Daggers & Short Swords of the Middle Ages [Updated]

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List of Medieval Daggers and Short Swords [Updated]

The Middle Ages are associated with chivalric swords and a range of weapons for use on the battlefield. Daggers and short swords are less popular but still important to consider when studying weaponry of the medieval period. 

The medieval knight or foot soldier would have relied on a sword or other large weapon as their primary defense. However, daggers and short swords were necessary side arms for use in close combat or unexpected situations. 

While all daggers and short swords are by definition smaller than swords, several types of these weapons existed in the Middle Ages and are characterized by their blade and hilt designs. 

The following are eight daggers and short swords of the European Middle Ages. 

1) Seax

seax short sword
Close up of etchings on a seax blade. This weapon was a favorite of Germanic tribes of the early Middle Ages. BabelStone, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The seax was a short sword used as early as 400 AD but peaking in popularity between 700 and 1100. Germanic tribes of the migration period and early Middle Ages forged and used the seax. By the later centuries of its use, people groups of England and Ireland adopted the seax as a primary tool.

Archaeologists and historians are unsure of the main purpose of the seax. It could have been used for everyday tasks or for fighting on the battlefield. 

The sword gets its name from the Old English word for “knife.” This could suggest everyday use, military use, or both. 

Seaxes varied greatly in size and design. The “long seax” was indeed the longest variation of this sword and appeared in the 7th century. Most seaxes possessed hilts made of wood or iron. 

2) Stiletto

stiletto dagger
Illustration of a typical stiletto design. Note the extremely sharp point of the blade and large cross guard. Pearson Scott Foresman, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The stiletto gets its name from the Latin word for “stake.” The shape of the stiletto dagger closely resembles that of a sharp stake and was used primarily for stabbing. 

Stilettos could easily poke through links of chain mail or the spaces between armor plates. The dagger was therefore an important secondary weapon of knights in the High Middle Ages. 

The first recorded use of the stiletto occurred in the 12th century. The weapon would enjoy centuries of popularity. 

3) Falchion

falchion sword
The falchion short sword is characterized by its curved, single-edged blade. Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The medieval falchion was a short sword that reached peak popularity between the 13th and 16th centuries. 

Falchions are characterized by their curved and single-edged blades. The design of the falchion made it an excellent cutting and slashing weapon in battle.

While a handy weapon for soldiers, many falchions were actually used by peasants for everyday cutting tasks. Falchion short swords had a reputation for being lower quality tools, and therefore few exist today. 

4) Bollock Dagger

The bollock dagger gets its name from its suggestive design. The hilt of this dagger is anatomical, to say the least. Metropolitan Museum of Art, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

It doesn’t take many guesses to figure out how the bollock dagger gets its name. The shape of the guard suggests male anatomy, as do many of the overall hilts of these weapons. 

The shapes of the bollock dagger vary to some degree, but all feature similar guards and inspiration. This dagger had one of the longest periods of use in Europe. The earliest date to the 13th century, but bollock daggers continued to be popular well into the 18th century. 

This style of dagger was commonly used by knights as a sidearm. It accompanied a lance or sword. 

The overall design of the bollock dagger inspired the Scottish dirk of the early modern period. 

5) Rondel

rondel dagger
A typical rondel dagger featuring the classic round guard and pommel. The round features of the rondel’s hilt contrast with the dagger’s sharply pointed blade. Dana Williams, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Rondel daggers were first used in the 14th century. The stiff blade of the dagger made it ideal for everyday carry. Both men and women wore rondel daggers at their waist on girdles. 

Because of the utilitarian design, common people used them for everyday tasks.

Blades measured an average of 30 centimeters or more, with the total length of a rondel usually measuring around 50 centimeters. Blades had sharp points and could be single or double-edged. 

The rondel gets its name from its rounded guard and pommel. The hilt could be crafted from wood or bone. 

While the rondel made an excellent tool for everyday purposes, the sharp design was also deadly when used for cutting or stabbing. Soldiers used the weapon to penetrate chain mail in battle. The rondel served as a side arm in both battles and jousts. 

6) Anelace Dagger

anelace dagger
A trio of anelace daggers on display. They possess varying blade widths. Their double edge made anelaces excellent sidearms. Wolfgang Sauber, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The medieval anelace is categorized as either a very long dagger or a very short sword. The length of the double-edged blade made this weapon perfect for use in close combat. 

Like the rondel, anelaces were usually worn at the waist on a girdle or similar accessory. 

7) Baselard

This baselard dagger has a curved variation of the standard I-shaped hilt. Hmaag, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The baselard gets its name from the city of Basel in Switzerland. The dagger was first popular in Switzerland and Germany but eventually the French, Italians, and English adopted the weapon as well. 

Baselard daggers featured I-shaped handles made of iron or wood. Variations on this basic design, such as the one shown above, did exist. 

The baselard reached its peak popularity in the late Middle Ages, starting in the 1300s. It was a side arm of civilians and was considered a fashionable tool and accessory for everyday wear. 

8) Poignard

poignard dagger
A man duels with a rapier and poignard. The light and pointed design of the poignard made it an excellent secondary weapon for dueling. Jacques Callot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The poignard was a light dagger of the late Middle Ages and Renaissance. The little dagger’s design made it ideal for stabbing. 

Many men used the poignard and the rapier simultaneously in duels. This specific style of dagger was reserved for use by knights and the upper class. 

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