Side-sword

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The term “Side-Sword” is a recently-coined calque of the Italian spada da lato and is used to generally describe several types of swords popular during the late 15th through 17th Centuries. Because of this, the term will not be found in any actual sources from the 16th or 17th centuries.

A side-sword was a type of war sword used by infantry during the Renaissance of Europe. This sword was a direct descendant of the arming sword. Quite popular between the 16th and 17th centuries, they were ideal for handling the mix of armored and unarmored opponents of that time. A new technique of placing ones finger on the ricasso to improve the grip (a practice that would continue in the rapier) led to the production of hilts with a guard for the finger.[1] This sword design eventually led to the development of the civilian rapier, but it was not replaced by it, and the Side-sword continued to be used during the rapier’s lifetime. As it could be used for both cutting and thrusting, the term cut and thrust sword is sometimes used interchangeably with side-sword.[2] Also of note is that as rapiers became more popular, attempts were made to hybridize the blade, sacrificing the effectiveness found in each unique weapon design. These are still considered side-swords and are sometimes labeled sword rapier or cutting rapier by modern collectors.[3] See European dueling sword for further history.

Also of note, side-swords used in conjunction with bucklers became so popular that it caused the term swashbuckler to be coined. This word stems from the new fighting style of the side-sword and buckler which was filled with much “swashing and making a noise on the buckler”.[4]