Melee weapon

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A melee weapon, hand weapon or close combat weapon, is any handheld weapon used in hand-to-hand combat, i.e. for use within the direct physical reach of the weapon itself, essentially functioning as an additional (and more impactful) extension of the user's limbs. By contrast, a ranged weapon is any other weapon capable of engaging targets at a distance beyond immediate physical contact. [1]



The term melee originates in the 1640s from the French word mêlée, which refers to disorganized hand-to-hand combat, a close-quarters battle, a brawl, or a confused fight; especially involving many combatants. [2] [3] [4]

The 1812 tabletop war game, Kriegsspiel referred to the hand-combat stage of the game as a melee. [5] Later war games would follow this pattern. [6] [7] [8] From there, gamers would eventually begin to call the weapons used in that stage melee weapons. [9] [10]


Melee weapons can be broadly divided into three categories [ citation needed ]:

Many weapons fit into multiple categories, or fit in between them; many polearms such as halberds, lucerne hammers and guisarmes add edged and blunt methods of attack to a spear base, and various hooked weapons such as billhooks, fauchards , falxes and becs de corbin evade easy classification; while flexible weapons such as whips don't fall into any of these categories.

List of melee weapons

See also

Related Research Articles

Pole weapon Type of melee armament with a long shaft for infantry combat

A pole weapon or pole arm is a close combat weapon in which the main fighting part of the weapon is fitted to the end of a long shaft, typically of wood, thereby extending the user's effective range and striking power. Because many pole weapons were adapted from agricultural implements or other tools in fairly large amount of abundance, and contain relatively little metal, they were cheap to make and readily available. When warfare breaks out and the belligerents have a poorer class who cannot pay for dedicated weapons made for war, military leaders often resort to the appropriation of tools as cheap weapons. The cost of training was minimal, since these conscripted farmers had spent most of their lives in the familiar use of these "weapons" in the fields. This made polearms the favored weapon of peasant levies and peasant rebellions the world over.

A spear is a pole weapon consisting of a shaft, usually of wood, with a pointed head. The head may be simply the sharpened end of the shaft itself, as is the case with fire hardened spears, or it may be made of a more durable material fastened to the shaft, such as bone, flint, obsidian, iron, steel or bronze. The most common design for hunting or combat spears since ancient times has incorporated a metal spearhead shaped like a triangle, lozenge, or leaf. The heads of fishing spears usually feature barbs or serrated edges.

Mace (bludgeon)

A mace is a blunt weapon, a type of club or virge that uses a heavy head on the end of a handle to deliver powerful strikes. The mace was chiefly used for blows struck upon the head of an enemy. A mace typically consists of a strong, heavy, wooden or metal shaft, often reinforced with metal, featuring a head made of stone, bone, copper, bronze, iron, or steel.

Halberd Type of pole weapon with axe blade topped with a spike

A halberd is a two-handed pole weapon that came to prominent use during the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. The word halberd is most likely equivalent to the German word Hellebarde, deriving from Middle High German halm (handle) and barte (battleaxe) joint to helmbarte. Troops that used the weapon are called halberdiers.

Pike (weapon) Long pole weapon formerly used by infantry

A pike is a pole weapon, a very long thrusting spear formerly used extensively by infantry. Pikes were used regularly in European warfare from the Late Middle Ages to the early 18th century, and were wielded by foot soldiers deployed in close quarters, until it was replaced by rifles, which had a longer range, and to which a bayonet could be attached. The pike found extensive use with Landsknecht armies and Swiss mercenaries, who employed it as their main weapon and used it in pike square formations. A similar weapon, the sarissa, was also used by Alexander the Great's Macedonian phalanx infantry to great effect. Generally, a spear becomes a pike when it is too long to be wielded with one hand in combat.

Bill (weapon) Polearm weapon used by infantry in medieval Europe

The bill is a polearm weapon used by infantry in medieval Europe. The bill is similar in size, function and appearance to the halberd, differing mainly in the hooked blade form. Other terms for the bill include English bill, bill hook or bill-guisarme.

Pollaxe Medieval European pole weapon

The pollaxe is a European polearm that was widely used by medieval infantry.

Viking Age arms and armour Military technology of Vikings, 8th-11th century

Knowledge about military technology of the Viking Age is based on relatively sparse archaeological finds, pictorial representation, and to some extent on the accounts in the Norse sagas and laws recorded in the 14th century.

Battle axe Axe designed for combat

A battle axe is an axe specifically designed for combat. Battle axes were specialized versions of utility axes. Many were suitable for use in one hand, while others were larger and were deployed two-handed.

Dagger-axe Chinese pole weapon

The dagger-axe is a type of pole weapon that was in use from the Shang dynasty until the Han dynasty in China. It consists of a dagger-shaped blade, mounted by its tang to a perpendicular wooden shaft. The earliest dagger-axe blades were made of stone. Later versions used bronze. Jade versions were also made for ceremonial use. There is a variant type with a divided two-part head, consisting of the usual straight blade and a scythe-like blade.

Goedendag Medieval pole weapon

A goedendag was a weapon originally used by the militias of Medieval Flanders in the 14th century, notably during the Franco-Flemish War. The goedendag was essentially a combination of a club with a spear. Its body was a wooden staff roughly three to five feet long with a diameter of roughly two to four inches. It was wider at one end, and at this end a sharp metal spike was inserted by a tang.

The Eighteen Arms is a list of the eighteen main weapons of Chinese martial arts. The origin of the list is unclear and there have been disputes as to what the eighteen weapons actually are. However, all lists contain at least one or more of the following weapons:

<i>Chivalry: Medieval Warfare</i> Video game

Chivalry: Medieval Warfare is a multiplayer-focused hack and slash developed by Torn Banner Studios as their first commercial title. The game is set in a fictional world resembling the Middle Ages and offers similar gameplay combat to the Half-Life 2 mod, Age of Chivalry. On September 20, 2012, a trailer was released which set the release date to October 16, 2012. The developers had confirmed that the game would be PC exclusive initially, but in October 2014, they confirmed that the game would be coming to PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in December 2014. A standalone expansion pack called Chivalry: Deadliest Warrior was announced on August 23, 2013, as a tie-in for the television series Deadliest Warrior. It was released on November 14, 2013.

The term melee has been adopted and popularized in wargaming, table top, and video games to encompass all forms of close combat. This can include any combat that involves directly striking an opponent at ranges generally less than a metre, especially using martial arts or melee weapons. This term is especially used in comparison to other strategies, such as ranged combat or magic when the game offers multiple methods of combat.

International Medieval Combat Federation

The International Medieval Combat Federation is a global historical full contact sport fighting revival movement, in which combatants use historically accurate reproduction medieval and early modern armour and blunted weapons to engage in competitive fights according to authentic historical tournament rules. Founded in 2013, the organisation now attracts hundred of fighters from 26 countries at various fighting competitions around the world. Most events are open to the public and major competitions are regularly seen by tens of thousands of spectators. The league holds dozens of smaller events throughout the year as well as a world championship competition in which national teams, selected from local or regional clubs in their respective countries, assemble at a suitably historical venue to compete. These events take the character of a medieval tournament, with historical attractions and exhibits beside the competition, as well as market stalls selling historically-themed foods, goods and souvenirs. Competing teams are billeted in reproduction medieval camps and must wear authentic clothing. Somewhat unlike the medieval competition, fighting is exclusively on foot, and strict rules are enforced to ensure the safety of competitors and fairness in the competition. The fighting can be between individuals or teams of up to 16 fighters per side.

Edged and bladed weapons

An edged weapon, or bladed weapon, is a melee weapon with a cutting edge. Bladed weapons include swords, daggers, knives, and bayonets, as well as machetes, axes, deer horn knives, and the fictional bat'leth. Edged weapons are used to cut, hack, or slash; some edged weapons may also permit thrusting and stabbing. Edged weapons contrast with blunt weapons such as maces, and with thrusting weapons such as spears.

Chinese polearms Overview of pole weapons traditionally used by Chinese armies

The three most common types of Chinese polearms are the ge (戈), qiang (槍), and ji (戟). They are translated into English as dagger-axe, spear, and halberd. Dagger-axes were originally a short slashing weapon with a 0.9 to 1.8 m long shaft, but around the 4th century BC a spearhead was added to the blade, and it became a halberd. The spear is also sometimes called a mao (矛), which is sometimes used to designate polearms with a wavy snake-like spearhead. There was another polearm weapon known as the pi (鈹), translated into English as either sword-staff or long lance, that was used from ancient times until the Han dynasty. It was essentially a short sword attached to a stick. From the Warring States period onward, the length of Chinese polearms varied from around 2.8 m to 5.5 m, however there is no specific designation for a pike in the traditional Chinese lexicon. A very long spear is just called a long spear.


  1. Michele Byam (2010-11-30). Arms and Armor, Discover the story of weapons and armor-from Stone Age axes to the battledress of samurai warriors. New York: Dorling Kindersley.
  2. "the definition of melee". Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  3. "Definition of MELEE". Merriam-Webster . Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  4. Oxford English Dictionary. 2015. mêlée. "A battle or engagement at close quarters, a skirmish; a confused struggle or scuffle, esp. one involving many people. Also hist.: a tournament involving two groups of combatants."
  5. W. R. Livermore (1882). The American Kriegsspiel (PDF). Riverside Press, Cambridge. p. 105. The first point to be considered is the number of combatants on either side and the relative advantages under which they are fighting; the second the losses and duration of the melee
  6. H.G. Wells (1913). Little Wars. Frank Palmer Publishing. We did at last contrive to do so ; we invented what we call the melee, and our revised rules in the event of a melee will be found set out upon a later page
  7. Trevor Timpson (August 3, 2013). "Little Wars: How HG Wells created hobby war gaming". BBC News. Retrieved October 6, 2017.
  8. Luke Plunkett (September 18, 2012). "HG Wells Practically Invented Modern Tabletop Wargaming". Kotaku. Retrieved October 6, 2017.
  9. "Interview with Gary Gygax". Gamebanshee. Archived from the original on 2009-03-02.
  10. Michael J. Tresca (November 10, 2010). The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games. McFarland. ISBN   9780786460090.