A melee weapon is any manner of weapon used in hand-to-hand combat. 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 and almost all polearms. Such weapons are thrust in battle to gain a ranged advantage, as well as maintain a high rate of attack. Certain variants may also hook at enemies to disrupt and disarm them, or pull them from atop horses.
- Edged weapons, which cover swords, axes and knives. These central and prominent types of weapons are used to hack, slash and (depending on weapon and situation) thrust, stab and draw, generally quick or conveniant actions that are highly effective against soft tissues.
Many weapons fit into multiple categories, or fit inbetween 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, fauchard, falxes and bec de corbin evade easy classification. Weapons not intended for combat such as whips don't fall into any of the three categories.
- 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."
- 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.
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