A sword is a bladed weapon intended for both cutting and thrusting. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographical region under consideration. A sword in the most narrow sense consists of a straight blade with two edges and a hilt, but depending on context, the term is also often used to refer to bladed weapons with a single edge (also referred to as a backsword).
Historically, the sword developed in the Bronze Age, evolving from the dagger; the earliest specimens date to ca. 1600 BC. The later Iron Age sword remained fairly short and without a crossguard. The spatha, as it developed in the Late Roman army, became the predecessor of the European sword of the Middle Ages, at first adopted as the Migration period sword, and only in the High Middle Ages, developed into the classical arming sword with crossguard. The word sword continues the Old English, sweord.
The use of a sword is known as swordsmanship or (in an early modern or modern context) as fencing. In the Early Modern period, western sword design diverged into roughly two forms, the thrusting swords and the sabers.
The thrusting swords such as the rapier and eventually the smallsword were designed to impale their targets quickly and inflict deep stab wounds. Their long and straight yet light and well balanced design made them highly maneuverable and deadly in a duel but fairly ineffective when used in a slashing or chopping motion. A well aimed lunge and thrust could end a fight in seconds with just the sword's point, leading to the development of a fighting style which closely resembles modern fencing.
The saber and similar blades such as the cutlass were built more heavily and were more typically used in warfare. Built for slashing and chopping at multiple enemies, oftentimes from atop a horse, the saber's long curved blade and slightly forward weight balance gave it a deadly character all its own on the battlefield. Most sabers also had sharp points and double edged blades, making them capable of piercing soldier after soldier in a cavalry charge. Sabers continued to see battlefield use until the late 19th century. The US Navy kept tens of thousands of sturdy cutlasses in their armory well into WW2 and many were issued to marines in the Pacific as jungle machetes.
Non-European weapons called "sword" include single-edged weapons such as the Middle Eastern saif, the Chinese dao and the related Japanese katana. The Chinese jian is an example of a non-European double-edged sword, like the European models derived from the double-edged Iron Age sword.
Source: Sword from Wikipedia
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