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I came across the term while looking around for an answer to this question about a term form non-firearms. Cold weapon does not appear with this sense in any established dictionary I could find, but you can find it in Wikitionary and a number of books. See some examples in my answer to the question and also the images Google returns for cold weapon.

Now my question here is: when and where from did the term originate?

Etymoline doesn’t have it, and Goole Books Ngram doesn’t help much because most instances of cold weapon refer to a firearm that is cold after a period of inactivity or to any weapon that feels cold. Pretty much every instance of cold weapon as a non-firearm I’ve come across has to do with China or Russia. So I wonder whether the term is a direct translation from Russian or Chinese.

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  • Yes, cold weapon is one that has not been fired recently. It is not warm. cold weapon has no other meaning in English. Sounds like translation...
    – Lambie
    Aug 19 '16 at 20:22
  • 1
    In the medical literature it can be a weapon which does not involve and explosion or firearm. This is important in diagnosing a wound. Also, certain cultures may consider a "cold weapon" such as a sword a more honorable to use. I cannot find good sources; however, this is a far as I got when I gave up looking. Aug 19 '16 at 21:19
  • @P.O. This snippet complements your middle one; this one overlaps the two.
    – Jacinto
    Aug 20 '16 at 9:02
  • @Agriculturist Do you know that from your own experience? Do you know for how long the term has been used in that way?
    – Jacinto
    Aug 20 '16 at 11:32
  • @Jacinto - I gave up looking on this question and posted my progress as a comment. You will need to direct your questions elsewhere. Aug 22 '16 at 14:50
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It seems you're quite right about the translation origin, from Russian. It's a rare term, but which get regularly used by people familiar with Chinese or Russian Military History.

The earliest use in this sense that could be found so far is from

-1862-

Dickens, Charles. All the Year Round. London: Chapman & Hall, 1862, volume 8.

This is a journal partially authored and fully edited by the famous victorian writer.

In a section called "How to make soldiers"

...to accustom him to see clearly through a mass of crossed swords and bayonets and to remain cool while swords flash under shocks unexpected blows and rapid orders. A fencing room in which twenty or thirty couples of men are practising is a fair illustration of a melee with cold weapons


First use I found which also explain the origin of the term in pseudo phonetic transposition:

The cold weapon "kholodnoye orudiye" as opposed to firearms " agniovoye orudiye"

-1876-

The Russian CampaignAgainst Khiva in 1873, Part 1 by Hugo Stumm, Foreign Department Press

enter image description here

It seems to be the earliest reference in English. Anything before that relates to the actual coldness of steel.

Some other references of usage of the term across the last 150 years, still influenced by the Russian origin though.

-1890-

Gustavus Adolphus: A History of the Art of War from Its Revival ..., Volume 2 Par Theodore Ayrault Dodge, page 571

disappeared and only helmet and breastplate remained to the heavy trooper Pistols carbines and musketoons were the firearms of the cavalry a sword or sabre the cold weapon Dragoons carried the infantry musket with a bayonet and came more and more into favor

-1914 -

Infantry Journal - Volume 10 - Page 298

"penetrated and animated by this truth, that in fire the bullet should be cold— and the cold weapon, warm; more clearly stated, that we must fire with calmness and deliver the assault with fury. To sum up, both Russians and Japanese appear ..."

-1982-

Daily Report: People's Republic of China, Numéros 148 à 155 Couverture United States. Foreign Broadcast Information Service National Technical Information Service,

enter image description here

-2016-

Krav Maga Professional Tactics: The Contact Combat System of the Israeli Martial Arts, David Kahn, YMAA Publication Center, Inc

enter image description here

As a bonus if you want to try searching it in cyrilic it seems to be "холодное орудие" (I don't speak Russian)

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    Thanks for the hard work. I would include here some of the examples you five in your comment above. This earliest example is just rendering in English what other people call a sword; in the other examples they're just using the term cold weapon.
    – Jacinto
    Aug 20 '16 at 9:00
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    I found this 1862 example (cold weapons), should you want to add it to your answer. The author is named Charles Dickens; I don't know whether it is the Charles Dickens.
    – Jacinto
    Aug 27 '16 at 17:43
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I came across this term searching for a halberd indexed in a Russian Medieval and Renaissance Warfare Encyclopedia. "холодное оружие II", literally "cold weapons 2" was a list of historical halberds. "Cold weapons 1" was an index of war hammers. One translation called it "steel weapons" while the couple others were "cold weapons".

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    Could you add a link to the page you found that information? Jun 11 '17 at 19:59
  • Stig, the question is about the earliest occurrences of cold weapon; the other answer documents instances in the 19th century… This information, about the website you found, is perhaps more relevant for this question.
    – Jacinto
    Jun 11 '17 at 21:11

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