The terms used in modern fencing had their origins in the fencing schools of France of the late 17th and early 18th Centuries and so are not appropriate for use prior to 1600. The terms from the 16th Century are based primarily on those defined and described by the Italian masters of the period. Many 16th Century texts survive into our era and may be acquired from a number of sources (listed later). The texts are in English, Italian, Spanish, German and French. There is currently a movement to translate the Italian and Spanish texts into English. Please write me if you are working on a project such as this!

I would highly suggest that you start your study by reading the works of Giacommo di Grassi and Vincentio Saviolo. If you are interested in English philosophy of fence you may read George Silver's works. The following terms are taken primarily from these Elizabethan masters. Unfortunately many of the terms are not described very well in the original texts. A book entitled Pallas Armata that was published in 1639 defines most of the terms outlined below. One or more references to the term is given for each. If a reference is not given the term was found in the book "A to Z of Fencing" E.D. Morton.


A thrust is an attack made with the point of the weapon where the attempt is to pierce the target.

Imbrocatta -- This attack is made over the adversary's blade, hand or dagger. It travels in a downward direction with the knuckles up (as in a modern prime or high tierce). (Castle p.121)

Stocatta -- This attack is made under the blade, hand or dagger. The hand is typically held in pronation, although it may be held in other positions. This attack is normally made to the belly. (Castle p.121)

Punta Riversa -- This attack is delivered from the left side to any part of your adversary's body, high or low. (The modern term for this attack would be an attack from quarte) (Castle p.92, also mentioned by Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet)

Cuts and Blows

A cut or blow is an attack made with the edge of the weapon where the result of the attack is to cut the opponent.

Mandritti -- Cuts from the right side.  (Saviolo p.10, Castle p.49)
     Tondo -- A circular cut delivered horizontally, 
     Fendente -- A vertical attack in a downward direction, 
     Montante -- A vertical attack made in an upwards direction, 
     Squalembrato -- An oblique downwards motion attack.

or roverso     These attacks are the same as the mandritti except they are made
               from the left side instead of the right.  (Saviolo p.15)

Stramazone     This is a slicing or cutting blow made with the point/tip of the
               sword.  (Saviolo p.15)

Arrebatar      Spanish term to cut with the whole arm, from the shoulder.

Various Blade Terms

Stringering    Keeping opposition to your adversary's blade with your own blade. 
               (Pallas Armata p.5)

Cavere         Turning your point under your adversary's blade when being
               bound or thrust.  (Pallas Armata p.5)

Parere         To decline, put by or turn a thrust or blow.  (Pallas Armata p.6)

Finda          A feint to draw your adversary away from the true attack.  (Pallas
               Armata p.6)

Battere        To beat aside your adversary's blade with rapier, foot or hand. 
               (Pallas Armata p.7)

Contratempo    This is a thrust in the same line that your adversary thrusts in. 
               (Pallas Armata p.6)

Angolazione    Italian for angulation.

Anneau         A ring placed in front of the quillons to protect the forefinger,
               following the old custom of passing the finger over the quillons in
               order to exert better control of the weapon.

Ascendent      Italian for an attack delivered upwards.

Battuta        Italian for the beat.

Battute        A very strong downward beat on the opponent's blade,
               preparatory to disarming him.

Botta Dritta   Italian for the straight-thrust.

Botta Lunga    Cappo Ferro's term for the lunge.

Botta Segrete  Italian for the secret attack.

Botta In Tempo Italian for an attack delivered when the opponent is preoccupied
               with some feint or preparatory movement and therefore not ready
               to parry instantly.

Botte          An attack.

Botte de Nuit  The passata sotto, an attack used in the Italian school.


Incartata      A foot movement where a turn is made.  (Saviolo p.10, Castle

Volte          A specialized foot movement to avoid a thrust.  The movement is
               performed by counter thrusting at your opponent with your right
               foot foremost and while thrusting to step behind and forward of
               your right foot with your left.  This move will turn your chest away
               to the left from your opponent and if performed correctly will show
               your back to them.  (Castle p.150, Pallas Armata p.7)

Measure        The distance between you and your adversary.  (Silver p.83, Pallas
               Armata p.6)

Passere        To pass by your adversary while you attack.  (Pallas Armata p.6,
               Saviolo p.9)

Void           To dodge your opponents blade.  (Pallas Armata p.6)

Affondo        Italian for the lunge.  Also called the Punta Sopramano (Viggiani)

Agente         Italian for on the attack.

Appel          The striking of the ground with the leading foot, during, or
               immediately before the execution of an attack. Characteristic of the
               Italian school.

Assalto        Italian for an attack.

Responsivo     Italian for a counter-attack.

Battre de Main To parry with the hand.

Bersaglio      Italian for an opening.

Botta          Italian for an attack.