Rapier Terminology
(Primarily of the Italian, Spanish, French and English Masters & Schools)

*This list excludes terms of modern sport fencing either not taken from historical manuals of the period, or not directly related to the use of the rapier or of the renaissance cut & thrust sword. They include only those technical terms of modern sport fencing that are relevant to describing and reconstructing the practice of historical renaissance swordsmanship today. Thus, much current French and Italian terminology used in or developed for modern sport fencing has been excluded. This list is by no means all-inclusive, nor is it intended to be a sole lexicon for a rapier fighter, rather a starting point from which to prosper.


in the Spanish schools, the idea of taking control of the opponent’s blade, essentially a prise de fer

Bill of Challenge
A formal posted announcement of an English student's public "Playing" of his "Prize".

(Attack in time) attack while the adversary's preoccupied with a parry, bind, or feint.

Botta Secreta
A secret attack or special hidden technique of a school or master.

A hand delivered written notice of challenge describing the cause of the offence that provoked a duel of honor.

Cobb's Traverse
Retreating indefinitely (running away, sometimes called the "ninth parry").

Corporation of the London Masters of Defence
The guild of English instructors of fighting and fence in the 1500s, it had four levels of fighter: Scholar, Free Scholar, Provost, and Master, as well as four "Ancient Masters".

Coup de grace
The dagger stroke given to mercifully end the suffering of a wounded duelist (originally used to execute a defeated knight in heavy plate armor).

Coup de Jarnac
A Renaissance term for a crippling blow to the back of the opponent's exposed knee or hamstring (so called due to a famous judicial duel, it was not a new strike at all, but did become well known and quite notorious).

Coup de main
A kill by a single, smooth, quick thrust or cut.

In later Spanish schools of fence the technique of redirecting an attacking blow with a deflecting action rather than a solid block

Draw cut
A slicing cut made when close in by placing the edge against the target and quickly drawing it across or down, typically applied with stepping back or a reverse-pass.

Personal single combat, usually illicit and illegal, sometimes of gentlemanly or even honorable character Due spada
(Sometimes called "Florentine" within the SCA) a fighting style simultaneously using two rapiers (a "case of rapiers " or "brace").

En guarde
To come "on guard" (ready your weapon and self for the fight).

Contacting or crossing (opposing) the adversary's blade.

French for fencing, or the art of fence.

Fence/Art of Fence
A word for swordsmanship derived from the Middle English "defence", as distinguished from the modern sport of "fencing" with its origins in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

Italian for the sword's edge.

To wrap the lead (and sometime second finger and thumb) around the quillons and ricasso for superior tip control and grip, an innovative method of gripping known since ancient times, it found greatest use with Renaissance blades.

First blood
A duel that is fought only to the first sight of drawn blood as opposed to "to the death" or to the opponent "yielding".

Four Governors
One way of looking at the major factors in swordsmanship: perception, distance, timing, and technique.

Holding of the sword: cut & thrust swords and rapiers were held in a 45 degree position, as opposed to the "hammer" grip as with medieval swords, and also utilized the concept of "fingering" the ricasso, both may be held in a "normal" grip as that when "pointing" the index finger, or in a pronated or supinated position.

Giving the lie
The name given to the act of offending the honor of another gentleman or his lady through insult, innuendo, or wit, it was cause for challenge to duel (e.g., "You disagree, when I say you have offended me, Sir? Are you then calling me a liar?").

Techniques for seizure (grabbing the adversary's blade, hilt, or arm). Generally illegal in SCA Rapier.

(Italian: guardia, sing. guardie) - guard positions, wards, fighting stances, ready postures, a position for offense and/or defense (also the protective hilt of a blade, as in compound guard, cross guard, back guard, counter guard, ring guard. etc.).

Guardant Ward
A Hanging guard, similar to Prime, Silver also distinguishes between True and Bastard Guardants.

Hanging guard
A ward with point down and to the inside and the arm raise above.

High Ward
The weapon is held centered over the head, Silver’s Open ward (perhaps so called because you are open to making any attack), roughly 45-degrees, identical to medieval long-sword high postures.

Il duello
Single combat/duel.

Inside or Left Back Ward
Weapon held point back and down to the left, close to the hip, Viggiani’s "fourth guard wide", identical to a left Tail guard for medieval long-sword.

Sword fighting that is not linear as with the small sword and modern sport fencing, but uses sidesteps and diagonal movements (voids and traverses).

Positioning that intentionally exposes openings to purposely draw attacks.

Just Distance
The distance ("measure") where if you are close enough to hit your opponent, they are also close enough to hit you.

La Destreza
A Spanish term translating as dexterity, skill, ability, (or) art and meaning "Philosophy of the Weapons" or "The Art and Science" of fighting

Left Back Ward
Inside guard, Viggiani’s "fourth guard wide", like the Tail guard in medieval methods.

Line (Line of Attack)
One of the four areas by which to attack: high outside (sixte & tierce), high inside (quarte & prime), low outside (octave & seconde), and low inside (septime & quinte). These areas also correspond to types of parries.

Low Guard
With the weapon held point down and centered, Silver’s Variable ward, identical to medieval long-sword low postures.

Media Proporcional – in the later Spanish schools, the key concept of achieving and maintaining proper distance of weapon and body to the opponent’s weapon and body

Middle (half) of the blade.

Middle Guard
Silver’s Close ward (perhaps so called because the blade closes nearer to the opponent), the weapon is held centered aimed at the opponent over the head, identical to medieval long-sword middle postures.

Circular cut.

Master of Defence
A Renaissance instructor of swordsmanship or fence and other fighting arts.

Judging of distance in fighting.

Measure or distance and range (close or short, wide or tight, in or out).

Misura Larga
Distance at which a strike can be made by a step, by a pass, or by a lunge.

Misura Stretta
Distance at which a strike can be made by simply leaning in with an extension.

To cut with a forward or outward step, a standard means of forcefully striking or stabbing in cut & thrust swordsmanship, often used with a traverse or void.

Outside-Ward (Low Outside-Ward)
With the sword held back and down to the right, like a Back or Tail guard with a medieval long-sword.

Playing the Prize
The public testing of a student for advancement in the English schools of Defence.

German term for using the dagger's quillons to trap a sword blade.

Prima (Prima Gaurdia, or Reverse, or Guardant)
The high outside ward, pronated point-on assumed after the natural position of drawing the weapon from the scabbard.

Gripping the sword with knuckles up and palm down.

The third level of the four rankings in English schools of Defence.


Push Cut
A slicing cut made when close in by placing the edge against the target and quickly pushing it forwardinto the opponent, typically applied when a thrust has missed.

A swordsman bully who will provoke a duel on the slightest pretext or cause.

Rapier & Cloak (Spada e Capa)
A method of fighting using a common cloak or robe for defense.

Rapier & Dagger (Spada e Pugnale)
A method of fighting using the addition of a parrying dagger in the other hand.

To grab the adversary's blade or hilt.

Italian for fencing.

Scholar's privilege
In Renaissance schools of Defence, the exclusion of attacks to the face during practice with novices.

(Second), broad or wide ward in di Grassi and others.

In a formal duel, the neutral party for each side that stands in as witness and arbiter.

Gaining reach by sliding the hand down the grip to the pommel when striking with a cutting blade (also throwing out a one handed thrust with a pole arm).

Spada solo
Italian for single sword, usually use of the rapier alone without a secondary weapon.

Sport Fencing
(Collegiate/Olympic modern fencing) a refined, formalized sport based upon the movements of the small sword of the 1700s and early 1800s which was descended from the rapier.

A counter thrust attack into the opponent's forward movement or oncoming attack.

Maintaining contact or opposition with the opponent's blade so as to control it.

Gripping the sword with knuckles down and palm up

An Elizabethan youth or ruffian often predisposed to street fight and duel, so called by the "swashing" sound created by sword and buckler on the belt as the youth swaggered about town. More likely derived from any person who roved the town, usually in gangs, hitting his sword against his buckler as a way of challenging innocent passers-bye to a fight. The term "swash" also has more than one meaning. In older English swish or swishing, meant "to hit". There is also proof of the term swash being used in the context of hitting with the sword, e.g. delivering a ‘"swash blow", also expressions such as, "swashing a drum" to describe its playing or beating.

(Fighting stances) wards or guards: e.g., high, middle, low, open, close, prime, seconda, terza, and guardant/hanging.

Sword & Buckler (Spada e brochiero)
A method of combat using a rapier and small shield (buckler).


Time or moment/action with timing.

Low, back Inside (right) ward, for a cut & thrust sword. Viggiani’s "Terza" or third, blade at a 45 degree angle down, for a rapier it is the blade held back and lower, closer to the hip, usually in a reverse stance.

Tutte botte principali
Principle cuts and thrusts.

Variable Ward
Silver’s low guard (also a name for all other manner of guards not Open, Close, or Guardant).

One of five to seven fighting postures, ready stances, or guards.


An extending step thrust (a form of lunge).

(Spanish) to cut with the whole arm (from the shoulder).

Azioni Volanti
Avoiding blade contact on the attack and instead thrusting by deceptive motion (may involve Troumpement - avoiding a parry or the blade as you attack, or Derobement - avoiding a beat or bind).

A kicking feint and hop lunge.

Battre de main
A hand parry.

The action of pressuring or enveloping the adversary's blade/point in order to carry it off line and make an opening.

Botta de tempo/In Tempo (attack-in-time)
Countering or attacking when the opponent is distracted and/or unprepared.

Botta dritta
A straight attack (thrust).

Battuta (a beat)
A distracting smack to move the adversary's blade off line or evoke a response.

Coupe' (cut-off)
A quick disengage over the top of the adversary's blade, often after their parry, basically a cut-over.

Altering the line of the attack by passing the blade over the adversary's point, basically a coupe'.

Deceptively altering the line of attack by passing the blade under the adversary's point (said to have been first devised from observing the bobbing motions of fighting cocks).

Cuts with the true (right) edge.

French term for the Stromazone.

Subtly faking the intention or the line of an attack (a form of feinting).

Falso Dritto
Cuts to the wrists with the false-edge.

Falso Filo
Attacks with the false-edge or diagonal upward cuts using the back of the sword.

Falso Manco
Cuts to the knees with the false edge.

Vertical downwards cut (right or left of guard).

Finda (feint)
A false attack or action designed to elicit a response and create an opening

Fleche' - ("arrow")
Passing the adversary on the attack, a form of running attack.

Full Pass
A form of lunge in which the rear leg moves to the lead with a thrust or cut.

"Giving the blade"
An intentional threatening extension of the arm and weapon designed to provoke a response that can then be countered.

Thrust over top of the adversary's blade or grip.

Lunga (Stocatta Lunga or Lunge)
A far-reaching thrusting attack using a forward step of the lead leg with a push off the rear leg, it was used in various forms during the Renaissance, (also a punta sopramano).

A light slash of the point delivered by a flick of the wrist. ‘Tip-cut’

An attack cutting from the right to the left.

Cuts made from the "elbow" (faster than from the shoulder but not as strong).

Montante (Montante Sotto Mano)
A straight upward cut with the false edge (right or left of the adversary's guard).

To block, defense by the deliberate resistance of an attack by imposing the blade before it, from 6 to 8 are used to the inside/outside and high/low areas or lines.

Stepping the rear leg to the lead (or a reverse pass where the lead leg falls back) as in a "cut made on the pass", one major difference from the linear fencing of the modern sport version.

Passatto Sotto/Batte de nuit
To duck under an attack with a drop onto the free hand to deliver a counter thrust.

A quick forward step and lunge.

Prise de fer
To bind or take the blade.

Punta Reversa
Thrust to left/outside of the adversary's blade or grip.

Punta Sopramano (Lunge or Stocatta Lunga)
A straight thrust lunge.

Quartatta (Incartata)
A rear leg side step around to the outside made with a counter-thrust.

Diagonal rising cuts (German Unterhau).

Quickly renewing the attack after a feint, beat, or bind.

An attack cutting from left to right.

Renewing the attack after a quick return to guard.

A counter-attack immediately following a parry, usually in one action, an idea that became more effective with the rapier and perfected with the small-sword (common in the modern sport).

Seconde' (seconda)
Middle ward, with the blade up at a 45-degree angle (one of the major cut & thrust stances or guards).

Probing actions (feints, beats, etc.) to test and discover the opponent's nature.

To pull back some just prior to countering or stop-thrusting.

A diagonal cut down or up (mandritta squalembrato = right-to-left, collar-to-waist cut).

A thrust low under the adversary's blade or grip.

Stocatta Lunga (Lunga or Punta Sopramano)
A lunge and low straight thrust.

A preemptive counter attack into the opponent's forward motion.

Stromacione (stromazone)
A tearing tip-cut, usually to the face, used to harass or distract.

Stesso Tempo
To parry and riposte in one action, often a deflecting counter-attack.

A horizontal cut (mandritti tonda = side cut right-to-left, reversi tonda = side cut left-to-right).

A forward or backward diagonal side-stepping move employed with a parry, void, or passing attack.

A rear leg side-step and void made with a thrust attack, it allows the adversary's attack to slip past as a counter-thrust angles in, it is a form of half Quartatta.

(voyd or voyded) To evade or avoid an attack rather than directly parry, often by a simple side step or pass, used preferably to parrying.