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?
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
If you think about it as coming from French, it makes more sense. The word "batard" (with a ^ over the first a) is used much more liberally and less pejoratively in French. While it does mean an illegitimate child, in a more figurative sense, it carries the sense of something have a dual nature, which links back to the original meaning of coming from parents of two different socioeconomical classes. For example, there is a type of bread called a "batard," because it is half way between a baguette and a loaf. So, the aforementioned "epee batarde" is halfway between a long, two-handed sword and a short, one-handed sword.
A bastard sword is also called as one handed sword and has a long blade.
Several names of bastard sword are:
- Hand and Half Sword
- Bastard Sword
- épée bâtarde (French)
- langes Schwert (German)