Fifteenth century staff weapon especially popular with Swiss infantry. It had a long, spike-like head of square section with a rondel at its base to protect the user’s hand, and was designed for thrusting.


Also analasse. First recorded use 1259 by Matthew Paris in Du Cange; short, two–edged sword, broad at the hilt with a tapering point, worn at the girdle by civilians.


Challenger, especially in a joust or tournament.

Arming Sword

Cut and thrust fighting sword; part of a knight’s equipment for war.


To test the quality and fitness of armor and weapons.


Pendant band of mail attached to the helmet to protect the throat. In 14th and early 15th century England, it was also called a camail.


Now the name of a stonecutter's tool, it was originally a weapon, the head of which consisted of a blade with a crescent cutting edge and a blunt hammerhead at the rear.


Sword with a broad, single–edged blade, a type of broadsword.


Machine used in siege warfare.


See kidney–dagger.


A sharp point curving back from the tip of a weapon, such as a spear or an arrow, to make extraction more difficult.


Armor for a horse.


Horse armor. See Chanfran, Estrivals, Flanchard, and Testimere.


Battle helmet of the 14th century, lighter than the tilting helm. It was smooth, conical in shape and worn with the aventail. Transitional headpiece between the mail headgear of the 11th century and the sallet of the late 15th century, when the use of mail above the shoulder was largely abandoned.




A division of an army. Typically in the late Middle Ages there were three. On the march They formed van, main, and rearguard; they could go into action in line abreast, or in line behind the other.


A large axe with a broad curved blade. See also Scrimasaxe.

Battle Royal

In a tournament, when each side was headed by a king.


When used in reference to armament inventories, a generic term for small arms.


Hafted weapon commonly used by infantry forces; probably developed from a farming tool of the same name. The head, set on a long handle had a single cutting edge which, at the top curved forward into a hook and top spike and the back of the head had a horizontal spike.


A square wooden fort used extensively in the piecemeal conquest of the eastern Baltic lands (e.g., Pomerania, Prussia, and Lithuania) and the military orders.


The largest and one of the earliest of medieval cannon; mainly used to breach castle walls. One of the most impressive of these massive stone–throwers, "Mons Meg," is on display at Edinburgh Castle.


Term beginning in fifteenth-century France to describe works generally made in front of gates, initially of earth, timber, and straw, and later of stone. Their function was to protect the structure behind from enemy gunfire, and to mount the defenders’ guns to fire against the besiegers. Also called ‘bulwark’ in English.


Armor for the upper arm. Also see Vambrace.

Bridgehead Fort

Small fortress at each end of a bridge, a type of fortification developed to black rivers against the Vikings in France in the 860s. Some use was made of fortified bridges in England from the 890s to the 920s. London Bridge was the greatest of this type, defying attacks from the eleventh to the fifteenth centuries.


Long, heavy battle sword with a broad cutting blade and obtuse point. For the double–edged version, see claymore.


Small, round shield used by archers and billmen; when not in used it was hung from the sword hilt or from the belt.


Practice target for archers; regular practice at the butts was mandated by law in medieval and Tudor England.

Cabaleros Villanos

‘Commoner knights’; frontier warriors in 12th-13th-century Spain.


Iron balls with spokes so placed that one spike is always up. Used to discourage pursuit. Also spelled caltrops.


Piece of mail attached to the helmet to protect the throat. See also aventail.


Complete suit of armor, covering the wearer from head to foot.


A type of siege engine used throughout medieval Europe, consisting of a shed to protect men operating other battering or boring equipment during a siege.

Chain Mail

Flexible armor made of metal links or scales.


Armor protection for the head of the war horse.


Metal ferrule reinforcing the tip of a sword or dagger scabbard.


Metal strip used to attach the tilting helm to the breastplate.


Raid; expedition. Generally involved the taking of castles, towns and plunder of enemy territory, although not always harm to the civilian population, even though it did involve wastage of much of the countryside by the advancing forces. Decisive victory was not always the purpose of the chevauchée, which was considered successful if the enemy resources were severely crippled, especially to the extent where the enemy might sue for peace or accept proffered terms. E.g., Richard of Gloucester's Scottish expedition of 1482 was more of a chevauchée, characteristic of Border warfare, than of pitched battles.


A Greek term meaning ‘commander of a thousand’. It is used loosely in 10th-century France, where it simply meant a military leader. There was no regular division into military units of one thousand (with their subdivisions of hundreds). The Latin legio meaning ‘legion’ was similarly misused in 10th-century Germany, meaning no more than a unit of soldiers.


Works surrounding a besieged fortress. Generally, from the 11th century, individual siege castles were built outside the gates. In the 15th century, this could consist of a complete circle of trenches, faggots, bundles of branches, and wooden mantlets (large screens) to protect gunners. Intended to cut off relief from outside and protect the besieging army.


Double–edged broadsword of the Scottish Highlanders; designed to be wielded with both hands and swung in either direction, as opposed to the single–edged broadsword used throughout medieval Europe.

Cloth Yard

Arrow; three–foot shaft fired from the longbow and derived its name from the cloth measurement of the same length.


Iron plates used to keep axle–trees from wearing.


A skullcap worn beneath a knight's mesh hood; the hood itself.


General term for organization responsible for for provisioning an army on campaign.


Blunt head, often crown–shaped, fitted to a lance for jousting. It insured that the jouster's lance would get a good grip on an opponent's armor with a minimum of penetration.


A breastplate or light form of body armor to cover the breast.


The position of the lance when it is tucked under a horseman's arm, possibly on an arrest, but lowered for attack.


Defense–work of beseiging forces.


Steel crossbow cocked by a rack and pinion activated by a crank.


Medieval weapon consisting of a bow fixed transversely on a grooved stock. Originally made of wood with effective range largely dependent upon the strength of the bowman, the 15th–century introduction of the steel crannequin brought new life to a weapon on the verge of extinction in England, where the Welsh longbow reigned supreme and cannon and firearms were becoming more widely used and effective.


Military expeditions, traditionally eight in number, undertaken between 1095 and 1271 to win or hold the Holy Land against Muslim rulers.


The whole of the plate armor pieces protecting the torso; breastplate, back, culet

(or hoguine), and fauld (or paunce).


Armor protection for the thigh.


Armor protection for the back, below the waist.


Short cannon.


Decorated with points; usually referring to the edges of armor and the blades of hafted weapons.

De Re Militari

Classic, Latin study on military strategy by the Roman author, Vegetius Renatus; in the Middle Ages, it was still considered the definitive manual on the subject. It is known to have been translated into English by the early 14th century, when a manuscript was presented to Thomas Lord Berkeley.




Short thrusting sword with a very stiff blade of square or triangular section. Introduced early in the 15th century, it was usually fitted with a simple cross–guard, short grip and heavy pommel. Although principally a cavalry weapon, it was also used in foot–combat in the lists.


Defense for the lower part of a horse's legs; made of mail and/or possibly cuir-bouilli.


Small brass of iron cannon.


Plate protection from the waist to the taces or tassets of a suit of armor.

Field Army

Mobile forces, as opposed to those in garrisons in castles and towns.


Spiked, iron ball attached to a staff by a chain. Like the battle–axe and mace, it was used to crush, rather than penetrate plate armor and was particularly effective against the fluted , articulated harness of the 15th century.


Armor protecting the flanks of a horse.


Gun emplacement commanding a curtain wall or from a recess in the flank of a bastion.


Curved hook on the back of the blades of bills, halberds, and other hafted weapons.

Flying Bridge

A bridge suspended from the top of a ship’s mast used for assaulting coastal fortifications in crusading warfare.

Forced March

Abnormally rapid movement, traveling by night and day, to achieve surprise. For example, in 1471, the Lancastrian army covered almost 50 miles in 36 hours.


Soldiers owing allegiance to no lord, fighting on their own behalf; raiders, pirates.


The Anglo-Saxon militia.


Cylindrical basket, open at both ends, filled with dirt and used by military engineers in the construction of defense works.


1) Class of warrior retained by Irish chieftains; 2) In Scotland, the term also meant henchmen or armor bearers.


The reinforce attached to the armor elbow defense. See couter and coudiere.


Armor protecting the knee.


From the 13th to 15th century, English writers used this word to describe an equivalent of the lance. After that, it was more often used in reference to a sword or dagger, but modern writers on armaments use it to describe staff weapons with knife–like blades.


Mid–15th century improvement on the bevor, by which the plate armor protecting the neck and throat became an articulated part of the whole, allowing greater movement of the head and neck.

Gorget Plates

In the 15th century, round or rectangular plates suspended on a strap from the pauldrons to cover the armhole cap in a suit of armor necessary for movement of the arms.


Also known in 14th–century England as the jamber; defensive armor for the lower leg. Term included the simple shin guard (schynbald) as well as the type which enclosed the entire lower leg.

Greek Fire

Mixture of naptha, sulphur, and quicklime, which ignited spontaneously, burned fiercely, and was one of the most feared weapons of siege warfare. See petard and petardiers.


Hand gun. In 1484, these were among the items ordered by Richard III to supplement the armaments being built up in anticipation of Henry Tudor's invasion.


Hafted weapon; long–bladed axe fitted to a handle approximately the height of the user; later developed into a single– or double–edged weapon that could be used for thrusting. Still borne on ceremonial occasions by the Vatican Papal Guard.


1) Short sword with a curved blade and simple knuckle–guard used primarily for cutting; 2) The method of attaching the sword to the belt by means of straps fastened to the sheath with their other ends linked to a hock on the sword belt.


Generic term for armor which covered the whole body; cap-a-pie.


The projections at the base of the grip of a ballock–knife that formed the guard. See kidney-dagger.




Defensive formation assumed by pikemen against a cavalry charge. So named because of the resemblance of the wall of extended pikes to the bristles of a hedgehog.

Historie of the Arrivall of Edward IV

Contemporary account of Edward IV's 1471 reclamation of the Crown which, though biased in the King's favor, contains the most detailed, extant record of events from the Yorkist forces' landing at Ravenspur through the Battle of Tewkesbury.


Mounted infantrymen.


A temporary gathering which might be as little as a few dozen warriors.


Forts strategically placed on a craggy precipice.

Hundred Years’ War

A series of wars between England and France in the 14th and 15th centuries.


To lay siege to a fortified place.



Joust of Peace

Two–man, mounted contest in the lists in which rebated weapons were used. See coronet.

Joust of War

Two–man, mounted contest in the lists with sharp lances and fought in field armor. See pieces of exchange.


Unarmored Irish foot soldiers. Often barefoot and bareheaded, they carried only a sword and several javelins. Their job was to burn down houses and carry off cattle.


19th–century name for the ballock–knife, a lethal dagger made only for stabbing. The handle rose from two rounded lobes and, sometimes, two, sharp prongs extended on either side of the base of the blade. Also known in England as the dudgeon–dagger, a name probably derived from the boxwood (dudgeon) often used to make the hilts.


Long spoon–type instrument used to load a cannon with gunpowder before the introduction of cartridges. As early as 1497, the ladle was used in this connotation.


An encampment, made by drawing an army’s baggage wagons into a circle or square. In the later Middle Ages, guns could be mounted on the wagons.


Bow of exceptional length drawn and discharged by hand, as opposed to the crossbow; introduced into English weaponry by the Welsh and firmly established as a lethal force at the Battle of Crécy. Despite its proven effectiveness, the longbow remained an almost solely English weapon, English archers being highly sought–after experts in the international procurement of weapons and manpower. See cloth yard, bracer, and nock.


General term of a Viking warship, being 28 meters long, and 2.7 to 4.5 meters wide. They had masts and 24-50 oars, but their crews included a complement of warriors as well as oarsmen.


Literally men with body armor (from the Latin loricum) of uncertain form; it could be mail, strips of metal sewn to a garment, or a solid breastplate.


Hand of iron; extra–heavy steel gauntlet developed to protect the left hand, or rein hand, of the knight in the joust; integrated into field armor with the abandonment of the shield as a defensive accoutrement in the 15th century. See pieces of exchange.


Projectile–throwing siege engine used throughout Europe in the late Middle Ages.


Wood screens used to protect bowmen who were part of the attacking forces in a siege.


Early 15th–century improvement in firearms which allowed a gunner to fire while steadying the gun with both hands.


Armed following; military retainers. See livery and maintenance.


Heavily-armored soldiers trained to fight as cavalry, by the 14th century in addition to knights, these included lesser nobles, such as esquires and gentlemen.


A small cannon.


Tunnel dug under the walls of a fortress by besiegers; when the supporting wooden props were burned, the tunnel collapsed, creating a breach in the wall above.


Moorish pike which was shorter than the common English pike.


Fixed or movable projection from the brow of a helmet to protect the upper part of the face from sword cuts; gradually replaced in the knight's accoutrements by the advancing design of the helmet and visor.


Notch, or part having a notch, especially on a bow or an arrow. A separate nock was fitted to the rear of most arrows to receive the bowstring; hence, the term "to nock".


A tall shield, usually rectangular, used to give a man complete protection from the 12th to the 15th centuries, especially at sieges. It was either propped up, so that a crossbowman or handgunner could reload behind it, or it was carried in front of assaulting troops.


Latin petrariae, a general term for any siege engines which used torsion or counter-weights to throw large stones against fortifications in sieges. See also mangonel, trebuchet.


Very long, thick spear used against cavalry by men standing in serried ranks.


Battle weapon consisting of an axe mounted on a long shaft.


A division of a town from which troops were raised in units, e.g., in the Flemish towns of Ghent or Bruges.


An object used as a target and mounted on a post; a contest with such as object.


A device for battering down walls or gates in a siege. A long beam suspended from a timber framework with a metal head (originally in a ram’s head form) with a pointed metal end, was swung against the defenses. Rams could be covered with armored roofs or sheds to protect their wielders from the defenders’ missiles.


The name used for bands of mercenary soldiers in 12th to 14thth-century Europe.


Frankish term for a fast-moving force, unencumbered by a baggage train, which could be used at short notice. Often consisting of household troops.


Circular formations of infantry armed with long spears, employed in Scotland at the end of the13th century in the wars of independence against the English.


An oriental sword having a long curved blade.


See battle-axe.


A short–handled sword.

Shield Wall

Infantry formation used by the English and Vikings standing close in order, with their shields forming an unbroken front.


The military tactic which involves an army surrounding a castle, town, by another army until the trapped army is starved into surrendering.

Siege Engine

Machine, mainly stone–throwing catapults used to breach walls or fortresses. See also mangonel.

Siege Tower

A tall wooden structure, often several stories high, which could be wheeled up against a fortification. At the top level was a drawbridge which, when lowered, made it possible to cross to the walls. Also known as a belfry.

Siege Train

Siege engines, and later, gunpowder artillery, together with supporting services (wagons, forges, engineers, sappers, and raw materials)which could accompany an army on campaign in order to conduct sieges.


A portable roofed shed used in sieges to shield besiegers from missiles dropped from the walls by the defenders; often employed to protect a ram, or sappers removing stones from the base of the wall.


A siege engine using manpower or a large weight to accelerate the throwing arm, with the missile placed in a long sling.

Wars of the Roses

A series of wars occurring from 1455 to 1487 between the Houses of Lancaster and York for the English throne. The House of Lancaster was represented by a red rose, the House of York a white one.

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