A rapier sword was used almost exclusively as a thrusting weapon. At first, the swords were used on the offensive, but eventually became a self-defense tool. It was primarily used by civilians for protection and for duels. In the 16th century, other European nations developed their own rapiers, such as the German Rappier which was used in sport fencing. Use of the rapier for civilian combat dropped off after the 17th century.
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.