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What is a Broadsword?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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A broadsword is a type of sword which has been designed for slashing and cutting, rather than thrusting. The basic form of a broadsword has been used in warfare for hundreds of years, although the swords are not widely manufactured in the modern day. This is primarily because swords are used for sport fencing, rather than battle. As a weapon, a broadsword requires a great deal of strength, since the blade can be extremely heavy, and it is typically wielded in a two handed grip.

Several characteristics can be used to distinguish a broadsword from another type of sword. The blade is flattened, rather than being made in an evenly rounded shape, as many modern fencing swords are. Typically, one or more grooves, called fullers, are made in the flattened sides of the blade, to lessen the weight of the blade without compromising its structure or strength. A broadsword is also double-bladed, and it narrows to a point which can be used to stab or thrust.

The construction of a broadsword is heavy because of its thickness. When using a broadsword in a fight, the goal is to kill or severely maim one's opponent. The weight of the heavy blade helps to drive the sword into a cutting blow when it is being handled by an experienced and strong warrior. When warriors were being trained, they graduated to broadswords after using several smaller, lighter blades so that they could learn technique and footwork before conditioning with the much heavier blade.

Technically, almost any hilt style is appropriate for a broadsword, although the classic broadsword has a cross-shaped hilt which allows room for both hands, so that the warrior can put more power behind each blow. However, some swordsmiths did design broadswords with basket hilts, intended to be used with one hand only. The basket of the hilt protects the warrior's hand, so that if an opponent's blade slides down the broadsword, it will hit the basket hilt instead of flesh. However, using a broadsword one-handed requires a great deal of muscle development in that arm.

Broadswords designed for modern medieval re-enactments and jousts tend to have blunt blades, rather than sharp ones, so that people do not injure each other. In most sword fighting competitions, lightweight blades such as rapiers, epees, and foils designed specifically for fencing are used, rather than the potentially highly dangerous broadsword. Most museums retain several examples of broadswords from various parts of Europe and Asia for visitors to examine, if they are interested in seeing what a real broadsword looks like.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Historical Index researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon64478 — On Feb 07, 2010

A broadsword would probably weighed in at 3, 3 and a half pounds (1.6 kg) at the most. If you think 'well that's not very heavy,' pick up a cricket bat, most of which weigh around two pounds and try wielding that like a sword for 20 minutes.

By anon29682 — On Apr 06, 2009

How much did a broadsword weigh?

By anon9109 — On Feb 28, 2008

I love this site.... but I have some questions... such as if Broadswords were indeed counter-balanced.... if so, then how, and with what?

Much Appreciated

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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