|Wars||Early Modern warfare, Ottoman Wars, Napoleonic Wars, American Revolution, American Civil War, Franco-Prussian War, Philippine Revolution, Spanish–American War, Philippine–American War, World War I, Polish–Soviet War, World War II|
|Produced||Early modern period|
A sabre (French: [ˈsabʁ], or saber in American English) is a type of backsword with a curved blade associated with the light cavalry of the early modern and Napoleonic periods. Originally associated with Central European cavalry such as the hussars, the sabre became widespread in Western Europe during the Thirty Years' War. Lighter sabres also became popular with infantry of the early 17th century. In the 19th century, models with less curving blades became common and were also used by heavy cavalry.
The military sabre was used as a duelling weapon in academic fencing in the 19th century, giving rise to a discipline of modern sabre fencing (introduced in the 1896 Summer Olympics) loosely based on the characteristics of the historical weapon in that it allows for cuts as well as thrusts.
The English sabre is recorded from the 1670s, as a direct loan from French, where the sabre is an alteration of sable, which was in turn loaned from German Säbel, Sabel in the 1630s. The German word is on record from the 15th century, loaned from Polish szabla, which was itself adopted from Hungarian szabla (14th century, later szablya). The spread of the Hungarian word to neighboring European languages took place in the context of the Ottoman wars in Europe of the 15th to 17th centuries. The spelling saber became common in American English in the second half of the 19th century. 
The origin of the Hungarian word is unclear. It may itself be a loan from South Slavic (Serbo-Croatian сабља , Common Slavic *sablja ), which would ultimately derives from a Turkic source.  In a more recent suggestion, the Hungarian word may ultimately derive from a Tungusic source, via Kipchak Turkic selebe, with later metathesis (of l-b to b-l) and apocope changed to *seble, which would have changed its vocalisation in Hungarian to the recorded sabla (perhaps under the influence of the Hungarian word szab- "to crop; cut (into shape)". 
Though single-edged cutting swords already existed in the Ancient world, such as the ancient Egyptian and Sumerian sickle swords, these (usually forward instead of backward curving) weapons were chopping weapons for foot soldiers. This type of weapon developed into such heavy chopping weapons as the Greek Machaira and Anatolian Drepanon, and it still survives as the heavy Kukri chopping knife of the Gurkhas. However, in ancient China foot soldiers and cavalry often used a straight, single edged sword, and in the sixth century CE a longer, slightly curved cavalry variety of this weapon appeared in southern Siberia. This "proto-sabre" (the Turko-Mongol sabre) had developed into the true cavalry sabre by the eight century CE, and by the ninth century, it had become the usual side arm on the Eurasian steppes. The sabre arrived in Europe with the Magyars and the Turkic expansion.    These oldest sabres had a slight curve, short, down-turned quillons, the grip facing the opposite direction to the blade and a sharp point with the top third of the reverse edge sharpened.  
The introduction of the sabre proper in Western Europe, along with the term sabre itself, dates to the 17th century, via the influence of the szabla type ultimately derived from these medieval backswords. The adoption of the term is connected to the employment of Hungarian hussar (huszár) cavalry by Western European armies at the time.[ citation needed ] Hungarian hussars were employed as light cavalry, with the role of harassing enemy skirmishers, overrunning artillery positions, and pursuing fleeing troops. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, many Hungarian hussars fled to other Central and Western European countries and became the core of light cavalry formations created there.  [ unreliable source? ] The Hungarian term szablya is ultimately traced to the northwestern Turkic selebe, with contamination from the Hungarian verb szab "to cut". 
The original type of sabre, or Polish szabla, was used as a cavalry weapon, possibly inspired by Hungarian or wider Turco-Mongol warfare.
The karabela was a type of szabla popular in the late 17th century, worn by the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth nobility class, the szlachta . While designed as a cavalry weapon, it also came to replace various types of straight-bladed swords used by infantry.  The Swiss sabre originated as a regular sword with a single-edged blade in the early 16th century, but by the 17th century began to exhibit specialized hilt types.
In the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth (16th–18th century) a specific type of sabre-like melee weapon, the szabla, was used. Richly decorated sabres were popular among the Polish nobility, who considered it to be one of the most important pieces of men's traditional attire. With time, the design of the sabre greatly evolved in the commonwealth and gave birth to a variety of sabre-like weapons, intended for many tasks. In the following centuries, the ideology of Sarmatism as well as the Polish fascination with Oriental cultures, customs, cuisine and warfare resulted in the szabla becoming an indispensable part of traditional Polish culture.
The sabre saw extensive military use in the early 19th century, particularly in the Napoleonic Wars, during which Napoleon used heavy cavalry charges to great effect against his enemies. Shorter versions of the sabre were also used as sidearms by dismounted units, although these were gradually replaced by fascine knives and sword bayonets as the century went on. Although there was extensive debate over the effectiveness of weapons such as the sabre and lance, the sabre remained the standard weapon of cavalry for mounted action in most armies until World War I and in a few armies until World War II. Thereafter it was gradually relegated to the status of a ceremonial weapon, and most horse cavalry was replaced by armoured cavalry from the 1930s onward.
Where horse mounted cavalry survived into World War II it was generally as mounted infantry without sabres. However the sabre was still carried by German cavalry until after the Polish campaign of 1939, after which this historic weapon was put into storage in 1941.  Romanian cavalry continued to carry their straight "thrusting" sabres on active service until at least 1941.  
Sabres were commonly used by the British in the Napoleonic era for light cavalry and infantry officers, as well as others. The elegant but effective 1803 pattern sword that the British Government authorized for use by infantry officers during the wars against Napoleon featured a curved sabre blade which was often blued and engraved by the owner in accordance with his personal taste, and was based on the famously agile 1796 light cavalry sabre that was renowned for its brutal cutting power. Sabres were commonly used throughout this era by all armies, in much the same way that the British did.
The popularity of the sabre had rapidly increased in Britain throughout the 18th century for both infantry and cavalry use. This influence was predominately from southern and eastern Europe, with the Hungarians and Austrians listed as sources of influence for the sword and style of swordsmanship in British sources. The popularity of sabres had spread rapidly through Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries, and finally came to dominance as a military weapon in the British army in the 18th century, though straight blades remained in use by some, such as heavy cavalry units. (These were also replaced by sabres soon after the Napoleonic era).
The introduction of 'pattern' swords in the British army in 1788 led to a brief departure from the sabre in infantry use (though not for light cavalry), in favour of the lighter and straight bladed spadroon. The spadroon was universally unpopular, and many officers began to unofficially purchase and carry sabres once more. In 1799, the army accepted this under regulation for some units, and in 1803, produced a dedicated pattern of sabre for certain infantry officers (flank, rifle and staff officers). The 1803 pattern quickly saw much more widespread use than the regulation intended due to its effectiveness in combat, and fashionable appeal.
The most famous British sabre of the Napoleonic era is the 1796 light cavalry model, used by troopers and officers alike (officers versions can vary a little, but are much the same as the pattern troopers sword). It was in part designed by the famous John Le Marchant, who worked to improve on the previous (1788) design based on his experience with the Austrians and Hungarians. Le Marchant also developed the first official British military sword exercise manual based on this experience, and his light cavalry sabre, and style of swordsmanship went on to heavily influence the training of the infantry and the navy.
The 1796 light cavalry sword was known for its brutal cutting power, easily severing limbs, and leading to the (unsubstantiated) myth that the French put in an official complaint to the British about its ferocity. This sword also saw widespread use with mounted artillery units, and the numerous militia units established in Britain to protect against a potential invasion by Napoleon.
Though the sabre had already become very popular in Britain, experience in Egypt did lead to a fashion trend for mameluke sword style blades, a type of Middle Eastern scimitar, by some infantry and cavalry officers. These blades differ from the more typical British ones in that they have more extreme curvatures, in that they are usually not fullered, and in that they taper to a finer point. Mameluke swords also gained some popularity in France as well. Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, himself carried a mameluke-style sword. In 1831, the 'Mameluke' sword became the pattern sword for British generals, as well as officers of the United States Marine Corps; in this last capacity, it is still in such use at the present time.
The American victory over the rebellious forces in the citadel of Tripoli in 1805, during the First Barbary War, led to the presentation of bejewelled examples of these swords to the senior officers of the US Marines. Officers of the US Marine Corps still use a mameluke-pattern dress sword. Although some genuine Turkish kilij sabres were used by Westerners, most "mameluke sabres" were manufactured in Europe; although their hilts were very similar in form to the Ottoman prototype, their blades, even when an expanded yelman was incorporated, tended to be longer, narrower and less curved than those of the true kilij.
In the American Civil War, the sabre was used infrequently as a weapon, but saw notable deployment in the Battle of Brandy Station and at East Cavalry Field at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. Many cavalrymen—particularly on the Confederate side—eventually abandoned the long, heavy weapons in favour of revolvers and carbines.
The last sabre issued to US cavalry was the Patton saber of 1913, designed to be mounted to the cavalryman's saddle. The Patton saber is only a saber on name. It is a straight, thrust-centric sword. A US War Department circular dated 18 April 1934 announced that the saber would no longer be issued to cavalry, and that it was to be completely discarded for use as a weapon. Only dress sabers, for use by officers only, and strictly as a badge of rank, were to be retained. 
During the 19th and into the early 20th century, sabres were also used by both mounted and dismounted personnel in some European police forces. When the sabre was used by mounted police against crowds, the results could be devastating, as portrayed in a key scene in Doctor Zhivago. The sabre was later phased out in favour of the baton, or nightstick, for both practical and humanitarian reasons. The Gendarmerie of Belgium used them until at least 1950,  and the Swedish police forces until 1965. 
Swords with sabre blades remain a component of the dress uniforms worn by most national army, navy, air force, marine and coast guard officers. Some militaries also issue ceremonial swords to their highest-ranking non-commissioned officers; this is seen as an honour since, typically, non-commissioned, enlisted/other-rank military service members are instead issued a cutlass blade rather than a sabre. Swords in the modern military are no longer used as weapons, and serve only ornamental or ceremonial functions. One distinctive modern use of sabres is in the sabre arch, performed for servicemen or women getting married.
The modern fencing sabre bears little resemblance to the cavalry sabre, having a thin, 88 cm (35 in) long straight blade. Rather, it is based upon the Italian dueling saber of classical fencing. One of the three weapons used in the sport of fencing, it is a very fast-paced weapon with bouts characterized by quick footwork and cutting with the edge. The valid target area is from the waist up excluding the hands.
The concept of attacking above the waist only is a 20th-century change to the sport; previously sabreurs used to pad their legs against cutting slashes from their opponents. The reason for the above waist rule is unknown,  as the sport of sabre fencing is based on the use of infantry sabres, not cavalry sabres.
In the last years, Saber fencing has been developing in Historical European Martial Arts, with blades that closely resemble the historical types, with techniques based on historical records.
A sword is an edged, bladed weapon intended for manual cutting or thrusting. Its blade, longer than a knife or dagger, is attached to a hilt and can be straight or curved. A thrusting sword tends to have a straighter blade with a pointed tip. A slashing sword is more likely to be curved and to have a sharpened cutting edge on one or both sides of the blade. Many swords are designed for both thrusting and slashing. The precise definition of a sword varies by historical epoch and geographic region.
A lance is a spear designed to be used by a mounted warrior or cavalry soldier (lancer). In ancient and medieval warfare, it evolved into the leading weapon in cavalry charges, and was unsuited for throwing or for repeated thrusting, unlike similar weapons of the javelin and pike family typically used by infantry. Lances were often equipped with a vamplate, a small circular plate to prevent the hand sliding up the shaft upon impact, and beginning in the late 14th century were used in conjunction with a lance rest attached to the breastplate. Though best known as a military and sporting weapon carried by European knights and men-at-arms, the use of lances was widespread throughout Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa wherever suitable mounts were available. Lancers of the medieval period also carried secondary weapons such as swords, battle axes, war hammers, maces and daggers for use in hand-to-hand combat, since the lance was often a one-use-per-engagement weapon; assuming the lance survived the initial impact without breaking, it was often too long, heavy, and slow to be effective against opponents in a melee.
This is a list of types of swords.
Dao are single-edged Chinese swords, primarily used for slashing and chopping. They can be straight or curved. The most common form is also known as the Chinese sabre, although those with wider blades are sometimes referred to as Chinese broadswords. In China, the dao is considered one of the four traditional weapons, along with the gun, qiang (spear), and the jian, called in this group "The General of Weapons".
Uhlans were a type of light cavalry, primarily armed with a lance. While first appearing in the cavalry of Lithuania and then Poland, Uhlans were quickly adopted by the mounted forces of other countries, including France, Russia, Prussia, Saxony and Austria-Hungary.
The English language terminology used in the classification of swords is imprecise and has varied widely over time. There is no historical dictionary for the universal names, classification, or terminology of swords; a sword was simply a double-edged knife.
A kilij or a pusat is a type of one-handed, single-edged and curved scimitar used by the Seljuk Empire, Timurid Empire, Mamluk Empire, Ottoman Empire, and other Turkic khanates of Eurasian steppes and Turkestan. These blades developed from earlier Turko-Mongol sabers that were in use in lands controlled or influenced by the Turkic peoples.
Szabla is the Polish word for sabre.
Light cavalry comprised lightly armed and armored cavalry troops mounted on fast horses, as opposed to heavy cavalry, where the mounted riders were heavily armored. The purpose of light cavalry was primarily raiding, reconnaissance, screening, skirmishing, patrolling and tactical communications. Prior to the early 17th century they were usually armed with swords, spears, javelins, or bows, and later on with sabres, pistols, shotguns, or carbines.
A Mameluke sword is a cross-hilted, curved, scimitar-like sword historically derived from sabres used by Mamluk warriors of Mamluk Egypt after whom the sword is named. Egypt was, at least nominally, part of the Ottoman Empire and the sword most commonly used in Egypt was the same as used elsewhere in the empire, the kilij.
The shashka or shasqua, is a kind of sabre; a single-edged, single-handed, and guardless backsword. In appearance, the shashka is midway between a typically curved sabre and a straight sword. It has a slightly curved blade, and can be effective for both cutting and thrusting.
The Pattern 1908 cavalry trooper's sword was the last service sword issued to the cavalry of the British Army. It has been called the most effective cavalry sword ever designed, although its introduction occurred as swords finally became obsolete as military weapons. In use, it, like other thrust-based cavalry swords, is best described as a one-handed lance, due to its complete lack of utility for anything but the charge. In fact, the closely related US Model 1913 Cavalry Saber was issued with only a saddle scabbard, as it was not considered to be of much use to a dismounted cavalryman. Colonial troops, who could expect to engage in melee combat with opposing cavalry frequently carried cut and thrust swords either instead of, or in addition to, the P1908/1912.
The gothic hilted swords were a family of swords carried by officers and some NCOs of the British Army between 1822 and the present day. They were primarily infantry swords, although they were also regulation pattern for some other officers such as surgeons and staff officers. The term "Gothic hilt" is derived from a perceived similarity between the curved bars of the guard and the arches found in Gothic architecture. They were elegant aesthetically pleasing weapons, although they were considered by some to be mediocre fighting swords. The weapon and its variants had a very long service life.
The Polish hussars, alternatively known as the winged hussars, were a heavy cavalry formation active in Poland and in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1503 to 1702. Their epithet is derived from large rear wings, which were intended to demoralize the enemy during charge. The hussars ranked as the elite of Polish cavalry until their official disbanding in 1776.
The Model 1913 Cavalry Sword, commonly referred to as the Patton Saber, was a cavalry sword designed for the U.S. Army by Second Lieutenant George S. Patton Jr. in 1913. Patton suggested the revision from a curved sword and edge and cutting technique to a thrusting style of attack, following his extensive training in France.
The Pattern 1796 light cavalry sabre is a sword that was used primarily by British light dragoons and hussars, and King's German Legion light cavalry during the Napoleonic Wars. It was adopted by the Prussians and used by Portuguese and Spanish cavalry.
The basket-hilted sword is a sword type of the early modern era characterised by a basket-shaped guard that protects the hand. The basket hilt is a development of the quillons added to swords' crossguards since the Late Middle Ages. In modern times, this variety of sword is also sometimes referred to as the broadsword.
Szabla wz. 34 was the last service sword issued to the Polish cavalry and other mounted units of the Polish Army. One of the finest weapons in a long list of Polish sabres reaching back to the early 16th century, although its introduction occurred as swords finally became obsolete as military weapons, it was successfully used in combat during the 1939 Invasion of Poland and remains in service as a ceremonial weapon.
These swords were used by the Turkic and Mongolic nomads of the Eurasian steppes primarily between the 8th and 14th centuries. One of the earliest recorded sabres of this type was recovered from an Avar grave in Romania dating to the mid 7th century.
The Pattern 1831 sabre for General Officers is a British army pattern sword prescribed for the use of officers of the rank of major-general and above. It has been in continuous use from 1831 to the present. It is an example of a type of sword described as a mameluke sabre.