A melee weapon, or close combat weapon, is any weapon used in direct hand-to-hand combat; by contrast with ranged weapons which act at a distance. The term melee originates in the 1640s from the French word mêlée, which refers to hand-to-hand combat, a close quarters battle, a brawl, a confused fight, etc.
Melee weapons can be broadly divided into three categories:
- Pointed weapons, which cover spears, pikes and almost all pole weapons. They typically have a sharp point designed to inflict penetrating trauma, even against heavily armoured opponents, and the length of such weapons gives a range advantage. Certain variants may also hook at enemies to disrupt and disarm them, or pull them from atop horses.
- Edged weapons, which cover swords, axes, fighting knives and daggers. These weapons are designed to cause incisions, dismemberment and exsanguination injuries, and are most effective against minimally armoured opponents. These are used to cut, hack, slash, thrust or stab.
- Trauma weapons, which cover clubs, maces, war hammers, staves, and flails. These weapons are designed to cause blunt trauma, even through armour that would protect against penetration by pointed or edged weapons.
Many weapons fit into multiple categories, or fit in between them; many polearms such as halberds, lucerne hammers and guisarmes add edged and blunt methods of attack to a spear base, and various hooked weapons such as billhooks, fauchards, falxes and becs de corbin evade easy classification; while flexible weapons such as whips don't fall into any of these categories.
List of melee weapons
- Michele Byam (2010-11-30). Arms and Armor, Discover the story of weapons and armor-from Stone Age axes to the battledress of samurai warriors. New York: Dorling Kindersley.
- "the definition of melee". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
- "Definition of MELEE". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
- Oxford English Dictionary. 2015. mêlée. "A battle or engagement at close quarters, a hand-to-hand fight; a skirmish; a confused struggle or scuffle, esp. one involving many people. Also hist.: a tournament involving two groups of combatants."