Fencing terminology is largely based on old French, although definitions have varied both spatially and temporally. The list below refers to the definitions used in British fencing (or at the very least in our club!) and is drawn mainly from the fencing faqs, which are in turn mainly the FIE definitions.



Absence of blade: when the blades are not touching; opposite of engagement.


Advance: a movement forward by step, cross, or balestra.


Aids: the last three fingers of the sword hand.


Attack: the initial offensive action made by extending the sword arm and continuously threatening the valid target of the opponent.


Balestra: a forward hop or jump, typically followed by an attack such as a lunge or fleche.


Beat: an attempt to knock the opponent's blade aside or out of line by using one's foible or middle against the opponent's foible.


Bind: an action in which the opponent's blade is forced into the diagonally opposite line.


Black Card: used to indicate the most serious offences in a fencing competition. The offending fencer is usually expelled from the event or tournament.


Broken Time: a sudden change or hesitation in the tempo of one fencer's actions, used to fool the opponent into responding at the wrong time.


Change of Engagement: engagement of the opponent's blade in the opposite line.


Compound: an action executed in two or more movements; an attack or riposte incorporating one or more feints.


Counter-attack: an offensive action made against the right-of-way, or in response to the opponent's attack.


Counter-riposte: an attack that follows a parry of the opponent's riposte.


Corps-a-corps: lit. "body-to-body"; physical contact between the two fencers during a bout, illegal in foil and sabre.


Coule: also graze, glise', or glissade; an attack or feint that slides along the opponent's blade.


Croise: also semi-bind; an action in which the opponent's blade is forced into the high or low line on the same side.


Cross-over: an advance or retreat by crossing one leg over the other; also passe' avant (forward cross), passe' arriere (backwards cross).


Cut-over: an attack or deception that passes around the opponent's tip.


Defensive Action: an action made to avoid being touched; parry.


Derobement: deception of the attack au fer or prise de fer.


Direct: a simple attack or riposte that finishes in the same line in which it was formed, with no feints out of that line.


Disengage: a circular movement of the blade that deceives the opponent's parry, removes the blades from engagement, or changes the line of engagement.


Displacement (of target): moving the target to avoid an attack.


Double: an attack or riposte that describes a complete circle around the opponent's blade, and finishes in the opposite line.


Engagement: when the blades are in contact with each other, eg. during a parry, attack au fer, prise de fer, or coule'.


Envelopment: an engagement that sweeps the opponent's blade through a full circle.


Feint: an attack into one line with the intention of switching to another line before the attack is completed.


Fencing Time: also temps d'escrime; the time required to complete a single, simple fencing action.


Fleche: lit. "arrow"; an attack in which the aggressor leaps off his leading foot, attempts to make the hit, and then passes the opponent at a run.


Foible: the upper, weak part of the blade.


Forte: the lower, strong part of the blade.


French Grip: a traditional hilt with a slightly curved grip and a large pommel.


Froissement: an attack that displaces the opponent's blade by a strong grazing action.


Guard: the metal cup or bow that protects the hand from being hit. Also, the defensive position assumed when not attacking.


Hilt: the handle of a sword, consisting of guard, grip, and pommel.


In Line: point in line.


In Quartata: a counter-attack made with a quarter turn to the inside, concealing the front but exposing the back.


In Time: at least one fencing time before the opposing action, especially with regards to a stop-hit.


Indirect: a simple attack or riposte that finishes in the opposite line to which it was formed.


Invitation: a line that is intentionally left open to encourage the opponent to attack.


Italian Grip: a traditional hilt with finger rings and crossbar.


Judges: additional officials who assist the referee in detecting illegal or invalid actions, such as floor judges or hand judges.


Jury: the 4 officials who watch for hits in a dry fencing bout.


Lame: a metallic vest/jacket used to detect valid touches in foil and sabre.


Line: the main direction of an attack (eg., high/low, inside/outside), often equated to the parry that must be made to deflect the attack; also point in line.


Lunge: an attack made by extending the rear leg and landing on the bent front leg.


Mal-parry: also mal-pare'; a parry that fails to prevent the attack from landing.

Manipulators: the thumb and index finger of the sword hand.
Maraging: a special steel used for making blades; said to be stronger and break more cleanly than conventional steels.
Offensive Action: an action in which the fencer attempts to touch the opponent.
On Guard: also En Garde; the fencing position; the stance that fencers assume when preparing to fence.
Opposition: holding the opponent's blade in a non-threatening line; a time-hit; any attack or counter-attack with opposition.
Parry: a block of the attack, made with the forte of one's own blade.
Passata-sotto: a lunge made by dropping one hand to the floor.
Passe: an attack that passes the target without hitting.
Phrase: a set of related actions and reactions in a fencing conversation.

Piste: the linear strip on which a fencing bout is fought.

Preparation: a non-threatening action intended to create the opening for an attack; the initial phase of an attack, before right-of-way is established.
Presentation: offering one's blade for engagement by the opponent.
Press: an attempt to push the opponent's blade aside or out of line; depending on the opponent's response, the press is followed by a direct or indirect attack.
Priority: right-of-way; in sabre, the now-superceded rules that decide which fencer will be awarded the touch in the event that they both attack simultaneously.
Prise de Fer: also taking the blade; an engagement of the blades that forces the opponent's weapon into a new line. See: bind, croise, envelopment, opposition.

Red Card: used to indicate repeated minor rule infractions or a major rule infraction by one of the fencers; results in a point being given to the other fencer.

Redoublement: a new action that follows an attack that missed or was parried; renewal of a failed attack in a different line.
Remise: immediate replacement of an attack that missed or was parried, without withdrawing the arm.
Reprise: renewal of an attack that missed or was parried, after a return to en-garde.
Retreat: step back; opposite of advance.
Right-of-way: rules for awarding the point in the event of a double touch in foil or sabre.
Riposte: an offensive action made immediately after a parry of the opponent's attack.
Salle: a fencing hall or club.
Salute: with the weapon, a customary acknowledgement of one's opponent and referee at the start and end of the bout.
Second Intention: a false action used to draw a response from the opponent, which will open the opportunity for the intended action that follows, typically a counter-riposte.

Simple: executed in one movement; an attack or riposte that involves nofeints.

Simultaneous: in foil and sabre, two attacks for which the right-of-way is too close to determine.

Stop Hit: a counter-attack that hits; also a counter-attack whose touch is valid by virtue of it's timing.

Stop Cut: a stop-hit with the edge in sabre, typically to the cuff.
Thrust: an attack made by moving the sword parallel to its length and landing with the point.
Yellow Card: also advertissement, warning; used to indicate a minor rule infraction by one of the fencers.


Foot & Blade work
About Fencing
About the Club