ra·​pi·​er | \ ˈrā-pē-ər How to pronounce rapier (audio) \

Definition of rapier

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a straight 2-edged sword with a narrow pointed blade



Definition of rapier (Entry 2 of 2)

: extremely sharp or keen a rapier wit

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A rapier is a straight, two-edged sword with a narrow pointed blade, designed especially for thrusting. According to Encyclopædia Britannica, "the long rapier was beautifully balanced, excellent in attack, and superb for keeping an opponent at a distance." The word itself, which we borrowed in the 16th century, is from Middle French rapiere. The first time that rapier was used as an adjective in its figurative "cutting" sense, it described a smile: "Who can bear a rapier smile? A kiss that dooms the soul to death?" ("The Lover's Lament" by Sumner Lincoln Fairfield, 1824). The adjective these days most commonly describes wit-an association that dates to the 1850s.

Examples of rapier in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Rudolph, with her rapier-sharp comic timing and cadences unlikely any of her contemporaries, is very difficult not to like at least somewhat, no matter your thoughts on the eating of the rich. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 21 June 2022 This is a persistent conceit in the literature of power, one that Larraín, wielding his camera like a rapier and Jonny Greenwood’s lacerating score like a stiletto, leaves in tatters. New York Times, 4 Nov. 2021 Weyman’s cloak-and-rapier swashbuckler is long — over 400 pages in my edition — but its action never dawdles. Washington Post, 1 Sep. 2021 However, its fighting system is loose and free-flowing, especially when using the rapier. Jonathan Peltz, Wired, 7 Apr. 2021 Hsieh delivered a rapier-like riposte to the question, followed by her trademark smile. Christina Macfarlane And Ben Church, CNN, 23 Feb. 2021 Zorro, who, through the lensing of Hollywood, used his rapier to fight for the defrauded, the working class, and the oppressed, may not be a bad model during a pandemic marked by gross inequities. Rachel Lipstein, The New Yorker, 23 Apr. 2020 And when Cyrano confronts the man being lined up to marry his beloved Roxanne (Anita-Joy Uwajeh), their duel takes the form of a rap battle — the microphones in their hands being the closest these characters will come to a rapier. Demetrios Matheou, The Hollywood Reporter, 8 Dec. 2019 Meantime the director goes at the social satire with a bludgeon, not a rapier, so that the insufferably progressive liberal smugness, embodied in the Seattle private school Bee attends, grows tiresome. Michael Phillips, Twin Cities, 16 Aug. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective And instead of rapier-thin thrusts to breach Ukraine’s borders, the Russian army and its separatist allies are now deployed along a contiguous front line shaped like a boomerang. Nabih Bulosstaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 23 Apr. 2022 Hall has an absolutely rapier wit, one that slices through the customs and expectations of the British aristocracy with gleaming verve. Maureen Lee Lenker, EW.com, 11 Feb. 2022 The almost 40-story high-rise would contain a combination of office, retail, hotel and residential space in a rapier-thin tower. Steve Brown, Dallas News, 26 Oct. 2020 But there’s a fine line between forceful leadership and churlish self-absorption, and foot stomping is less effective than shredding an opponent with a rapier wit. Todd J. Gillman, Dallas News, 22 Oct. 2020 Known for his rapier wit, Murphy likes to dig the verbal knife into players, always making sure to do so with their peers as witnesses. Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 18 Sep. 2020 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'rapier.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of rapier


1553, in the meaning defined above


1824, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for rapier


Middle French (espee) rapiere

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rapid transit



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Last Updated

26 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Rapier.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rapier. Accessed 11 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for rapier


ra·​pi·​er | \ ˈrā-pē-ər How to pronounce rapier (audio) \

Kids Definition of rapier

: a straight sword with a narrow blade having two sharp edges


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