This article is from the Fencing FAQ, by Morgan Burke with numerous contributions by others.
Not all terms have universal definitions. The meanings of some
terms will vary between schools or periods. If any bias exists in
the following glossary, it is towards the official FIE definitions
first, and traditional French school definitions next. Note that
only a few of these terms are rigidly defined for use by referees
in Articles t.2 to t.10 of the Rules of Competition.
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
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 (also singlestick); a single-edged military sword.
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.
Blocking: electronic suppression of hits.
Bout: an assault at which the score is kept.
Broadsword: any later sword intended for cutting over thrusting; sabre.
Broken Time: a sudden change or hesitation 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
Defensive Action: an action made to avoid being touched; parry.
Delayed: not immediate, following a hesitation.
Derobement: deception of the attack au fer or prise de fer.
Detached: a riposte executed without blade contact.
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'.
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.
Immediate: without any perceived hesitation between actions.
In Line: point in line.
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.
Mensur: German fraternity duel.
Middle: the middle third of the blade, between foible and forte,
sometimes held to be part of the foible.
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.
Offensive Action: an action in which the fencer attempts to touch
Offensive-defensive Action: an action that simultaneously attempts
to touch the opponent and avoid the opponents touch.
On Guard: also En Garde; the fencing position; the stance that
fencers assume when preparing to fence.
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
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: right-of-way; in sabre, the now-superceded rules that
decide which fencer will be awarded the touch in the event
that they both attack simultaneously.
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
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 a different line.
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.
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 with 3.5' blade and 10" guard.
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
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
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-19th 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 electrical connector used in fencing.
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 parried.
Whites: fencing clothing.
Yellow Card: also advertissement, warning; used to indicate a minor
rule infraction by one of the fencers.