Rapier - Encyclopedia


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RAPIER, the name given to two distinct types of sword. Originally the "rapier" (Fr. rapiere) was a long two-edged and pointed weapon with a wide cup hilt, used together with the dagger in fencing and duelling chiefly as a thrusting weapon, the cut taking a secondary position. This was the typical duelling sword of the i 6th and 17th centuries. In the i 8th century the "small-sword" took its place; this was a pointed weapon only, the "cut" having entirely dropped out, and the dagger being discarded. The word rapier is of doubtful origin. Du Cange (Glossarium, s. v. " Rapparia") quotes an example of the word used as an adjective to qualify espee as early as 1 474, and gives as a conjectural derivation Gr. pairl ew=Lat. caedere, to cut. Skeat (Etym. Dict., 1910) follows the suggestion of Diez that rapiere is from raspiere, a rasper or poker, and was a name given in contempt by the old cut-and-thrust fencers to the new weapon. Spanish has raspadera, a raker, and there are several 16th and 17th century quotations alluding to the contempt with which the rapier was greeted, and to its Spanish 'origin (see Fencing and Sword).

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