Medieval Terms
ailettes Stiff leather plates attached to the shoulders to ward off neck blows. 8
aketon A padded garment worn beneath mail armor of the 1300's.  Lighter version of a gambeson. 6
armet Close fitting helmet of the 1400's.  8, 11
arming doublet A padded garment worn beneath the armor - sometimes armor pieces were laced to it. 6
armor Well, duh.  Stuff made of leather, metal, cloth, laminate, wood, etc. to prevent injury in battle.  A suit of full chain mail or plate weighs about 50 lbs/23 kg. 
armor styles
3, 8
arrow loop A long, narrow slit in a castle wall to shoot arrows through while still being protected.  Usually splayed on the inside to form an embrasure. 5
aventail A small cape of mail attached to the bottom edge of the helmet to protect the neck. 8
axe A weapon with a flaring blade mounted on a wood handle and swung either one handed or two handed.  Popular with knights and men-at-arms.  Lots of different types.  Battle axes, throwing axes, short axes, etc. 6, 3, 8
bailey A yard, typically enclosed within the castle walls. 5
ballista Seige engine, basically a giant crossbow. 8
barbican The outer gate. 5
basinet, bascinet Helmet in the 14th century.  Basically a metal cap, sometimes coming to a point at the top of the head, with or without a visor.  An aventail was common. 6, 3, 8, 11
battering ram
battlement An indented parapet, made up of crenels and merlons.  (Crenellations.) 4, 5
blued armor Metal that has been heated for a decorative blue sheen. 6
barbute Helmet of the 15th century that resembles ancient Greek helmets.  Completely open in the front from the eyes down. 6, 11
barding (bard) Horse armor. 11
besague Circular armor piece to protect the armpit. 6
bevor (beaver) A piece of plate armor attached to the breastplate to cover the throat and chin.  Usually attached to the bottom of a helmet.  (Depicted with Gothic armor and sallet - 1400's.)
armor parts
8, 11
bit Linked metal piece or bar that goes in the horses' mouth to control it.  Curb bits were popular. 6
bolt A quarrel - ammunition for a crossbow. 5
brattice Wooden machinolations on a castle - a platform with holes in the floor to drop things on attackers. 8
armor parts
bridge A bascule bridge, or drawbridge, could be raised or lowered to gain entrance to the castle. 5
brigadine Body armor made of small, overlapping plates or strips of metal attached to cloth. 11
burgonet Open faced helmet. 6
buttress Structure that fortifies a castle wall. 6
byrnie A tunic of leather, often covered by small metal plates.  11
caltrops Nasty iron spikey things like tacks that were scattered over a battleground to lame horses and men.  They always landed with a point sticking upwards.  6
catapult A seige engine with a throwing arm used to launch missles at castle walls. 6
chanfron, shaffron Armor piece for a horses' head.  Came into use in 12th century. 6
chausses Mail coverings for the lower legs and feet. 8
club tourney Two teams using blunt swords and clubs tried to knock the crests off their opponents helmets. 6
coat of arms A description of colors and symbols unique to a particular family to identify that family in battle or tournament.  Coat of arms were handed down from father to son. 6
coat of plates A jerkin of leather or cloth with metal plates sewn or riveted in.  Second half of 13th century. 8
codpiece A protective cup fitted at the crotch of leg armor.  11
coif Chain mail covering for the head, neck and shoulders. 8
coronel A blunt lance tip to spread impact in jousts of peace. 6
courser A swift hunting horse. 6
couters Plate armor for the elbows.
armor parts
8, 11
crenel, crenelations A gap in the castle wall (battlements) for archers to shoot through. 6, 5
crest A piece affixed to the top of a helm to identify a warrior in the midst of battle. 6
crinet Neck armor for a horse. 6
crossbow A powerful weapon capable of shooting quarrels accurately without requiring the training of a longbow.  Some versions had to be loaded with a lever or ratchet.  A longbowman could shoot 12 arrows in the time it took to load a crossbow.  8, 5
cuirass Breastplate and backplate together - body armor. 6, 11
cuisse Upper leg/thigh armor.  Appeared in 1300's.
armor parts
6, 8, 11
armor parts
destrier From the Latin dextra, 'right hand' - a jousting horse. 6
donjon An 11th century keep. 5
dubbing The ceremony of knighthood - originally a blow to the neck (collee), then changed by the 13th century to a tap with a sword. 6, 8
dungeon A cellar where ransom prisoners were kept. 5
embrasure An alcove in a castle wall with a narrow opening, or loophole, for archers to fire through without exposing themselves. 6
falchion Short cutting sword. 6
fauld (skirt)
armor parts
flanged mace A mace with ridges, sometimes sharpened, on the head.  6
frog-mouthed helm A jousting helmet with an eyeslit at the upper lip of the helm, so the wearer could lean forward to see, but straightened at the moment of impact so the lip protected his eyes from splinters. 6
gambeson A tunic tightly packed with wool and worn beneath the armor (protection from mail chafing and blows).  Early middle ages and on. 8
garrison The soldiers that lived in the castle and defended it. 5
gatehouse The towers flanking the gates that lead through the walls and into the castle. 5
gauntlets Armor for the hands.  Could be mail mittens or gloves, or plate mittens or gloves, depending on the period. 
armor parts
8, 11
gorget Neck and throat armor.
armor parts
6, 11
Gothic armor A German style of armor in the 15th century.  Very ornate, often the plate was rippled or fluted and decorated with points.
armor styles
grand guard (grande-garde) Armor piece for protection of the chest and the left shoulder, worn over regular armor and sometimes extending to the waist and even covering the face. 11
great horse
great sword
greave Plate armor for the shins.
armor parts
8, 11
Greek fire Burning material, probably sulphur, naphtha and quicklime, that was dropped from castle walls or hurled from seige engines. 8
hoardings Removable wooden structures built outside a castles' stone walls with holes to drop things on attackers. 5
haubergeon A shorter form of the hauberk.  1300's. 8
haute-pieces Raised ridges or shelves on the pauldrons for extra protection.  1500's.
armor parts
8, 11
halberd A polearm weapon with a bayonet blade at the top, an axe blade on one side and a spike or hook on the other. 8
harness General term for a suit of armor that completely protected the body, including the limbs. 11
hauberk, byrnie A chain mail tunic or coat extending to the knees - main piece of armor in the 11th and 12th centuries. 8, 11
heater A shield with the classic shape - square on top, but comes to a point at the bottom.  8
helm  A large, flat topped helmet with eye slits that fitted on top of a chain mail coif and a padded arming cap.  1200's (crusade)  By 1270 the helm had a curved dome to deflect blows. 8, 11
helmet Armor for the head.  Many different types.  See armet, basinet, barbute, burgonet, frog-mouthed helm, helm, 
armor parts
6, 8, 11
heraldry Developed in the 13th century as a system of rules used to describe the coat of arms that was specific to an individual and identified him in battle or tournament. 8
joust An encouter of skill between two knights on horseback.  They charge at each other with wooden lances and try to knock their opponent off their horses.  8, 11
jupon A shorter, tighter version of a surcoat, worn over the armor. 8, 11
keep The main military and residential building of a castle, surrounded by walls. 5
killing area The area in between the outer and inner walls of a castle. 8
laminated Consisting of plates overlapping in layers. 11
lance A long spearlike weapon, made of wood.  Used in the 'couched' position, held close to the body, while mounted on a charging horse to deliver a powerful blow.  In tournaments, the tip was blunted with a coronel for the joust. 8
lance rest A protruding arm affixed to the breastplate to take off some of the weight of the lance when jousting.
armor parts
6, 11
lists Barriers defining the battlefield in a tournament. 8
longbow Popular in Wales in the 12th century, used extensively by the English in the 13th and 14th.  Rate of fire - from six to twelve arrows a minute, and could shoot an arrow over 1000 ft (300 m).  Required much training.  Prompted the development of plate armor.  8, 5
mace Basically a club with a metal head.  Favored by clerics, who could not shed blood. 8
machinolations In a castle, projecting platform made of stone with holes in the floor to drop things on attackers. 8
mail, chain mail Armor made of thousands of riveted metal links (chain mail) or sometimes of small plates or bands of metal joined together at their edges or with leather (banded mail). 8, 11
man-at-arms A heavily armed soldier, usually mounted, ranking below a knight but above an ordinary foot soldier. 11
mangonels A seige engine resembling a giant catapult that used a twisted tensile material, like horsehair, to project a heavy missile. 8
Maximillian armor A style of armor
armor styles
melee An event in a tournament with teams of knights participating in a small scale battle, sometimes with blunted weapons.  8
merlon The stone part of the battlements between the crenels. 5
moat Water, often filling a ditch or from a lake, that surrounded a castle. 5
motte and bailey Earliest medieval fortified building (castle), 9th and 10th centuries.  Defensive earthworks with a permanent building surrounded by a pallisade. 8, 5
murder holes Holes in the roof of the gatehouse so that defenders could pour quicklime, hot sand, and other things on the attackers. 5
oubliette French for forgotten - prisoners were placed there and forgotten.  5
page A boy training to become a squire.  Usually became a page around 7 years old. 5
pallettes Plates, usually circular, fitted at the armpits of a suit or armor or cuirass.  11
pallisade A fence, usually for defensive protection. 8, 5
pas d'armes A tournament. 8
pass guard (passe-garde) Sometimes refers to a ridge of armor guarding the neck, but can also be a large plate guarding the shoulder. 11
pauldrons Segmented shoulder armor (shoulder guards).
armor parts
8, 11
pike A polearm
plate armor Armor made of plates of metal - started to appear in the second half of the 13th century, when mail was no longer adequate.  8, 11
poleyn Plate armor for the knees.  1200's and on.
armor parts
8, 11
poll plate  A piece attached to the chanfron to protect the top of a horses' head. 6
polearm Any of a number of weapons with a blade of some sort attached to a long pole for a handle. 11
quarrel A short arrow fired from a crossbow.  Called quarrels because of their four sided heads.  Also known as bolts.  5
rapier A thin, straight, double edged sword with a point. 11
roll of arms
sabaton (sabbaton) Plate armor for the feet.  Often styled to reflect current fashions.  1400's
armor parts
8, 11
saddle In the middle ages, saddles had reinforced pommels and cantels to prevent the rider from being unhorsed in combat. 8
sallet (salet, salade) A type of helmet in the 1400's that left the lower part of the face exposed.  The rear tapered to a point and projected, like a tail, far behind the back of the head. 8, 11
scaling ladder
shell keep 
shield Used to ward off blows.  Made of leather covered wood or metal, and decorated with the coat of arms.  Types include  8
seige towers Sophisticated version of a scaling ladder.  Built as high as the castle wall, sometimes several storeys, and allowed soldiers some protection as they climbed onto the battlements of the castle.  Covered in soaking hides to deflect fire missles. 8
solerets (sollerets) Protective metal covering for the top of the feet. 11
spear A long haft with a narrow blade at one end, used as a thrown weapon or to thrust at the enemy.  8
squire The stage before becoming a knight.  Boys became squires in their early teens and were expected to perform such duties as serving his lord at table, looking after the horses and armor, and arming his lord before tournament or battle.  They were also trained for knighthood, which they entered in a dubbing ceremony in their late teens or early twenties.  Some squires were never knighted because of the tremendous income needed.  8
stirrup Allows the rider to have greater stability and better control in the saddle.  In use by the 9th century. 8
surcoat A long, sleeveless, loose fitting garment worn over the armor and often decorated with a knight's coat of arms. 8, 11
sword A bladed weapon favored by knights.  Swords are of many shapes and sizes. 8
tassets Armor that extended from the breastplate to protect the upper legs.  armor parts 8, 11
tilt A barrier introduced in the 14th century to prevent jousting collisions. 6
tournament A social event where knights would participate in melees and jousts.  It was an important training ground for young knights and a place for older knights to keep their skills honed in peace time.  They were banned by the Church because of the peril of committing murder, and plus they encouraged pride, anger, and incited public disaster.  8
trapper (trappings) An ornamented cloth covering for a horse. 11
trebuchet A seige engine that used a counterweight system (either a heavy weight or by a group of men pulling on ropes) to hurl missiles.  More powerful than the ballista, catapult or mangonel. 8
trial by battle
vambrace Plate armor for the arms.  armor parts 8, 11
visor A metal faceplate attached to the helmet that could be raised or lowered - sometimes opened with hinges. armor parts 8, 11
war hammer
war horse A horse trained to be ridden in battle. 8


These are the books in my personal collection - I'm always on the lookout for more.

Just for fun

Here's a paper I wrote for an AP Composition class a bit ago, if you're interested.

The Effects of Gunpowder on Medieval Society

Delusion Land