What is a Rapier?

A rapier is a slender, sharply pointed sword with a long blade and a complex, sometimes embellished hilt primarily used for thrusting attacks in Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. The hilt of the rapier is made to protect the hand that wields it. Also called a hilt rapier, this thrusting sword was called other things as well due to the tendency of sword masters of the time using description of a sword’s function as a method of naming it.

It is thought that the rapier began to develop in Spain around the year 1500 as a type of dress sword for civilians and duels. It became increasingly fashionable over time in Europe among the wealthier classes, but always had its detractors.

With its long reach, the rapier allowed for fast reactions suitable for civilian combat in the 16th and 17th centuries. Military-style swords for cutting and thrusting purposes continued to evolve to meet battlefield needs, and rapiers continued to change with the times as well, becoming lighter and shorter and eventually succumbing to the widespread use of the small-sword in the 1700s.