A sword is a weapon, consisting in its most fundamental design of a blade and a handle. The blade is usually of some metal ground to at least one sharp edge and often has a pointed tip for thrusting. The handle can be made of many materials, but the material most common is wood covered by leather, fish skin or metal wiring.
This kind of weapon has been in use from the Bronze Age when the construction of long blades was possible for the first time (however, in South America and Central America several cultures made use of swords without developing metallurgy). Early swords were made of solid bronze or copper; these were hard, but quite brittle. Not until iron could be forged did the sword truly become an important weapon. Soon, smiths learned that with a proper amount of coal in the iron, another metal (alloy really) could be produced: steel.
Several different ways of swordmaking existed in ancient times. One of the most reputed is pattern welding. Over time new methods were developed all over the world.
Having seen use for about five millenia, swords began to lose their military uses in the late 18th century because of increasing availability and reliability of gunpowder weapons. Swords were still used although increasingly limited to officers and ceremonial uniforms. Cavalry sabre charges still occurred as late as World War II during which Japanese and Pacific Islanders also occasionally used swords.
There are several hundred types of swords. Here is a list of but the most famous:
- Rapier - a long fencing sword, designed for a piercing rather than a slashing action
- Small-sword - a lighter version of the rapier.
- Katana - a Japanese samurai sword - see also wakisashi
- Claymore - a heavy Scottish sword
- Sabre - a cavalry sword
- Jian (劍 pinyin jian4) - a Chinese sword
- Gladius - a Roman legionaire's short sword
In the sport of fencing, as practiced today, there are three weapons: epee, foil and sabre. The first two are modifications of the rapier, originally used for military practice. The sport version of the sabre descends from the cavalry version. The sport of kendo may be regarded as a Japanese equivalent.
Many swords in mythology, literature and history are named by their wielders or by the person who makes them.