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Syrian shamshir, The Royal Armoury, Stockholm Sweden. Sabel - shamshir - Livrustkammaren - 77113.tif
Syrian shamshir, The Royal Armoury, Stockholm Sweden.

A shamshir (Persian : شمشیر) is a type of Persian/Iranian sword with a radical curve. The name is derived from the Persian word shamshīr, which means "sword". The curved "scimitar" sword family includes the shamshir, kilij, talwar, pulwar and nimcha.


A shamshir shekargar (Persian : شمشیر شکارگر, romanized: shamshir-e shekârgar, lit. 'hunters' sword or hunting sword') is the same as a shamshir, except the blade is engraved and decorated, usually with hunting scenes. [1]


Uzbek warrior armed with bow and arrows, khanjar, mace, and a shamshir. A heavily armed Uzbek, Safavid Iran, mid 16th century.jpg
Uzbek warrior armed with bow and arrows, khanjar, mace, and a shamshir.

Originally, Persian swords were straight and double edged. Curved sabre blades were Central Asian in origin. There is considerable disagreement between historians as to when these curved blades were first introduced from Central Asia into Persia, and over what period they became adopted and modified into the recognizable Shamshir. [2] Curved blades began to appear in Persia in the 9th century, when these weapons were used by soldiers in the Khorasan region of Central Asia but were not widely adopted. [3] The sword now called a "shamshir" was developed in Persia over a period of time following influence from the Turkic Seljuk Khanate in the 12th century, the Mongol invasion of the 13th century, and finally taking a form distinct from earlier sabres by the 16th century. [2] The Shamshir had "relatives" in Turkey (the kilij), the Mughal Empire (the talwar), and the adjoining Arabian world (the saif). Over the years blades might be produced in India or the Ottoman empire and rehilted in Persia, and vice versa leading to mongrel swords.

The shamshir is a curved sword, featuring a slim blade that has almost no taper until the very tip. Instead of being worn upright (hilt-high), it is worn horizontally, with the hilt and tip pointing up. It was normally used for slashing unarmored opponents either on foot or mounted; while the tip could be used for thrusting, the drastic curvature of blade made accuracy more difficult. It has an offset pommel, and its two lengthy quillons form a simple crossguard. The tang of the blade is covered by slabs of bone, ivory, wood, or other material fastened by pins or rivets to form the grip. Many of the older Persian shamshir blades are made from high quality crucible wootz steel, and are noted for the fine "watering" on the blades.


Although the name has been associated by popular etymology with the city of Shamshir (which in turn means "curved like the lion's claw" in Persian) [4] the word has been used to mean "sword" since ancient times, as attested by Middle Persian shamshir (Pahlavi šmšyl), and the Ancient Greek σαμψήρα / sampsēra (glossed as "foreign sword").

"Shamshir" is usually taken to be the root of the word scimitar, the latter being a broader term. [5]

See also

Related Research Articles

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sabre</span> Type of sword

A sabre 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.

This is a list of types of swords.

<i>Dao</i> (Chinese sword) Single-edged Chinese sword primarily used for slashing and chopping

Dao are single-edged Chinese swords, primarily used for slashing and chopping. 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".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kopis</span> Greek curved knife or sword

The term kopis in Ancient Greece could describe a heavy knife with a forward-curving blade, primarily used as a tool for cutting meat, for ritual slaughter and animal sacrifice, or refer to a single edged cutting or "cut and thrust" sword with a similarly shaped blade.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kilij</span> Sword

A kilij or a pusat is a type of one-handed, single-edged and moderately 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Talwar</span> Type of sword from the Indian subcontinent

The talwar, also spelled talwaar and tulwar, is a type of curved sword or sabre from the Indian subcontinent.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pulwar</span>

The pulwar or pulouar is a single-handed curved sword originating in Afghanistan.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mameluke sword</span> Sword

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dha (sword)</span> Burmese knife

Dha is the Burmese word for "knife" and "sword" similar term to daab or darb in Thai language for a single edge sword. The term dha is conventionally used to refer to a wide variety of knives and swords used by many people across Southeast Asia, especially present-day Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Yunnan, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Shotel</span> Type of curved sword originating in Ethiopia

A shotel is a curved sword originating in northern Ethiopia. The curve on the blade varies from the Persian shamshir, adopting an almost semicircular shape. The blade is flat and double-edged with a diamond cross-section. The blade is about 40 inches (1,000 mm) in total length and the hilt is a simple wooden or rhinoceros horn piece with no guard similar to the jile or jambiya. The shotel was carried in a close fitting leather scabbard which was often decorated in precious metals and worn on the right side.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scimitar</span> Middle-Eastern sabre with a curved blade

A scimitar is a single-edged sword with a convex curved blade associated with Middle Eastern, South Asian, or North African cultures. A European term, scimitar does not refer to one specific sword type, but an assortment of different Eastern curved swords inspired by types introduced to the Middle East by Central Asian ghilmans. These swords include the Persian shamshir, the Arab saif, the Indian talwar, the North African nimcha, and the Turkish kilij. All such swords are originally derived from earlier curved swords developed in Turkic Central Asia (Turkestan).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Firangi (sword)</span> Sword

The firangi (Marathi:फिरंगाना) was an Indian sword type which used blades manufactured in Western Europe, particularly Solingen, and imported by the Portuguese, or made locally in imitation of European blades.

The Moplah sword is a sword used by the Muslim population in the Malabar Coast in southwestern India.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pesh-kabz</span>

The pesh-kabz or peshkabz is a type of Indo-Persian knife designed to penetrate mail armour and other types of armour. The word is also spelled pesh-qabz or pish-ghabz and means "fore-grip" in the Persian language; it was borrowed into the Hindustani language. Originally created during Safavid Persia, it became widespread in Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent during Mughal period.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Niabor</span> Sword, Cutlass

Niabor is a curved sword from Borneo, a characteristic weapon of the Sea-Dayaks.

Parang Nabur is a sword that originates from Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan, Indonesia. Most of these swords were made during the Banjarmasin Sultanate period in the 19th century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Palitai</span> Knife

Palitai is the traditional knife of the Mentawai people, originating from the Mentawai Islands off West Sumatra, Indonesia.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Turko-Mongol sabers</span> Cavalry Sabre

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. Although minor variations occur in size and hilt, they are common enough in design across 5 centuries that individual blades are difficult to date when discovered without other context. These swords were likely however, already influenced by swords used by others, such as the various Chinese swords.

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.


  1. A Glossary of the Construction, Decoration, and Use of Arms and Armor in All Countries and in All Times, By George Cameron Stone, Donald J. LaRocca, 1999, pg. 553
  2. 1 2 Khorasani, Manouchehr (2007). "Blades of the Lion's Tail: Birth of the Shamshir". Classic Arms and Militaria. XIV (5): 18–22.
  3. James E. Lindsay (2005), Daily life in the medieval Islamic world , Greenwood Publishing Group, p.  64, ISBN   0-313-32270-8
  4. Pakistan Historical Society (2006). Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society. Pakistan Historical Society. p. 80. ISSN 0030-9796
  5. A Glossary of the Construction, Decoration, and Use of Arms and Armor in All Countries and in All Times, By George Cameron Stone, Donald J. LaRocca, 1999, pg. 550