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Sunday, October 15, 2006

Claymore - Medieval Swords, An Online Study

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For other uses, see Claymore (disambiguation).

A claymore that is a replica of one used in the film Highlander.
A claymore that is a replica of one used in the film Highlander.

Claymore is a term used to describe two distinct types of swords used by Scottish soldiers.


The name claymore is thought to be from claidheamh mòr—a Gaelic term meaning "big sword". However another theory suggests it comes from "claidheamh da lamh", literally two-hand sword. Claidheamh is ultimately cognate with Latin gladius.

Two-handed (Highland) Claymore

The two-handed claymore was a large sword used in the medieval period. It was used in the constant clan warfare and border fights with the English from circa 1300 to 1700. The last known battle in which it is considered to have been used in a significant number is Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689. It was somewhat smaller than other two-handed swords of the era, and was widely feared because its lightness made it faster in combat than its European counterparts. It was also an effective disarming weapon because of the design of the cross-guard, which allowed for maneuvering the weapon in such a way that it would wrench an opponent's sword free. The two-handed claymore seems to be an offshoot of Early Scottish medieval swords which had developed a distinctive style of a cross-hilt with downsloping arms that ended in spatulate swellings. Claymores often had a ricasso to allow half-sword usage.

The average claymore ran about 55 inches (1.4 m) in overall length, with a 13 inch (33 cm) grip, 42 inch (1 m) blade and weighed approximately 5.5 lb (2.5 kg). Fairly uniform in style, the sword was set with a wheel pommel often capped by a crescent shaped nut and a guard with straight, down-sloping arms ending in quatrefoils and languets running down the center of the blade from the guard. Another common style of two handed claymore (though lesser known today) was the "clamshell hilted" claymore. It had a crossguard that consisted of two downward curving arms and two large, round, concave plates that protected the foregrip. It was so named because the round guards resembled an open clam.

Basket-hilted Claymore

The second, later, sword to be designated claymore was a much shorter, one-handed basket-hilted broadsword popular with Scottish troops from the 18th century onwards, even seeing combat on the beaches of Normandy during World War II. The basket was designed to protect the hand in combat. The Scottish basket-hilt sword is often distinguished from others by the velvet liner inside the basket (often in red), and also sometimes by additional decorative tassles on the hilt or pommel. This latter form of "claymore" (unrelated to the first) can be seen in some forms of highland traditional dance as well as on the dress uniforms of British Army regiments drawn from the region. A Claymore was carried in World War II by Lt. Col. Jack Churchill DSO, MC & BAR.

See also

* Broadsword
* Claymore mines

Retrieved from ""

Categories: European swords | Medieval weapons | Military of Scotland

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