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The traditional pirate sword is a cutlass. The weapon was used historically and is still in use today, although they are primarily considered decorative items. Antique cutlasses are often shown off in display cases or hung on the walls in museums.
They are also used for decorating houses with a maritime theme. Here on this page, you can learn more about the ever-popular cutlass. Cutlass is an English word derived from the French word coutelas. Coutelas was a word used in 16th century France to describe a blade resembling the modern machete.
The French word is actually derived from an Italian word for a large knife, which itself came from a Latin word for a small blade. So, that’s why people started calling these swords cutlasses.
Historically, the cutlass was the sailor’s weapon of choice for several reasons. The blade is heavy enough to cut through ropes, canvas or wood and do other things that are necessary aboard the sailing ships of the old days. Although larger than a pocket knife or other hand-held blade, the cutlass is small enough to be used in close quarters below deck or up in the rigging.
There were several advantages in combat as well. Less training is required to use the cutlass than finer, longer swords such as a rapier. The longer swords feature a smaller point, which requires a higher degree of accuracy. Swords like rapiers are also more flexible, making them more difficult to use effectively.
The cutlass could also be used as an agricultural tool, in the same way that a machete is used, to cut sugarcane or brush by hand. Thus, there were uses for the ship’s explorers when they went on land.Practically all pirates were sailors.
It makes sense that a cutlass would become a pirate sword. Many pirates were privateers, owners of sailing vessels who sold their services to any government’s navy during times of war. During times of peace, privateers often turned to piracy.
The act of piracy was not considered particularly bad, except by the owners of the ships that were ransacked by the pirates. The government of England and the English colonies often pardoned their peace-time actions if they offered their services to the crown.
The most common design has a relatively large handle with a guard to prevent the weapon-bearer’s hand from sliding up to and getting cut by the blade. In some designs, the guard was similar to a basket. The handles could be quite intricate in design.
Legends say that pirates of the Caribbean, also known as buccaneers, invented the cutlass.
Back as early as 1667, buccaneers attacking Spanish ships and coastal cities of the Caribbean were seen using cutlasses. We presume that the pirate sword was used as much for intimidation as for combat. It is said that seeing a pirate grip the hilt of his or her (there were a couple of female pirates) sword was enough to scare the crew into surrendering.
Cutlasses were used by members of the British Royal Navy and the weapon is still a part of their ceremonial uniforms. Until 1949, it was an official weapon of the U.S. Navy. Soldiers of the Army, Navy and Marines continued to carry the weapons into battle for many years, even though there was no formal training for the weapon’s use.
The weapon is also carried in ceremonies and is an optional part of the ceremonial uniforms of many branches of the armed forces. So, there’s a lot more to the pirate sword than you might have thought. Now you’re something of a cutlass expert.
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