Guide to the Types of Swords

Swords are one of civilization’s earliest inventions. Aside from being a tool for combat, it is also used for formal ceremonies and rituals. The sword is also the subject of many legends. From the Excalibur to Goujian, the presence of swords is proof that these weapons have permeated and dominated our fantasies.

If you are starting to get interested in swords, keep in mind that this list has the most common types of swords. Many cultures and civilizations have various types of swords that we may not be familiar with. At least, this will give you a good head start.

1. Two-handed sword

The term “two-handed sword” generally refers to any large sword which is fashioned mainly to be held by two hands. As you may expect, it is a large sword. The European longsword is one of the subtypes of two-handed swords.

2. Greatsword

The greatsword is related to the longswords of Europe and Asia in the Middle Ages. It also figured prominently during the Renaissance period.

As implied by its name, a greatsword is an oversized sword – its size can range from 63 to 71 inches in length. Some greatsword can be as tall as a full-grown adult man! As a greatsword is oversized, it is also massive – in fact, it is too heavy to wield. Therefore, greatswords feature an ample grip for two-handed use and also for extra leverage.

3. Zweihänder

“Zweihänder” means “two-hander,” referring to a German two-handed sword whose design was modeled after the longswords of the Middle Ages. The sword became popular during the 1500s when it was used by the German mercenary soldiers. It is also called “Doppelhänder.”

4. Claymore

Claymore is the Scottish variant of the two-handed greatsword, distinguished by its unique basket hilt – hilts that have a basket-shaped guard that protects the hand.

5. Swordstaff

The swordstaff, known as “svärdstav” in Swedish, is a hybrid between a polearm and a sword used in medieval-era Scandinavia. It is typically used by placing the blade at the end of the staff, therefore giving the user the power and utility of the sword with the reach of the polearm or spear. This enables the soldier to fight enemies, whether on foot or mounted on a horse.

The swordstaff’s length also allows the user to attack mounted opponents. It is also an efficient weapon in close-quarters combat. The Amazon example is an Asian counterpart of it – a “naginata,” which combines a pole and a blade.

6. Longsword

Nowadays, the term “longsword” refers to a late Medieval-era and Renaissance-era swords typically designed to be held with two hands. However, some longswords are designed for one-handed use. It is longer than a shortsword and a bastard sword.

7. Double-edged and straight swords

A double-edged sword is a sword with both cutting edges. Double-edged and straight swords typically feature a long, straight blade. They are constructed for optimized reach, balance, and versatility.

8. Jian

Jian is a type of straight sword that has been used in China for the last 2,500 years. The first sources that make reference to the jian date to the 7th century B.C. The traditional one-handed variants measure from 18 to 31 inches (45 to 80 centimeters) long. The average 70-centimeter (28-inch) blade
weighs about 700 to 900 grams (1.5 to two pounds). There are also bigger two-handed variants of the jian used by armies during the medieval era, as well as for Chinese martial arts training sessions.

9. Edgeless and thrusting swords

These types of swords may be classified as “swords” but they function more like a tool, as they don’t have any cutting edges for hacking or slashing. These swords are best used for rapid thrusting since their short build enables and facilitates agility and precision. Thus, these types of swords can inflict great damage – they are even capable of piercing iron armor.

10. Long knife and short sword

Variants of knives and daggers developed before the advent of quality steel are often considered as swords. The best example is the seax, which was used during the Iron Age. Seax and other similar blades measure between one and two feet. Other popular Iron Age swords include the Roman Gladius, the Scottish dirk, and Xiphos of the ancient Greeks.

11. Single-edged and curved swords

These swords have thick and curved blades which typically have a single cutting edge. These versatile swords are used for slashing, cutting, severing limbs, chopping, or for broad sweeping techniques. Oriental swords, especially the Chinese saber or dao and the Japanese katana, as well as the Greek kopis and several variants of the modern saber are some famous examples.