It might be common knowledge that words like “en garde”, or touché are associated with fencing. But not everyone knows what they mean.
A lot of the terms and phrases used in fencing are in the French language. Since French swordsmen played a key role in the development of swordplay into a sport, we use a lot of their terms in fencing today.
Some common terms and phrases include: En Garde, touché, lamé, parry, salute, riposte, and piste. Which are all defined in our glossary!
Fencing terms to a lot of people, are like a foreign language. Other than the fact that most of it is in French, the lingo can still be hard to learn.
Don’t worry, in no time you’ll get used to them and be sounding like a pro. In the meantime, we’ve compiled common terms and phrases used by fencers, and their definitions.
Table of Contents
General Fencing Terms
Aller: The French word for “go”. Once both players are prepared, the director will say aller to start the bout.
Bout: A round in fencing, starts when the director says “aller”, and ends when the director says “halt”.
Director: Also known as the referee, watches the match closely in order to enforce the rules, give points, and arbitrate on matters of the match.
En Garde Lines: Two lines placed two meters away from the center of the piste on both sides, where each player starts the match from.
Pret: The French word for “ready”. Spoken by the director before starting the match to ensure both fencers are ready
Piste: The designated playing field for a fencing bout. Usually fourteen meters long and two meters wide.
Strip: A.k.a piste, the strip is the designated playing field for a fencing bout. Usually fourteen meters long and two meters wide.
Salute: An action of respect where each player bows their head and tilts their sword up to their opponent, before and after a match.
Tableau: A table or chart designating which fencers will go up against each other.
Advance: To take a step, or steps forward.
Attack: An offensive motion made by pointing or swinging one’s swords with the intention of touching their opponent.
Appell: To tap the ground with one’s back or front foot, to feint movement.
Beat: Striking an opponent’s blade, used to disrupt movement, or prepare to attack.
Ballestra: A short and rapid jump forward to prepare for an attack.
Disengage: Aka circle parry. A parry made by rotating one’s sword in a circular motion.
Lunge: A large, rapid, step forward toward an opponent, usually accompanied with an attack
En Garde: The stance taken by fencers when ready to fence, and while fencing. With one foot at a 90 degree angle, and the other facing forward, with the knees bent.
Feint: Faking an attack in hopes of causing an opponent to flinch or react
Flick: An attack made by a fast whipping motion which bends the sword into the opponent, causing a touch.
Parry: To deflect an opponent’s attack, usually hitting the end of their sword with the beginning of one’s own sword.
Point in Line: A threat made by pointing one’s blade towards their opponent before any movement, gaining the right of way.
Passé: An attack where one’s sword passes by the target without touching it.
Phrase: A sequence of movements.
Recover: To take a step back into en garde position after a lunge or attack.
Retreat: To take a step or steps back.
Riposte: To attack directly after parrying.
Remise: An attack made directly after a failed attack.
Touché: French word for “touch”. A landed attack on an opponent’s target area.
Black Card: A card given to a fencer or spectator for serious or multiple offenses. This card means expulsion or permanent banning from a tournament or tournaments.
Double Touch: In epee, when both fencers land a touch at the same time.
Corps à Corps: When both fencers make body contact during a bout.
Priority Minute: The sudden death round at the end of a match, when one fencer is chosen to be given the right of way.
Right of Way: When a fencer is fencing with the intent of landing an attack. Helps determine scoring.
Red Card: A card given to a player for moderate offenses, receiving this card grants the opposing fencer a point.
Warning: A punishment for lighter offenses. Two warnings will grant you a yellow card.
Warning Line: A line near the end of each sides of the piste, indicating that there is 2 meters of space on the piste left.
Yellow Card: A card given to a fencer after violating the rules twice. Two yellow cards will grant you a red card.
Body Chord: A chord running through a fencer’s lamé to attack to their sword, during electric fencing.
Glove: A glove used on a fencer’s sword hand to protect their hand from attacks.
Lamé: The white jacket required to be worn by a fencer.
Knickers: The white pants required to be worn by a fencer.
Épée: A french fencing weapon with a bell guard, épée (or epee) fencing comes with its own set of rules..
Foil: A french sword with a smaller bell guard, foil fencing comes with its own rules set as well.
French Grip: A classic handle for one’s sword, attached on a slight slant to the balde.
Pistol Grip: A curved and more preferred handle for one’s sword, shaped like a pistol.
Pommel: The attaching piece from a sword handle to the blade.
Saber: The newest sword and style of fencing,
Mask: A protective mesh-wire mask all fencers must wear.
Wire: Wires are used to electrically register on target and off target hits during fencing.