The modern épée derives from the 19th century (itself a derivative of the French small-sword), and is the largest and heaviest of the three weapons used in sport fencing. Épée is French for "sword". As a thrusting weapon the épée is similar to a foil (compared to a sabre), but has a stiffer blade which is triangular in cross-section with a V-shaped groove called a fuller, has a larger bell guard, and is heavier. A foil is one of the three weapons used in the sport of fencing, all of which are metal. It is flexible, rectangular in cross section, and weighs under a pound. As with the épée, points are only scored by contact with the tip. Rapier is a loose term for a type of slender, sharply pointed sword. With such designing features, rapier is optimized to be a thrusting weapon, but cutting or slashing attacks were also recorded in some historical treatises. This weapon was mainly used in Early Modern Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries.The fencing sabre or saber differs from the other modern fencing weapons, the épée and foil, in that it is possible to score with the edge of the blade; for this reason, sabreur movements and attacks are very fast. For the other two weapons, valid touches are only scored using the point of the blade.
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The word "rapier" generally refers to a relatively long-bladed sword characterized by a protective hilt which is constructed to provide protection for the hand wielding the sword. Some historical rapier samples also feature a broad blade mounted on a typical rapier hilt. The term rapier can be confusing because this hybrid weapon can be categorized as a type of broadsword. While the rapier blade might be broad enough to cut to some degree (but nowhere near that of the wider swords in use around the Middle Ages such as the Longsword), it is designed to perform quick and nimble thrusting attacks. The blade might be sharpened along its entire length or sharpened only from the center to the tip. Pallavicini, a rapier master in 1670, strongly advocated using a weapon with two cutting edges. A typical example would weigh 1 kilogram (2.2 lb) and have a relatively long and slender blade of 2.5 centimetres (0.98 in) or less in width, 104 centimetres (41 in) or more in length and ending in a sharply pointed tip. The blade length of quite a few historical examples, particularly the Italian rapiers in the early 17th century, is well over 45 inches and can even reach 50 inches.
The word "rapier" is a German word to describe what was considered to be a foreign weapon. The word rapier was not used by Italian, Spanish, and French masters during the apogee of this weapon, the terms spada, espada and épée (orespée) being instead the norm (generic word for "sword"). Because of this, as well as the great variation of late-16th and 17th century swords, some simply describe the rapier as a straight-bladed, two-edged, single-handed sword of that period which is sufficient in terms of both offense and defense, not requiring a companion weapon. In order to avoid the confusion of lumping all swords together, some categorize such swords by their function and use. Largely, all over Europe the weapon changed based on culture and the fighting style that was prescribed; be it Italian, Spanish, or some other instruction on the weapon's use, so that lengths, widths, hilt designs and even the lack or placement of an edge or edges differed at the same time. One might wear a rapier with a swept hilt and edges on the same day as another might wear one with a cup hilt and an edgeless blade.