Armour Glossary

A
Ailette
A flat plate of leather or parchment which tied to the point of the shoulder. Worn between 1250-1350 to display the owner’s coat of arms.

Aketon
A padded and quilted garment, usually of linen, worn under or instead of plate or mail.

Almain Rivet
A munition-grade half-armour imported from Germany in the early 16th Century.

Anime
Splinted armour of overlapped horizontal plates for the torso.

Armet
Originating in the fifteenth century, a helmet of Italian origin consisting a skull, two hinged cheek pieces which lock at the front, and a visor.

Arming doublet
Quilted garment worn under armour from the early fifteenth century, equipped with points to attach mail gussets and pieces of armour. See also arming points.

Arming points
Ties (usually of flax or twine) by which armour was secured in place to the arming doublet. See also arming doublet.

Aventail
A curtain of mail attached by means of vervelles around the base of a helmet (typically the bascinet), protecting the neck and covering the shoulders. See also bascinet, vervelles.

B
Back Plate
Piece of plate armour protecting the back half of the torso.

Banded Maille
A largely discounted Victorian concept of maille with leather “bands” woven through it. The origin of the term seems to stem from misinterpretations of artistic shortcuts in representing maille armour in illustrations and effigies. See also maille.

Barbote
A high bevor with a falling lame containing eyeslits; used in Spain. See also bevor.

Barbute
Also called barbut, barbuta. An open-faced, usually shoulder-length Italian helmet, made in one piece, with a T-shaped face opening. Barbuta is the Italian term. A

Bard
A full horse armour, which could include a crinet, crupper, flanchard, peytral, shaffron.

Bascinet, Basinet
An open-faced helmet with a globular or conical skull enclosing the sides of the face and neck. Usually worn with and aventail, and occasionally a visor. See also aventail, hunskull, visor.

Bellows Visor
A modern term for a visor with horizontal ridges, such as on ‘Maximilian’ German fluted armours of the early sixteenth century.

Besagew
Defensive circular plate suspended over the wearer’s armpit.

Bevor
Also called bavier or buffe. A chin-shaped defense for the lower face, incorporating a gorget plate. The buffe was an early sixteenth century variant, worn strapped to an open-faced helmet such as the burgonet.

Birnie
Also called byrnie. A mail shirt. See also hauberk.

Bishop’s Mantle
Modern term for the cape of mail worn (largely in Germany) in the early sixteenth century.

Blueing
An oxidized blue surface on plate armour, produced through heat treatment.

Bouche
The notch cut in the top (dexter) corner of a shield, to rest the lance when jousting.

Bracer
Early fourteenth century form of defence for the lower arm; also a term for an archer’s arm guard to protect the forearm from the bowstring.

Breast Plate
Piece of armour that protects the front of the torso.

Breaths
Holes or slits in the visor of a helmet or the lames of a falling buff or bevor, for ventilation; also usually permitting a degree of extra vision.

Brigandine
A flexible body defence consisting of a large number of metal plates riveted inside a cloth covering.

Buckler
Small round shield carried by infantry.

Buffe
see bevor and falling buffe.

Burgonet
A light, open-faced helmet popular in the sixteenth century as an alternative to the close-helmet for light cavalry. It was usually furnished with a peak over the brow, a combed skull, and hinged ear pieces. The face opening could be closed with the addition of a falling buffe.

Byrnie
see birnie.

C
Cabacete
A type of Spanish war hat (popular thoughout fifteenth century Europe) with a turned-down brim and an almond-shaped skull ending in a stalk. See also morion.

Cabasset
see also morion.

Camail
see aventail.

Cannon
Individual plate armour defence, of tubular form, for the upper and lower arm. See also vambrace and rerebrace.

Case-hardening
A method (described in the twelth century treatise ‘De Diversis Atibus’ by Theophilus the Monk) for surface hardening wrought iron(or low carbon steel) by packing it in charcoal or other organic material and heating it for hours above 900 degrees Celsius.

Casque, casquetal
A light open helmet; usually late fifteeth to mid-sixteenth century helmets of ‘antique’ form, such as Italian parade ‘casques’ of the mid-sixteenth century, embossed with grotesques or fashioned in the classical style. These were often similiar in shape to the burgonet.

Celata
Open-faced Italian sallet, common in the fifteenth century.

Cervelliere
Steel skull cap, typically worn under a great helm.

Chapel de Fer
Also called a kettle hat. A simple open-faced helmet with a wide brim.

Chainmail
Erroneous Victorian era term for maille armour. See also Maille.

Charnel
The hinged staple or bolt that secured the fourteenth century helm or great basinet to the breast and backplate.

Chausses
Mail protection for the legs, either in the form of mail hose or strips of mail laced round the front of the leg.

Close-helmet
Helmet which, with a full visor and bevor, completely encloses the head and face; modern use of the term tends to refer not to helmets with hinged cheek-pieces opening at the front (the armet) but visored helmets pivoting open on bolts or rivets each side of the skull. Contemporary usage, however, makes no such distinction.

Coat armour
A quilted garment worn over armour in the fourteenth century.

Coat of fence
Also called fence, jack, or brigandine. A doublet or tunic lined with small metal plates or, more rarely, just padded with stuffing of tow. See also brigandine and jack.

Coat of plates
Also called a pair of plates or simply plates. A cloth garment with a number of large plates riveted inside, worn in the fourteenth century.

Cod-piece
Fabric covering for the groin, latterly padded. Its counter part in armour could be either mail or, more usually, plate.

Coif
A hood, usually of mail; by the twelfth century it often incorporated a ventail which could be pulled across the lower part of the face.

Collar
see gorget.

Comb
The keel-shaped ridge, often very pronounced, that passes from front to back of a helmet over the skull, conferring extra strength and rigidity and contributing to its glancing surfaces. In the mid-sixteenth century, the combs of morion helmets were raised and enloarged to an excessive height for ‘fashionable’ reasons.

Corslet
Also spelled corselet. A light half-armour popular in the sixteenth century for general military use (for example, town guards). It consisted of a gorget, breast, back and tassets, full arms and gauntlets; the term can also be applied to the cuirass only.

Couter
Also spelled cowter. Plate defence for the elbow.

Crinet
Defence for a horse’s neck. See also bard, crupper, flanchard, peytral, shaffron.

Crupper
Defence for a horse’s rump. See also bard, crinet, flanchard, peytral, shaffron.

Crest
A heraldric recognitive device fixed to the top of the great helm, introduced in the second half of the thirteenth and in wide use by the fourteenth century.

Cuirass
Also called pair of curates. A backplate and breastplate designed to be worn together.

Cuir Bouilli
Leather hardened by immersion in boiled water or wax, and then dried over a form. Earlier armours meant to supplement maille defenses were made of such leather and the medium was a popular one for tooling and embossing.

Cuirie
A 13th Century torso defense, originally made of leather.

Cuisses, Cuishes
Armour for the thighs.

Culet
A defense for the rump, comprised of overlapping lames.

D
Damascening
A metalworking process for the inlaying of decorative metals, such as gold and silver, into other metallic surfaces.

E
Elbow Gauntlet
A gauntlet whose cuff reaches the elbow, obviating both vambrace and couter.

Espalier
See Spaulder.

Etching
A metalworking process for applied for decorative purposes to the surface of armour plates. Often used in conjunction with blueing, gilding, etc.

Exchange Pieces
Supplementary armour pieces which could be added to, or exchanged with, those comprising a harness in order to customize said harness for particular applications, ie. jousting, fighting at the barrier, etc.

F
Falling Buffe
16th Century armour for the throat and lower face. It evolved from the bevor and was comprised of several lames, retained in place by spring catchs, which could be lowered for better ventilation and vision.

Fan Plate
Projection from an elbow or knee cop designed to prevent a blow from wrapping around and landing in the joint.

Fauld
Armour, usually composed of horizontal lames, attached to the bottom edge of a breastplate to protect the abdomen.

Flanchard
A plate attaching to the base of a saddle, protecting the flanks of a horse. This closed the gap between the crupper and the peytral. See also bard, crinet, crupper, peytral, shaffron.

G
Gadlings
Protruding studs, sometimes of zoomorphic form, on the finger and knuckle joints of a gauntlet. Particulary popular late in the 14th Century on fingered gauntlets.

Gambeson
A quilted doublet of cloth, stuffed with tow, wool, or other materials. They appear to have been worn over maille armours, under them, and instead of them at times. There is confusion and ongoing debate over the exact meanings of this word and the related term aketon.

Gamboised Cuisses
Padded, quilted thigh defenses of the late 13th and early 14th Centuries.

Gardbrace
Reinforcing plate shaped to fit over and augment the pauldron on Italian 15th Century armours. These were attached to the pauldron by means of a staple and pin.

Garniture
A complete plate armour that also features many exchange pieces; 16th Century.

Gauntlet
Armour for the hand, initially of maille, later a plate defense.

Gilding
Plating with a thin layer of gold.

Gorget
Piece of armour protecting the throat. May be a simple collar or a more elaborate design composed of several pieces.

Gothic
German armour of the late 15th Century, characterized by a slim angular line, cusping, fluting, and fan-shaped designs.

Grand Guard
A reinforcing piece of armour, attached to the left side of the breastplate and covering the left shoulder, upper arm, left side of the breastplate, and left side of the visor. Designed for use in the tilt.

Great Helm
See Helm.

Greave
Also called earlier a jamber or schynbald. A defense for the lower leg, originally only defending the shin, but later including a hinged ‘door’ to defend the calf.

Greenwich armour
English armour produced at the royal workshops established by Henry VIII in the early 16th Century.

Guard chains
Chains which affixed the sword, dagger, and helm to the breastplate, to prevent them from being lost in battle. These seem to be popular only in the 14th Century.

Guige
Strap attached to the back side of a shield by which it could be slung about the bearer’s neck.

Gusset
A 15th Century piece of maille, sewn or pointed to the arming doublet, used to cover the armpit and portions of the arm left exposed by the plate armour. Also, a 16th Century laminated defense for the armpit of a breastplate.

H
Harness
A suit of armour.

Haubergeon
A short type of hauberk. The terms are often used indiscriminately.

Hauberk
A mail shirt reaching to somewhere between the knee and hip and including sleeves. Sometimes , the term refers to similarly shaped garments made with scale.

Haute-piece
Upstanding neck guard attached to the pauldron.

Heater shield
A form of knightly shield which appeared in the 13th Century, shaped like the bottom of a flat iron.

Heaume
See helm.

Helm, Great Helm
An all-enveloping helmet which enclosed the entire head and face, reaching almost to the shoulders. Originally cylindrical in form. Arising in the early 13th Century, by the late 14th it was primarly restricted to the joust.

Hunskull
An English corruption of the German hundsgugel (dog head), a nickname for a pointed visor found on bascinets of the late 14th and early 15th Centuries.

I
Inlay
See Damascening.

J
Jack
A defensive jacket or doublet either of linen stuffed with tow, or lined with small metal plates.

Jamb
Also called jamber, jambart, or jambiere. An early medieval term for leg armour (schynbald). See also greave.

Jupon
A padded garment worn over the armour, fitted in the torso, c.1350-1410. Alternately, a tightly fitted and usually sleeveless garment worn over the armour and displaying the wearer’s arms.

K
Kastenbrust
A modern term describing a type of angular breastplate popular in Germany between 1420 and 1450.

Kettle hat
An open-faced helmet consisting of a bowl and a broad brim, resembling the British ‘tin hats’ of World War I. Also called a ‘Chapel de Fer’.

Kite-shaped shield
A large, elongated triangular shield with a rounded top used throughout Europe from the 10th to the 13th Century. It is commonly associated with the Normans.

Klappvisier
A modern term for a globular visor worn in Germany in the 14th Century on bascinets. It was hinged at the front of the skull of the helmet and covered only the area unprotected by the aventail.

L
Lame
A narrow strip or plate of steel, sometimes used in armour to provide articulation.

Lamellar armour
Armour consisting of small plates laced together to give a rigid defense. Of Near Eastern origin, it was used throughout the Middle Ages in Eastern Europe, but was not common in the West.

Lance rest
A support for the lance when couched; it was bolted to the right side of the breastplate and was often hinged.

Latten
Copper alloy of varying formulation. Modern brass and bronze would be considered latten in the Middle Ages. Latten was often used in the decoration of arms and armour.

M
Mail, Maille
A flexible defense of interlinked and riveted rings of metal; its origin appears to be Celtic. In most European cases, each link passes through four others and the garment is shaped through the addition or subtraction of rings in appropriate places.

Manifer
A plate defense for the lower part of the left arm and hand, usually constructed in one piece and designed for the joust.

‘Maximillian’ armour
A modern term applied to a style of early 16th Century armour characterized by narrow, parallel fluting. It was popular during the reign of Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian I (1494-1519) and until the middle of the century.

Mitten gauntlet
A gauntlet with articulated transverse lames covering the fingers, rather than the fingers each being separately protected by a series of articulated plates.

Morion
A 16th Century development of the kettle hat, widely used by infantry and consisting of a skull with a broad brim, flat or turned down at the sides, but which sweeps upward into a peak at the front and rear. There are two main types: the so-called Spanish Morion, or Cabasset, which has an almond-shaped skull ending with a stalk-like projection, clearly derived from the Cabacete, and the Comb Morion, which has a high central comb along the apex of the skull. Hated above all other helmets by Arador’s webmaster.

Muffler
A mitten-like extension to the sleeve of a hauberk with a hole at the wrist that allowed the wearer to remove his hand.

‘Munition armour’
Mass-produced, cheaply made armour for the common soldiery, produced in very large quantities at the beginning of the 16th Century. See also Almain rivet.

Munnions
Articulated lames, often attached to the gorget, protecting the shoulders and upper arms.

N
Nasal
Plate defense on early medieval helmets, often riveted to the bottom of the skull to cover the nose and middle of the face.

Niello
A decorative black inlay used to best effect on a surface of silver or gold. A compound of sulphur combined with silver, lead, and a small quantity of copper, it is fixed in place by heat.

O
Occularium
The eyeslits in a helmet.

P
Pair of plates
See Coat of plates.

Pasguard
A plate reinforcement for the left elbow of armour for the joust.

Pauldron
Piece of armour covering the shoulder. Usually large, covering the upper 1/3 of the torso.

Pavise
Large, usually rectangular shield carried by infantrymen and frequently used in siege work to protect archers and crossbowmen. The largest were equipped with a prop to support them.

Peytral
Horse armour designed to protect the horse’s chest. See also bard, crinet, crupper, flanchard, shaffron.

Pieces of Exchange
See Exchange pieces.

Pigface
An erroneous modern term for referring to the visor on a hunskull visored bascinet. See also hunskull, bascinet.

Plackart
A plate reinforcement attached to the breastplate, which at first covered the lower half but latterly, especially on Italian armours, covered nearly the entire breastplate.

Plate armour
Armour made of rigid iron or steel plates.

Platemail
An erroneous Victorian era term for referring to plate armour or plate and maille hybrids. See also plate armour, maille.

Plates
See Coat of plates.

Points
See Arming points.

Poldermitton
Reinforcement for the right arm on jousting armour.

Poleyn
A cup-shaped plate defense for the knee, usually equipped with a side wing of heart shape.

Pomme
A spherical decoration for a helmet, often gilded and worn instead of a crest in the 15th Century.

Pot
General term for a simple, common soldier’s helmet (usually of morion type, such as the ‘pikeman’s pot’).

Proof
Armour ‘of proof’ is made sufficiently thick or hard to resist a shot from bow or musket. The term first occurs in the texts of early medieval romances.

‘Puffed and slashed’ armour
Embossed armour, often etched and gilt, resembling a style of dress popular in early 16th Century Germany; where ‘puffs’ of colored material were pulled through ‘slashes’ in the sleeves or body of the garment.

Q
Queue
A shaped iron bar bolted to early 16th Century jousting armours to hold down and steady the rear of the lance, enabling it to be levelled and aimed more easily.

R
Rennhut
A heavy, one-piece sallet designed for the Rennen, a type of German joust fought with sharp lances.

Renntartsche
A large shield of wood and leather reinforced with metal, covering the whole of the wearer’s body and bevor. It screwed to the breastplate and bevor. Designed for the German Rennen.

Rerebrace
Piece of armour covering the upper arm from the elbow to the shoulder.

Rennzeug
Armour designed for the Rennen.

Rump guard
An oblong plate hung from the lower edge of the culet on 15th Century armours.

S
Sabaton
Piece of armour covering the foot. Sometimes called a solleret.

Saddle steel
Protective steel plates for the front (bow) and back (cantle) of a war or joust saddle.

Sallet
A light helmet either fitted with a visor or open-faced, varying in form, having a tail to protect the neck. Known in England as a salade.

Scale armour
Armour made of small, overlapping scales or plates sewn or laced to a cloth garment.

Scalemail
An erroneous Victorian era term for scale armour. See also scale armour.

Schynbalds
A plate defense for the lower leg which protected only the shin and was strapped over the chausses. See Greave.

Shaffron
Also called a chaffron, chanfron. Defense for a horse’s head. Forms covering only the upper part of the head became popular in the mid-16th Century (demi-shaffron). See also bard, crinet, crupper, flanchard, peytral.

Sight
The vision slit in a helmet or visor. Also called occularium.

Skull
The part of a helmet covering the top, back, and sides of the head above the ears. It can also denote a simple metal cap.

Solleret
See Sabaton.

Spangenhelm
A modern term for conical helmets constructed of a number of segments riveted together; descended from Late Roman prototypes.

‘Spanish morion’
See Cabasset and morion.

Spaulder
Piece of armour covering the shoulder joint. Not as large as a pauldron.

Splint
Light arm defenses used in the 15th and 16th Centuries, gutter-shaped and intended to protect only the outside of the arm, they were often found on cheap armours intended for infantry use and on certain types of German armour. See also Almain rivet.

Standard
A maille collar common in the 15th Century.

Stechhelm
A ‘frog-mouthed’ form of great helm, worn for the Gestech (a type of German tournament), bolted to the breastplate.

Stechsack
A thickly padded bumper for the horse’s chest, hung round its neck to protect the rider’s legs, worn for the German Gestech.

Stechtartsche
A small rectangular wooden shield for the Gestech, suspended by cords from the breastplate.

Stechzeug
Armour designed for the Gestech.

Stop rib
Small metal bar riveted to plate armour to stop the point of a weapon sliding into a joint or opening.

Surcoat
Flowing garment worn over armour form the 12th Century. Sometimes sleeved, sometimes sleeveless, it usually reached to mid-calf. Later, it was shortened and in the 14th Century developed into the jupon.

T
Tabard
Short, open-sided garment with short sleeves used to display the wearer’s arms. Often worn by heralds.

Target
A small circular shield.

Tasset
A defense for the top of the thigh, hung from the fauld by straps to cover the gap between cuisses and breastplate. They first appear in the 15th Century.

Tilting socket
Large plate reinforcing cuisses which provided protection for the thighs and knees and hung from either side of the saddle. Also called a gard-cuisse.

Tonlet
Also called a base. A deep, hooped skirt of steel worn on foot combat armours in the late 15th and early 16th Centuries.

Trapper
An all-enveloping textile cover for a horse, reaching to the fetlocks and leaving only the eyes, ears, and nose uncovered. It often displayed the rider’s arms.

Turning-joint
An enclosed circular joint above the elbow, enabling the arm to twist. A flange on the rim of the upper cannon of the vambrace rotates inside an embossed groove along the lower edge of the rerebrace.

U
Umbo
A shield boss, usually in the centre of a shield, covering and protecting the hand as it holds the grip.

V
Vambrace
Piece of armour covering the lower arm from the wrist to the elbow.

Ventail
An integral flap of maille attached to the coif in the 13th Century; it could be drawn across the mouth to protect the lower face.

Vervelles
Staples attached to the base of a bascinet for the attachment of an aventail. See also bascinet, aventail.

Visor
Protection for the eyes and face; a plate defense pivoted to a helmet’s skull.

W
White armour
A modern term for a plate armour of plain, polished steel.

Wrapper
A reinforcing piece for an armet or other helmet which was strapped about the helmet and protected the lower half of the face.

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