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A sword is a a weapon, consisting in its most fundamental design of a blade and a handle. The blade is usually of some metal ground to at least one sharp edge and often has a pointed tip for thrusting. The handle, called the hilt, can be made of many materials, but the material most common is wood covered by leather, fish skin or metal wiring. The parts of a sword are remarkably consistant between cultures. The basic intent and physics of swordsmanship is fairly constant.

This kind of weapon has been in use from the Bronze Age when the construction of long metal blades was possible for the first time. Early swords were made of solid bronze or copper; these were hard, but quite brittle. Not until iron could be forged did the sword truly become an important weapon. Soon, smiths learned that with a proper amount of coal (specifically the carbon in coal) in the iron, another metal (alloy really) could be produced: steel.

Several different ways of swordmaking existed in ancient times. One of the most reputed is pattern welding. Over time new methods were developed all over the world.

In Pre-Columbian South America and Mesoamerica several cultures made use of types of swords without developing metallurgy; for example swords with obsidian blades mounted in wooden handles.

Having seen use for about five millennia, swords began to lose their military uses in the late 18th century because of increasing availability and reliability of gunpowder weapons. Swords were still used although increasingly limited to officers and ceremonial uniforms. Cavalry sabre charges still occurred as late as World War II during which Japanese and Pacific Islanders also occasionally used swords.

There are several hundred types of swords. Here is a list of but the most famous:

Rapier - a long fencing sword, designed for a piercing rather than a slashing action
Small-sword - a lighter version of the rapier.
Katana and Tachi - Japanese samurai swords - see also Wakizashi
Claymore - a heavy Scottish sword
Sabre - (saber) a sword with curved edge intended for slashing or chopping
Jian (劍 pinyin jian4) - a Chinese double-edged thin straight sword
Dao (刀 pinyin dao1) - a Chinese single-edged broad curved sword.
Gladius - a Roman legionaire's short sword

Several modern sports and martial arts have components based upon older principles of swordfighting. Among these are fencing, kendo, kenjutsu, escrima, aikido and some variants of kung fu.

Many swords in mythology, literature and history are named by their wielders or by the person who makes them.

King Arthur - Excalibur
Kusanagi (Grasscutter) - The Japanese equivalent to Excalibur
Roland - Durendal
Sword of Damocles
El Cid - Tizona
The Polish kings - Szczerbiec

A tool exists that resembles the sword and it is called a machete (or, in Southern Africa, a panga) and is used to cut through thick vegetation. Indeed, the difference between a machete and a sword is mainly that of utilization, and several types of swords in history resemble the machete in construction, such as for example the scramasax and the falchion.

While a rigid classification is not feasibile, the latter is usually referred to as a kind of chopping sword. The scramasax, usually lacking a cross-piece or any kind of guard, is more properly considered a war knife.

For a more comprehensive listing of swords types, see list of swords

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