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In many computer games (usually role playing games), there is an item called a bastard sword. Why is this name used, and does it bear any relation to the usual meaning of the term bastard?

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There are several paragraphs in the english wikipedia covering the term bastard with respect to swords. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bastard_sword Do you have something more specific in mind? –  bmike Jul 18 '11 at 16:34

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up vote 16 down vote accepted

Originally, a "bastard sword" was another name for a long sword, also known as a "hand and a half" sword. The sword is described as:

Bastard swords often had a more tapered, narrowly pointed blade. The Medieval Bastard Sword generally had a long handle which allowed for two-handed use and a longer blade. The Medieval Bastard Sword became popular due to is extreme reach and cutting and thrusting abilities and was predominantly used by the Medieval Knights.

The name "bastard sword" has its own explanation rooted in the French epee batarde. This term was born of confusion over how to categorize the weapon. From the same source:

The versatility of the design prevented the sword from being specifically categorized as either a one-handed or two-handed weapon. The word bastard was therefore to this sword meaning something irregular or inferior or of dubious origin, having a misleading appearance.

Finally, this use of bastard does bear some relation to its usual definition, but not in the term of an illegitimate child. From Merriam Webster:

something that is spurious, irregular, inferior, or of questionable origin

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Similarly a "bastard file" is one half way between a coarse file and a second cut file - ie. neither one thing nor the other. –  mgb Jul 18 '11 at 18:02
And the typical bastard CHILD is often the product of a high-born father and a lower born mother, and is an irregular, suspect issue considered neither one nor the other, with a "misleading" pedigree. –  Tom Au Jul 18 '11 at 20:02

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