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Modern Fencing Glossary

Fencing has a rich vocabulary of terms used to describe the physical or mental activities of the sport.  This glossary is a living document, with updates being made on a regular basis.  It is generally based on published sources, including texts and other glossaries, subsequent to World War II.  Sources used in each entry are indicated with numbers in parenthesis for the particular sources.  The short definitions used are often based on a synthesis of the material from each source. Current number of entries: 120.


Sources include:

(1) United States Fencing Coaches Association Glossary of Terms (2008),

(2) Tyshler and Logvin Sports Fencing (2015),

(3) Harmenberg, Vaggo, Schmidt, Boisse, Mazzoni, and Pingree Epee 2.5 (2015),

(4) Handelman and Louie Fencing Foil (2014),

(5) Rogers Advanced Fencing Techniques (2013), 

(6) Paul, Miller, Beasley, and Bottoms, Epee Fencing (2011)

(7) Sowerby Fencing (2011)

(8) Borysiuk Modern Saber Fencing (2009)

(9) Wojciechowski Theory, Methods and Exercises in Fencing (no date)

(10) Beke and Polgar, The Methodology of Sabre Fencing (1965)

(11) Magill Motor Learning and Control (2004)

(12) Schmidt and Wrisberg Motor Learning and Performance (2004)

(13) USA Fencing Operations Manual (2016 update)

(14) FIE Brief glossaries of fencing (2016)

(15) Rogers Fencing Essential Skills Training​ (2003)

(16) Vass ​Epee Fencing​ (2011 second edition)

(17) Paul, Miller, Beasley, and Bottoms Epee Fencing (2011)

(18) Rogers High Performance Fencing ​(2015)

(19) Kenney, Wilmore, Costill ​Physiology of Sport and Exercise ​(2012)

(20) Crosnier A Guide to Judging and Presiding at Foil & Sabre​ (1950)

(21)  British Fencing ​Glossary of Terms ​ (2016)

(22) USA Fencing Fencing Rules ​(2016)

(23) Green Fencing Strategy, Tactics, and Technique​ (2021)

(24) Czajkowski ​Understanding Fencing ​(2005)

(25) IWAS IWF Rules for Competition ​(2015)

(26) Mangiarotti and Cerchiari La Vera Scherma (1966)

(27) Kingston Epee Combat Manual (2004).    

(28) Morton Martini A-Z of Fencing (n.d.)


Terms starting with the letter A:

  • A' Propos - the opportune moment to execute an action. (1)
  • Absence of the Blade - a situation in which the blade is held in such a position that it cannot be contacted. (1)
  • Abstain - to refrain from voting when one is unsure. (1) 
  • Advance - a forward movement of the front foot followed by a forward movement of the back foot, restoring the orientation and distance between the feet.  The back foot never passes the front foot.(1)(14)
  • Aids - the third, fourth, and fifth fingers of the weapon hand. (1)
  • Allez - a referee's command to the fencers to start fencing. (1)
  • Analysis-Commitment Drill - a paired drill to teach fencers to analyze their opponents, develop tactics based on the analysis, and execute the techniques necessary to those tactics. (1)
  • Angulation - an attack, riposte, or counterattack with an exaggerated displacement of the hand in the line in which the attack occurred and the blade at an angle other than a straight line to avoid the defender's weapon or to hit an otherwise protected target. (1)(14)
  • Appel - a tap of the ball of the front foot on the piste. (1)
  • Arm - a forward movement followed by a retreat of the weapon bearing arm before hitting or launching a thrust.  For example, "to arm a thrust." (14)
  • Arret - an offensive response to an attack executed without a parry. (1)
  • Assault - a fundamental fencing combat in which two fencers fence by opposing their technique, judgement, and temperament without a score being kept.  It may be a free assault or an assault in subject. (1)(14)
  • Assembly - a position of the fencer after having straightened the arms, the legs, and joined the feet, either forward or backwards. (14)
  • Attack - an initial offensive action executed by extending the weapon arm, continually threatening the opponent's valid target, and moving forward with a progressive footwork movement. (1)(14)
  • Attack on the Blade - actions executed on the opponent's blade including the beat, expulsion, and pressure.(14)  Alternate Definition - offensive actions made against the opponent's weapon to remove or control it. Two types: attague-au-fer (beat, expulsion, or pressure) and prise-de-fer (bind, cross, envelopment, opposition). (1)
  • Attack on the Preparation - executing an attack while the opponent is still preparing his or her attack. (1)
  • Attaque-au-Fer - an attack on the blade (beat, expulsion, pressure).  The blade is not held or moved and held all the way to the target. (1)
  • Avertissement - a formal warning by the referee to a competitor that a rule infraction has occurred and that penalties may be applied. (1)

Terms starting with the letter B:

  • Back Cutting Edge - the edge of the sabre blade opposite the cutting edge.  Also termed the counter-cutting edge. (14)
  • Balestra - a forward bound with both feet, landing together, followed by a lunge. (1)(14)
  • Barrage - a fence-off between two or more fencers or teams. (1)
  • Beat - a type of attack on the blade executed with a sharp tap on the middle or upper part of the opponent's blade. (1)(14)
  • Belly - the lower inside part of the sabre target. (14)
  • Belly Cut - a cutting action made by drawing the blade horizontally across the abdomen of a sam ehanded opponent from his or her inside to outside line. (1)
  • Bout - combat between two fencers where the score counts.  (1)(14)

Terms starting with the letter C:

  • Ceding Parry - parry against a taking of the blade consisting of a turning aside against the opposing blade and maintaining constant contact while carrying it along  in a line other than the one in which the attack was intended to finish. (14)
  • Challenge - an event endowed with a trophy which is held over several years. (14) 
  • Circular - parries termed counter parries, named in the line in which they are executed. (14)
  • Championship - a competition held to determine the best fencer or the best team at each weapon for a group, for a specific region or country, and for a specific period of time. (14)
  • Competition - the aggregate of the bouts (individual competitions) or of the matches (team competitions) required to determine the winner of the event. (14)
  • Compound Attack - attack which includes one or more feints. (14)
  • Compound Parry - a succession of parries against a compound offensive action. (14)
  • Continuation - an imprecise term for a prolonged offensive action. (14)
  • Conversion of the Weapon Hand - action of turning the hand passing from pronation to supination or vide versa. (14)
  • Corner Judge - in Foil an assistant to the referee responsible for the correct use of the rear hand and arm. (14)
  • Corps a Corps - a situation in which the two fencers are in bodily contact. (14)
  • Counterattack - a simple or compound counteroffensive action on an opponent's attack. (14) 
  • Counter-Cutting Edge - see back cutting edge. (14)
  • Counterdisengagement - a derobement from a change of engagement of the opponent by disengagement or evasion from a circular parry by disengagement. (14)
  • Counteroffensive - the ensemble of actions carried out on the opponent's offensive. (14)
  • Counter Parry - a circular movement as a parry, named in the line in which they are executed. (14)
  • Counterriposte - a simple, compound, immediate blade taking, or temps perdu riposte after having parried the opponent's riposte. (14)
  • Countertime - a procedure consisting of parrying an opponent's counter-attack and then taking the offensive. (14)
  • Covered - to protect oneself from the point or cutting edge of the opponent's weapon with the aid of the blade or the guard or displacement of the hand and forearm. (14)
  • Criterion - Event organized by a state (province, department, etc.), region or national federation which does not award the title of champion. (14)
  • Crossover - a taking of the blade in the high line to bring it down to the low line on the same side or vice-versa. (14)
  • Cut-over - a simple offensive action from high line to high line passing over and in front of the opponent's point.  In the low line the blade passes below and in front of the opponent's point. (14)
  • Cutting Edge - the fine part of the sabre blade opposite to the back and the upper edge. (14)

Terms starting with the letter D:

  • Defensive - the ensemble of actions designed to defeat the opponent's offensive action; it includes parries, ducking, and retreating. (14)
  • Demi-cercle - see semi-circular parry. (14)
  • Derobement - an offensive or counteroffensive action consisting of withdrawing the weapon from the hold of the opponent caused by taking of the blade or attack on the blade. (14)
  • Development - the extension of the weapon arm followed by the lunge. (14)
  • Diagonal Parry - a type of semi-circular parry taken from a high line to the opposite low line or vice-versa. (14)
  • Direct Elimination - competition format in which fencers are eliminated after one defeat and the winner goes on to the next round. (14)
  • Direct Parry - a parry executed without an impact on the opponent's blade while maintaining contact with it. (14)
  • Direct Simple Attack - a simple attack carried out in the same line of attack (a straight thrust or cut). (14)
  • Disarming - bringing down or knocking up the opponent's weapon by a strong parry or attack on the blade. (14)
  • Disengagement - a simple offensive action in which the blade leaves the line in which it is in to attack another line. In the highline the disengagement is made under the opponent's blade, in the low line over it. (14)
  • Double Engagement - a succession of two engagement or of two changes of engagement. (14)
  • Double Hit - occurs when two fencers hit each other at the same time. (14)
  • Ducking - method of avoiding the opponent's point by a rapid displacement of the body. (14)

Terms starting with the letter E:

  • Engagement - situation of two blades in contact. (14)
  • Envelopment - taking of the blade by taking control of the opponent's blade in one line and returning it to that line with a circular movement of the weapon point. (14)
  • Evasion - to elude the opponent's blade. (14)

Terms starting with the letter F:

  • Face - in sabre the target on each side of the mask, termed theright face or left face. (14)
  • Feint - a semblance of an action intended to take advantage of a reaction or lack of reaction of the opponent. (14)
  • Fencea referee's command to the fencers to start fencing. (1)
  • Fencing Phrase - an uninterrupted exchange of blade actions, ending wither with a hit or the fencer's breaking off the exchange. (14)
  • Fencing Position - place where the fencer's hand can be positioned in the four lines.  In foil and epee there are eight positions, divided into supination (Quarte, Sixte, Septime, Octiave) and pronation (prime, seconde, tierce, quinte).  Positions give their names to the parries. (14) 
  • Flank - the target situated beneath the weapon arm of the fencer. (14)
  • Fleche - an offensive progression in which the fencer extends the arm, throws his or her body out of balance in a forward action with an alternative power stroke of the legs, leading to passing forward in a run. (14)

Terms starting with the letter G:

  • Glance - an attack on the blade executed by sliding toward the strongest part of the blade with prolonged pressure applied abruptly and powerfully. (14)
  • Ground Judge - in Epee an assistant to the referee responsible for determining whether the hit of the weapon is valid on the target or not valid on the strip. (14)
  • Guard - the best position in which to initiate offensive, defensive, or counteroffensive techniques and the point directed at the target. (14) 

Terms starting with the letter H:

  • Head - the part of the target made up of the top of the mask. (14)
  • Hit - to reach the opponent with the point or the cutting edge of the weapon. (14)

Terms starting with the letter I:

  • Indirect Simple Attack - a simple attack carried out from one line of attack to another or over or under the opposing blade. (14)
  • Inquartata - ducking accomplished by turning the body sideways and counterattacking in the line of fourth. (14)

Terms starting with the letter J:

  • Judgment of the Hit - the decision of the referee as to the priority, the validity, or the annulment of the attack. (14)
  • Jump Lunge - a balestra. (1)

Terms starting with the letter L:

  • Liement - taking of the blade to bring it progressively from a high to a low line or vice versa. (14)
  • Line - the portion of the target considered in relation to the blade of the fencer, four in number, high and low, inside and outside. (14)
  • Lunge - the basic attack in which the fencer closes the distance with the opponent by moving the weapon leg forward while the back leg remains stationary and straightens out. (14)

Terms starting with the letter M:

  • Match - the aggregate of the bouts fenced between the fencers of two different teams. (14)
  • Measure - a determined dimension considered as normal or desirable.  See distance. (14)
  • Molinello - in sabre a rising crossing hit from the flank in the opposite banderolle. (14)

Terms starting with the letter N:

  • Non-valid Hit - a hit reaching the opponent outside the limits of the target. (14)

Terms starting with the letter O:

  • Octave - the position covering the outside low line with the hand in supination. (14)
  • Offensive - an ensemble of actions destined to hit the opponent. (14)
  • Opposition - a taking of the blade where one takes possession of the blade and controls it progressively in the same line until the end of the offensive action.

Terms starting with the letter P:

  • Parade des Coups de Pointe - a parry which turns aside the opponent's blade with the weapon. (14)
  • Parade des Coups de Tranchant - a parry which blocks the opponent's blade with the weapon. (14)
  • Parry - a defensive action which turns aside or blocks the opponents blade, as a parry du tac, a parry in opposition, or a ceding parry. (14)
  • Parry du Tac - a very rapid parry. (14)
  • Pass - to make a thrust to carry out the final part of an attack. (14)
  • Passing Backward - a movement by which a fencer increases the distance between himself or herself by putting the front foot behind the back foot. (14)
  • Passing Forward - a movement by which one advances on the opponent by putting the back foot in front of the front foot. (14)
  • Pool - a group of fencers where each fencer fences each of the other fencers. (14)
  • Preparation - movement of the blade, body, or legs which precedes the offensive, defensive, or counteroffensive situation the fencer intends to create. (14)
  • Pressure - an attack on the blade executed with a more or less rapid push on the opposing blade to push it aside or make it react. (14)
  • Pronation - the position of the hand when the palm is turned toward the ground. (14)

Terms starting with the letter R:

  • Rapprochement Assault - a situation of assault in which the two fencers are placed at a very short distance from each other without bodily contact. (14)
  • Redoubling - a second simple, compound or prepared on the blade offensive action executed with a lunge or a fleche after a return to guard.  Redoubling may be classified as a type of reprise. (14)
  • Remise - a second offensive action by replacing the point in the same line without drawing back the arm or taking an action on the opponent's blade.  The remise takes the name of the preceding offensive action. (14)
  • Reprise - a renewed attack as a second offensive action, simple, compound or prepared with a taking of the blade. (14)
  • Retreat - backwards replacement to move back from the opponent. (14)
  • Riposte - an offensive action after the parry, immediate or after lost time, simple or compound, with taking the blade, in a static position or coordinated with a displacement. (14)

Terms starting with the letter S:

  • Salute - a motion of courtesy that one makes at the start and at the end of a bout or a fencing lesson. (14)
  • Second Counterriposte - the hit carried out after parrying the opponent's counterriposte. (14)
  • Semi-Circular Parry - a type of circular parry. (14)
  • Semi-Counter - see semi-circular parry. (14)
  • Simple Attack - direct or indirect offensive action executed all at once and coordinated with the feint, the fleche, or a step forward. (14)
  • Simultaneous Attacks - attacks initiated at the same time by the two fencers. (14)
  • Slip Away - see derobement. (14)
  • Stand Still - a term used to designate the parry-riposte, counterripostes, or counterattacks executed without any displacement of the feet.  Incorrect Usage -  to qualify an attack effectuated by lunging.  (14)
  • Stepping Backwards - a backward motion of the rear foot followed by a backward displacement of the front foot. (14)
  • Straight Thrust - simple attack carried out directly in the line in which it began.  A direct attack. (14)
  • Streamer - target.  By extension, sabre edge attack carried out transversely to the high inside opposite the weapon arm, or a similar attack to the body. (14)
  • Stop Hit - simple counter-offensive action. (14)
  • Supination - position of the hand when the palm is turned upwards. (14)    

Terms starting with the letter T:

  • Tac-au-fer - an attack on the blade. (1)
  • Taking the Blade - action in which one takes possession of the opponent's blade while mastering it. (14)
  • Taking the Engagement - making contact with the opponent's blade. (14)
  • Temps Perdu - a loss of fencing time. (14)
  • Thrust - a hit carried out by the point of the weapon. (14)
  • Time - the variable duration of a simple offensive action. (14)
  • Time Feint - a compound stop with a derobement of the parry on a search for counter-time. (14)
  • Tournament - the aggregate of the individual and team competitions held at the same place in the same time period and under the sponsorship of the same organization. 

 Terms starting with the letter V:

  • Valid Hit - a hit to a part of the target. (14)

Terms starting with the letter W:

  • Warninga formal warning by the referee to a competitor that a rule infraction has occurred and that penalties may be applied. (1)
  • Weapon Arm - weapon bearing arm. (14)