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Hand weapon consisting of a long metal blade fitted with a handle or hilt. Roman swords had a short, flat blade and a hilt distinct from the blade. Medieval European swords were heavy and equipped with a large hilt and a protective guard, or pommel. The blade was straight, double-edged, and pointed. The introduction of firearms did not eliminate the sword but led to new designs; the discarding of body armour required the swordsman to be able to parry, and the rapier, a double-edged sword with a narrow, pointed blade, came into use. Swords with curved blades were used in India and Persia and were introduced into Europe by the Turks, whose scimitar, with its curved, single-edged blade, was modified in the West to the cavalry sabre. Japanese swords are renowned for their hardness and extreme sharpness; they were the weapon of the samurai. Repeating firearms ended the value of the sword as a military weapon, though its continued use in duels led to the modern sport of fencing. See alsokendo.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on sword, visit Britannica.com.