knowledge base : glossary of terms
Glossary of Terms

A glossary of many terms pertaining to medieval martial arts, tournaments and heraldry, some of arms and armour, while others related to heraldry. Some terms extracted from:

Craig Turner and Tony Soper. Methods and Practice of Elizabethan Swordplay. Southern Illinois University Press, 1990

David Edge & John Miles Paddock. Arms & Armor of the Medieval Knight, An Illustrated History of Weaponary in the Middle Ages. Crescent Books, 1996

Boutell's Heraldry, Revised by J.P.Brooke-Little, Richmond Herald of Arms. Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd., 1973

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

- A -
à plaisance combat fought primarily for the entertainment purposes which may employ specially modified weapons with shart edges and point removed or blunted - in some cases, modified armour was worn especially adapted for the needs of this particular style of hastlitude
à outrance combat fought under war conditions, that is, using normal weapons of war and wearing the normal armour of warfare
abrazare a style of Italian (Friulian) grappling as defined and documented by Fiore dei Liberi
accoutrements dress; trappings; equipment; specifically, the devices and equipments worn by combatants
ailette a flat plate of leather or partchment (square, round or diamond-shaped) which tied to the point of the shoulder worn between 1250-1350 used to display the owner's coat-of-arms
aketon a padded and quilted garment, usually of linen, worn under or instead of plate or mail - similar to a gambeson
appellant defines the challengers or venans participating in the pas d'armes (the "visiting team") - the term "appellant" is referenced Traicté de la Forme et Devis d'ung Tournois and Thomas, Duke of Gloucester, Constable under Richard II On the Manner of Conducting Judicial Duels
armigerous a person who has been awarded or granted the right to bear arms (armorial bearings)
arming points ties of flax or twine by which the armour was secured in place
armizare a short form of l'arte dell'armizare loosely translated as "the art of arms" is a system of traditional martial arts defined in the original treatise authored by Fiore dei Liberi entitled "Flos Duellatorum"
armour nomenclature a comprehensive listing of armour terms accompanied with an illustration can be viewed by clicking here
armorial bearings all components which constitutes an individual's coat of arms, comprised of shield, mantling, crest comprised of helmet and devices, and motto; depending upon position in government or of noble birth, supporters are included - arms typically refer to the shield only
aventail a curtain of mail attached by means of staples (vervelles) around the base of a helmet (usually a basinet), and covering the shoulders. Also called camail (French)
- B -
banner a heraldic banner, also called a "banner of arms", displays the basic coat of arms only, i.e. it contains the design usually displayed on the shield and omits the crest, helmet or coronet, mantling, supporters, motto or any other elements associated with the coat of arms - a heraldic banner is usually square or rectangular - click here to view an example of a banner and standard
banneret short for knight banneret, was a knight (not necessarily a nobleman) who led a company of troops during time of war under his own banner (which was square-shaped, in contrast to the tapering standard or the pennon flown by the lower-ranking knights) and were eligible to bear supporters in English heraldry
barding also spelled bard or barb is the armour for horses
bascinet or basinet an open-faced helmet with a globular or conical skull enclosing the sides of the face and neck, usually worn with an aventail, and occasionaly a visor
berfrois a grandstand, usually a temporary structure made of wood, built alongside the lists to enable spectators to view the hastlitudes, usually reserved for the ladies, but nobles, prominent citizens and visiting dignitaries were also allowed to seat - also known as the escafaut or scaffold
bevor a plate chin-shaped defense for the lower face often incorporating a gorget, sometimes called a bavier or buffe
bill a staff weapon (dating from the 13th century) based upon the agricultural hedging bill; its curved blade is fitted with a top and rear spike
blazon the textual description of the design and colours (tinctures) of arms which in the early days of heraldry had given rise to an heraldic language or blazon
breastplate a single plate or segmented plates of armour for the front of the torso, down to just above the waist
braies an under-garment, similar in style to boxer shorts of today, worn with chausses or split-hose
bohort (behordicum, buhurdicium, boherd) - generally spontaneous amusements of the young not formally arranged and organized employing only blunted weapons, some German sources describing bohorts with no weapons at all - Knights Templars were unable to tourney because of papal ban but their Rule permitted them to participate in bohorts
buckler a small round shield usually carried by the infantry
- C -
caparison is a large cloth worn over the body, neck and sometimes, head of the horse, often decorated in the colours of the rider (coat of arms) worn for tournaments and parades
chausses mail protection for the legs, either in the form of mail hose or strips of mail laced round the front of the leg
coif a hood, often padded and sometimes made of mail
cotehardie a snug fitting, long jacket typified by numerous buttons along the front and sleeves from the wrist to mid fore-arm
couter a plate defence for the elbow, also known as a spelt cowter
cuff an extension of the gauntlet for defending the wrist, contributing to the classic "hour-glass" shape of the gauntlets
cuir bouilli leather hardened by super saturating in water or boiled in molten wax, and then dried over a former ("medieval plastic")
cuisse plate defense for the upper thighs
cuirass a backplate and breastplate designed to be worn together
- D -
defendant defines the defenders or tenans participating in a pas d'armes (the "home team") - the term "defendants" is referenced in Traicté de la Forme et Devis d'ung Tournois and Thomas, Duke of Gloucester, Constable under Richard II On the Manner of Conducting Judicial Duels
demi-greave a small defense plate transitioning the poleyn articulations to a greave on the lower leg
- E -
emblazon the visualizing or drawing or painting of arms from a blazon
emprise a challenge of a mock batter or war, in which the parties, typically, the English and the French would meet at a designated place to fight for the honor of their king and kingdom.
- F -
falchion a short, single-edged sword with a cleaver-like curved blade, popular from the 13th century onwards and used with all classes of soldiers
fauld of four lames armour plate strips composed of horizontal lames attached to the bottom edge of the breastplate to protect the abdomen
foible the part of the blade nearest to the point
forte the strongest part of the blade, nearest the hilt
fuller a groove down the centre of the blade on both sides of varying lengths on different swords for the purpose of lightening the weight of the sword and to increase its strength - sharing similar strength properties with an "I-beam" structure
- G -
gardbrace a reinforcing plate closely shaped to the pauldron, first appearing in the 15th century on Italian armours. It often covered the lower 3/4's of the front of the pauldron and was attached to it by a staple and pin as indicated in the figure
gambeson a quilted, skirted doublet of cloth, often made of linen, stuffed with tow, wood, grass or horse hair, usually worn under a mail shirt or as a separate defensive garment on its own
gatlings or gadlings protruding studs or bosses (sometimes zoomorphic) on the finger and knuckle joints of a gauntlet
gauntlets defense of articulated plates for the hand in the form of a glove. Gauntlets can also be in the form of a mit or initially of mail
glaive an infantry staff weapon with first appeared in the 14th century and was favoured by the French.  It had a long cleaver-like blade shaped like an enlarged bread-knife, sometimes with a false upper edge and which is usually attached to the shaft by langets.
gorget or collar plate defense for the neck and extending to the top of the chest and shoulders, generally made up of 2 parts joined by a hinge, pivoting rivet or leather straps
greave also known as "schynbald" or "jamber". Plate defense for the leg from the knee to the ankle, initially protecting only the front in the early 14th century and later covering the entire leg. It is constructed of two contoured plates, fitted with hinges and closed with either pins or straps
guard of vambrace an exaggerated defence for the right elbow and vambrace armour for the lower arm
guige a strap attached to the inside of a shield by which it could be slung around the neck of the bearer
gussets of mail shaped pieces of mail which were sewn to the arming doublet to cover the armpits and portions of the arm left exposed by plate defenses
- H -
halberd an infrantry staff weapon especially popular with the Swiss.  Its head consisted of a cleaver-like axe blade balanced at the rear by a fluke (hook) or lug, and surmounted by a spike, usually of quadrangular section.
hastlitude literally a "spear game" referring to any chivalric sport involving the use of the lance - often used as a generic term for tourneying
haubergeon or habergeon a short type of hauberk - the terms used indiscriminately
hauberk a mail shirt reaching to between the knee and hip, and invariably with sleeves
- I -
imbroccata a thrust with the hand pronated (knuckles forward, palm outward) passing over the opponent's hand and downward; also foin
inquartata a sideways or backwards step with the rear foot together with a lowering of the body underneath the incoming blade, dropping the left hand to the ground for support, followed by a counterattack with line; also passata sotto.
- J -
javelin a spear designed to be thrown rather than used as a thrusting weapon
joust single combat on horseback using lances
jupon a tight-fitting garment, usually padded and worn over armour from c1350 - 1410, often used to display the wearer's arms
- L -
lames a narrow strip or plate of steel, sometimes used in armour to provide enhanced articulation of the joints
lance rest a support structure for the lance when couched, bolted to the right side of the breastplate and was occasionally hinged
lists the designated area for combat usually associated with jousts, bounded by ditches, fences, barriers or landmarks
livery distinctive clothing, either of distinctive colors of fabric, or distinguished by badges, or both representing the arms of the lord, worn by the lord's retinue during medieval tournaments
lower canon individual plate armour, tubular in form to protect the lower arm
- M -
mandritta a horizontal cut delivered with the palm upward and the knuckles leading, from right to left
mêlée first appearing in north-eastern France in the late 11th century growing out of fashion and disappeared in the mid 14th century, involved most if not all participants of a tournament ( sometimes numbering in the hundreds ) fighting at the height of a tournament either on horseback or on foot with weapons ranging from lance to mace to sword
montanta a sword movement, in which the blade comes from "below" and attempts to cut the opponent from below.
- P -
pas d'armes an elaborate form of hastlitude evolved in the late 14th and remained popular through the 15th centuries which typically involved a group of knights (tenans or defendants) or the "home team" and then who would let it be known that any other knight who wished to pass (venans or appellants) or the "visiting team" to take up the challenges
pauldron a laminated plate defense for the shoulder extending at the front and rear to protect the armpit
pike long spear with a small steel head, carried by infrantrymen. Metal strips (cheeks) were riveted down the shaft from the point, to reinforce it. Pikes were used by the Flemings, Scots and Swiss, becoming as long as 22 feet (6.7m).
plackart a reinforcement plate attached to the breastplate; it covered the lower half of the breastplate, however, Italian armour typically covered the entire breastplate
poleyn a cup-shaped plate defense for the knee, usually includes a side wing-like extension on the outside of the knee for additional protection
pommel a variously shaped counterweight to the sword blade, attached to the end of the sword tang
poniard is a form of dagger with a slim square or triangular blade; the poniard is almost identical to the dirk
pourpoint a garment similar to that of a short sleeveless cotehardie whose development coincided with the adoption of plate leg harness and which were suspended by the pourpoint, thus distributing the load over the entire chest & abdomen of the wearer
punta riversa a thrust with the hand in supination (knuckles down, palm inward), delivered from the inside line, passing on either side of the opponent's ward, usually delivered on a step
pursuivant a pursuivant, or more correctly a pursuivant of arms, is a junior officer of arms. Most pursuivants are attached to official heraldic authorities, such as the College of Arms in London or the Court of the Lord Lyon in Edinburgh.
- Q -
quillons the arms of the crossbar on a sword guard
quintain a target attached to a pole which was used in lance practice in preparation for the jousts
- R -
rapier a form of light, long-bladed sword, often with a complicated guard of thin betal bars, developed in the 16th century for the type of "fencing" reliant largely upon the point rather than the edge, although early forms were used for both cut and thrust.
rebated weapons with their sharp edges removed or blunted
rerebrace plate armour for the upper arm
riversi a horizontal cut delivered with the palm downward and the knuckles leading, from left to right
- S -
sabaton or solaret either laminated plate defense or mail defense for the foot, ending in a toe cap
short staff or half pike the half-pike is a short version of a regular medieval pike
standard an heraldic standard is a type of flag, containing heraldic devices and is used for personal identification - unlike the heraldic banner, which is simply the shield of the coat of arms on a rectangular flag, the design and use of the standard is more regulated - a standard is not rectangular - it tapers, usually from 120 cm down to 60 cm and the fly edge is rounded (lanceolate) - click here to view an example of a banner and standard
spaudler a light laminated defence protecting the point of the shoulder and top of the arm
stoccata a thrust with the hand supinated (knuckles down, palm inward) rising from underneath the opponent's ward; also thrust
stop rib a small metal bar riveted to plate armour to stop the point of a weapon sliding into a joint or opening
stramazone a vertical cut to the head, palm to the left
surcoat a flowing garment worn over armour from the 12th, sometimes sleeveless or sleeved, usually reaching about mid-calf, later it was shortened and in the 14th century developed into the "jupon"
- T -
tabard a short, open-sided garment with short sleeves used to display the wearer's coat of arms, often worn by heralds
tasset a small metal bar riveted to plate armour to stop the point of a weapon sliding into a joint or opening
tenans a group of knights or defendants who issues a challenge to fight hastlitudes or a pas d'armes and then holds the field against all comers
traditional European martial arts (TEMA) a term to denote a form of European martial arts research, study, training and instruction which remains true to its original style, concepts, training methods and armed or unarmed fighting styles, sometimes referred to as historical Western martial arts. In terms of AEMMA, the fighting style 'l`arte dell`armizare' fits into this category of martial arts systems, in that the system described and documented by Fiore dei Liberi and interpreted by the AEMMA founders and instructors is aligned to the best of AEMMA's knowledge, to its original form.
- V -
vambrace a defence for the top of the thigh, hung from the fauld by leather straps to cover the gap between the cuisses and breastplatel; this form of armour first appeared in the 15th century
venans tourneyers or jousters, sometimes referred to as appellants, who comes to attend hastlitudes or pas d'armes in answer to a challenge, and sometimes in costumes or "incognito"
vervelles staples attached to the base of a basinet for securing the aventail
visor protection for the eyes and face; a plate defence pivoted to the helmet
- W -
ward to act on the defensive with a weapon; an old English term analogous to "guard"
wing a wing-like extension of the poleyns, for protecting the outside of the joints

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Released: November 09, 1998 / Updated: March 29, 2011