizes. The sword is mostly straight from the tip down, but it is curved near the grip. While the Kalis sword is mainly a cutting weapon in combat, it also has vibrant thrusting power.
Unlike the Japanese and the Chinese, Indonesians are not known for their swords or daggers. Nonetheless, a few of the swords used throughout Indonesian history have been recovered. Indonesians mainly used swords to defend themselves against disputes while hunting. They also used the blades to harvest crops and chop items like meat and vegetables. The most common swords associated with the nation include:
This sword is more or less like a knife but with a unique shape resembling a snake. The Keris is a narrow asymmetrical blade used as a defense weapon as well as a spiritual object believed to have magical powers. The oldest known Keris traces its origins back to the 10th century and most likely spread across Southeast Asia from the Indonesian archipelago. Its sheath is typically made from wood, but some were crafted using ivory and gold
Generally, there are only a few known Korean swords from ancient times as Koreans never specialized in crafting many types of swords. They preferred to use specific swords that they knew worked best for their situations. Some of the most commonly known Korean swords include;
This is one of the largest Korean swords, with a three feet long blade and measuring around one foot in width. This sword was crafted using pure metal, but the handle would often be wood or gold. Due to the length of the Danwoldo sword, it was best used in open field battles. Its large handle base allowed for wielding with both hands.
During the precolonial period, Africans were popular for creating exceptional weapons and equipment that were then used for various activities such as combat, cultural celebrations, and even to establish their reputation. The most prominent defense weapons were spears with a large wooden scabbard and a metallic top, as well as bows and arrows and guards made from animal skin. Some communities, on the other hand, made swords such as:
This was a sickle-shaped sword used by Ethiopians or Eritreans. Its curved blade can effectively reach around a shield and stab enemies in their vital points. While it is mostly known for its double edge, there are some Shotel swords with a single edged blade, with the other unsharpened side of the blade used to brace against other swordsmen. Unlike the Persian shamshir, ts characteristics include an almost semicircular flat blade about 40 inches in length and a simple hilt.
This was a Kenyan sword designed with a long double-edged blade. The sword was often stored in a leather sheath and was tied around the waist. Like most Kenyan swords, the Simi was leaf-shaped, but not as wide. It was mostly used for hunting but was strong enough for heavier impact.
Real-Life vs. Fantasy Swords
All the swords we have mentioned above are real-life swords crafted during ancient times. Some of them still exist today, but are preserved in museums. Still, Ginormous swords, ultra-swords, and other fictitious monster-slaying swords have a place among sword collectors who revel in the fantasy world.
The European single-handed militarizing sword is a dependable symbol in Earth’s historical facts. However, the European dagger has become a benchmark for unforeseen innovative reinvention in prevalent medieval fantasy, whether in computer games, novels, films, or comics.
Unlike true historical swords, fictional swords do not show concern about appropriate weight distribution, a crucial component for medieval swordsmiths. Occasionally, fanciful historical creations are depicted in the middle ages portraying ancient history or foreign lands to demonstrate how peculiar those cultures and countries were. If no physical samples of these weapons exist, we may deduce that they are historical fiction pieces.
Larger than practical weapons are frequently depicted in modern fantasy works, especially in anime and comics. These authors sometimes exaggerate the size of these massive weapons to represent the power of those who wield them or their iconic power. For example, the Grutte Pier sword is a good example.
Fictional swords in movies also often give the wielders extraordinary power and are usually used to fight evil. As such, filmmakers portray the swords as special and meant for the specific bearer as they can be misused if wielded by evil people. A great sword featured in Merlin’s legendary fiction film is a good example.
From the smallest to the largest, almost every community in the world has a history with swords. As depicted in this article, most swords were designed for combat, while others were crafted for lighter tasks. Although the sword era has long gone, numerous types of swords are still available. If you are looking forward to starting your sword collection soon and don’t know where to start or acquire one, we showcase the best options on the market.