Glossary of fencing terms:
- Absence of blade: when the blades are not touching; opposite of
- Advance: a movement forward by step, cross, or balestra.
- Aids: the last three fingers of the sword hand.
- Analysis: reconstruction of the fencing phrase to determine priority of touches.
- Assault: friendly combat between two fencers.
- Attack: the initial offensive action made by extending the sword
arm and continuously threatening the valid target of the
- Attack au Fer: an attack that is prepared by deflecting the opponent’s
blade, eg. beat, press, froissement.
- Backsword: an archaic, edged, unpointed sword used in prizefighting;
- Balestra: a forward hop or jump, typically followed by an attack
such as a lunge or fleche.
- Bayonet: a type of electrical connector for foil and sabre.
- Beat: an attempt to knock the opponent’s blade aside or out of line by
using one’s foible or middle against the opponent’s foible.
- Baudry point: a safety collar placed around a live epee point to prevent
- Bind: an action in which the opponent’s blade is forced into the
diagonally opposite line.
- Black Card: used to indicate the most serious offences in a fencing
competition. The offending fencer is usually expelled from the
event or tournament.
- Bout: an assault at which the score is kept.
- Broadsword: any sword intended for cutting instead of thrusting; sabre.
- Broken Time: a sudden change in the tempo of one fencer’s actions, used
to fool the opponent into responding at the wrong time.
- Button: the safety tip on the end of practice and sporting swords.
- Change of Engagement: engagement of the opponent’s blade in the
- Commanding the blade: grabbing the opponent’s blade with the off-hand, illegal in sport fencing.
- Compound: also composed; an action executed in two or more movements; an attack or riposte incorporating one or more feints.
- Conversation: the back-and-forth play of the blades in a fencing match,
composed of phrases (phrases d’armes) punctuated by gaps of no
- Counter-attack: an offensive action made against the right-of-way, or in response to the opponent’s attack.
- Counter-disengage: a disengage in the opposite direction, to deceive
- Counter-parry: a parry made in the opposite line to the attack; ie.
the defender first comes around to the opposite side of the
- Counter-riposte: an attack that follows a parry of the opponent’s
- Counter-time: an attack that responds to the opponent’s counter-attack,
typically a riposte following the parry of the counter-attack.
- Corps-a-corps: lit. “body-to-body”; physical contact between the
two fencers during a bout, illegal in foil and sabre.
- Coule’: also graze, glise’, or glissade; an attack or feint that slides
along the opponent’s blade.
- Coup lance’: a launched hit; an attack that starts before a
stop in play but lands after. Valid for normal halts, but not
valid at end of time.
- Coupe’: also cut-over; an attack or deception that passes around the
- Croise: also semi-bind; an action in which the opponent’s blade is
forced into the high or low line on the same side.
- Cross: an advance or retreat by crossing one leg over the other;
also passe’ avant (forward cross), passe’ arriere (backwards cross).
- Cut: an attack made with a chopping motion of the blade, normally
landing with the edge.
- Deception: avoidance of an attempt to engage the blades; see
- Derobement: deception of the attack au fer or prise de fer.
- Direct: a simple attack or riposte that finishes in the same line in
which it was formed, with no feints out of that line.
- Disengage: a circular movement of the blade that deceives the
opponent’s parry, removes the blades from engagement, or changes the
line of engagement.
- Displacement: moving the target to avoid an attack; dodging.
- Double: in epee, two attacks that arrive within 40-50 ms of each
- Double-time: also “dui tempo”; parry-riposte as two distinct actions.
- Double’: an attack or riposte that describes a complete circle
around the opponent’s blade, and finishes in the opposite line.
- Dry: also steam; fencing without electric judging aids.
- Engagement: when the blades are in contact with each other, eg.
during a parry, attack au fer, prise de fer, or coule’.
- En Garde: also On Guard; the fencing position; the stance that
fencers assume when preparing to fence.
- Envelopment: an engagement that sweeps the opponent’s blade
through a full circle.
- Epee: a fencing weapon with triangular cross-section blade and a large
bell guard; also a light duelling sword of similar design, popular
in the mid-19th century; epee de terrain; duelling sword.
- False: an action that is intended to fail, but draw a predicted
reaction from the opponent; also, the back edge of a sabre blade.
- Feint: an attack into one line with the intention of switching to
another line before the attack is completed.
- Fencing Time: also temps d’escrime; the time required to complete
a single, simple fencing action.
- FIE: Federation Internationale d’Escrime, the world governing
body of fencing.
- Finta in tempo: lit. “feint in time”; a feint of counter-attack
that draws a counter-time parry, which is decieved; a compound
- Fleche: lit. “arrow”; an attack in which the aggressor leaps off his
leading foot, attempts to make the hit, and then passes the opponent
at a run.
- Flick: a cut-like action that lands with the point, often involving some
whip of the foible of the blade to “throw” the point around a block
or other obstruction.
- Florentine: an antiquated fencing style where a secondary weapon
or other instrument is used in the off hand.
- Flying Parry or Riposte: a parry with a backwards glide and riposte by
- Foible: the upper, weak part of the blade.
- Foil: a fencing weapon with rectangular cross-section blade and a small
bell guard; any sword that has been buttoned to render it less
dangerous for practice.
- Forte: the lower, strong part of the blade.
- French Grip: a traditional hilt with a slightly curved grip and a large
- Froissement: an attack that displaces the opponent’s blade by a
strong grazing action.
- Fuller: the groove that runs down a sword blade to reduce weight.
- Glide: see coule’.
- Guard: the metal cup or bow that protects the hand from being hit.
Also, the defensive position assumed when not attacking.
- Hilt: the handle of a sword, consisting of guard, grip, and pommel.
- Homologated: certified for use in FIE competitions, eg. 800N clothing
and maraging blades.
- In Quartata: a counter-attack made with a quarter turn to the inside,
concealing the front but exposing the back.
- In Time: at least one fencing time before the opposing action, especially with regards to a stop-hit.
- Indirect: a simple attack or riposte that finishes in the opposite line to which it was formed.
- Insistence: forcing an attack through the parry.
- Interception: a counter-attack that intercepts and checks an
indirect attack or other disengagement.
- Invitation: a line that is intentionally left open to encourage
the opponent to attack.
- Italian Grip: a traditional hilt with finger rings and crossbar.
- Judges: additional officials who assist the referee in detecting
illegal or invalid actions, such as floor judges or hand judges.
- Jury: the 4 officials who watch for hits in a dry fencing bout.
- Kendo: Japanese fencing, with two-handed swords.
- Lame’: a metallic vest/jacket used to detect valid touches in foil
- Line: the main direction of an attack (eg., high/low, inside/outside),
often equated to the parry that must be made to deflect the attack;
also point in line.
- Lunge: an attack made by extending the rear leg and landing on the
bent front leg.
- Mal-parry: also mal-pare’; a parry that fails to prevent the attack
- Manipulators: the thumb and index finger of the sword hand.
- Maraging: a special steel used for making blades; said to be stronger and break more cleanly than conventional steels.
- Marker Points: an old method of detecting hits using inked points.
- Martingale: a strap that binds the grip to the wrist/forearm.
- Match: the aggregate of bouts between two fencing teams.
- Measure: the distance between the fencers.
- Middle: the middle third of the blade, between foible and forte.
- Moulinet: a whirling cut, executed from the wrist or elbow.
- Neuvieme: an unconventional parry (#9) sometimes described as blade
behind the back, pointing down (a variant of octave), other times
similar to elevated sixte.
- Octave: parry #8; blade down and to the outside, wrist supinated.
- Opposition: holding the opponent’s blade in a non-threatening line;
a time-hit; any attack or counter-attack with opposition.
- Parry: a block of the attack, made with the forte of one’s own blade;
- Pass: an attack made with a cross; eg. fleche. Also, the act of moving past the opponent.
- Passata-sotto: a lunge made by dropping one hand to the floor.
- Passe’: an attack that passes the target without hitting; also a
cross-step (see cross).
- Phrase: a set of related actions and reactions in a fencing conversation.
- Pineapple tip: a serrated epee point used prior to electric judging.
- Piste: the linear strip on which a fencing bout is fought; approx.
2m wide and 14m long.
- Pistol Grip: a modern, orthopaedic grip, shaped vaguely like a small
pistol; varieties are known by names such as Belgian, German,
Russian, and Visconti.
- Plaque’: a point attack that lands flat.
- Plastron: a partial jacket worn for extra protection; typically a
half-jacket worn under the main jacket on the weapon-arm side of the
- Point: a valid touch; the tip of the sword; the mechanical assembly that makes up the point of an electric weapon; an attack made with the point (ie. a thrust)
- Point in Line: also line; an extended arm and blade that threatens
- Pommel: a fastener that attaches the grip to the blade.
- Preparation: a non-threatening action intended to create the opening for an attack; the initial phase of an attack, before right-of-way is established.
- Presentation: offering one’s blade for engagement by the opponent.
- Press: an attempt to push the opponent’s blade aside or out of line;
depending on the opponent’s response, the press is followed by a
direct or indirect attack.
- Prime: parry #1; blade down and to the inside, wrist pronated.
- Principle of Defence: the use of forte against foible when parrying.
- Priority: in sabre, the now-superceded rules that decide which fencer
will be awarded the touch in the event that they both attack
simultaneously; also used synonymously with right-of-way.
- Prise de Fer: also taking the blade; an engagement of the blades
that forces the opponent’s weapon into a new line. See: bind,
croise, envelopment, opposition.
- Quarte: parry #4; blade up and to the inside, wrist supinated.
- Quinte: parry #5; blade up and to the inside, wrist pronated.
In sabre, the blade is held above the head to protect from head
- Rapier: a long, double-edged thrusting sword popular in the 16th-17th centuries.
- Red Card: used to indicate repeated minor rule infractions or a major rule infraction by one of the fencers; results in a point being given to the other fencer.
- Redoublement: a new action that follows an attack that missed or
was parried; renewal of a failed attack in the opposite line;
alternatively see Reprise.
- Referee: also director, president; the mediator of the fencing bout.
- Remise: immediate replacement of an attack that missed or was
parried, without withdrawing the arm.
- Reprise: renewal of an attack that missed or was parried, after a
return to en-garde; alternatively see Redoublement.
- Retreat: step back; opposite of advance.
- Ricasso: the portion of the tang between the grip and the blade,
present on Italian hilts and most rapiers.
- Right-of-way: rules for awarding the point in the event of a double
touch in foil or sabre.
- Riposte: an offensive action made immediately after a parry of the
- Sabre: a fencing weapon with a flat blade and knuckle guard, used with
cutting or thrusting actions; a military sword popular in the 18th
to 20th centuries; any cutting sword used by cavalry.
- Salle: a fencing hall or club.
- Salute: with the weapon, a customary acknowledgement of one’s opponent and referee at the start and end of the bout.
- Schlager: German fraternity duelling sword, used with cuts to the face and no footwork.
- Second Intention: a false action used to draw a response from the
opponent, which will open the opportunity for the intended
action that follows, typically a counter-riposte.
- Seconde: parry #2; blade down and to the outside, wrist pronated.
- Septime: parry #7; blade down and to the inside, wrist supinated.
- Simple: executed in one movement; an attack or riposte that involves no feints.
- Simultaneous: in foil and sabre, two attacks for which the
right-of-way is too close to determine.
- Single Stick: an archaic form of fencing with basket-hilted wooden sticks.
- Single-time: also “stesso tempo”; parry-riposte as a single action.
- Sixte: parry #6; blade up and to the outside, wrist supinated.
- Small Sword: a light duelling sword popular in the 17th-18th centuries,
precursor to the foil.
- Stop Hit: a counter-attack that hits; also a counter-attack whose touch
is valid by virtue of it’s timing.
- Stop Cut: a stop-hit with the edge in sabre, typically to the cuff.
- Three Prong: a type of epee body wire/connector;
also an old-fashioned tip that would snag clothing,
to make it easier to detect hits in the pre-electric era.
- Thrown Point: a “flick”.
- Thrust: an attack made by moving the sword parallel to its length
and landing with the point.
- Tierce: parry #3; blade up and to the outside, wrist pronated.
- Time Hit: also time-thrust; old name for stop hit with opposition.
- Trompement: deception of the parry.
- Two Prong: a type of body-wire/connector, used in foil and sabre.
- Whip-over: in sabre, a touch that results from the foible of the
blade whipping over the opponent’s guard or blade when
- Whites: fencing clothing.
- Yellow Card: also advertissement, warning; used to indicate a minor
rule infraction by one of the fencers.