Armor for Beginners


Armor Glossary

Armor Glossary
Armor Types
Selecting the Right Armor / Armor Resources

Armor and its composite pieces were known by a number of different names during the Middle Ages. While this list is by no means exhaustive or absolute, it provides the most often-used names for armor pieces in general. Please note that these pieces would have been named differently depending on the part of the world and the time period.

Aketon - see gambeson.

Arming Cap - a type of cap worn underneath a helmet. It could be either a quilted coif or a smaller helmet worn underneath a larger one.

Arming Doublet - see gambeson.

Armor - any protective covering worn upon the body like clothing. This does not include shields. Also a historical word describing an entire set of armor. Medieval sources do not refer to “a suit of armor,” but rather “an armor” or “a harness.”

Besagews - also sometimes called roundels, besagews were usually round plates that hung from the shoulder over the front of the armpit to protect the usually mailed joint. Besagews are only found on later-period plate armors, mainly for jousting.

Bracers - armor that covers the forearms. Sometimes referred to as vambraces. Derived from the French word for “arm.”

Breastplate - as the name implies, a breastplate is the piece of armor that covers the chest. Sometimes the term breastplate can refer to a set of pieces that cover both the front and back. Often it refers to the front part of a cuirass.

Camail - the mail drape from the bottom of a helmet that protects the neck and throat.

Chausses - protection for the legs, from the thighs down over the feet. Usually, the term chausses refers to mail armor for the legs. Otherwise, see cuisses, poleyns, greaves and sabatons. Derived from the French word for “hose.”

Coif - an armored hood. Often made of mail, but sometimes quilted. Comes from the French word for “hair.”

Couter - elbow defense.

Cuirass - a defense for the front and back of the torso. The front part is often referred to as the breastplate, although a cuirass can also include a plackard. Derived from the French word for “leather,” as early cuirasses were made from leather.

Cuisses - a defense for the thigh. Cuisses sometimes wrap all the way around the thigh to protect both the front and the back, and may be attached to the poleyns. Derived from the French word for “thigh.”

Faulds - defenses for the upper thigh. They often hang from the plackard and cover the unarmored space between the plackard and the cuisses. Sometimes referred to as tassets.

Gambeson - a quilted jacket worn underneath the armor, both to protect against pinching by the armor and to act as a kind of cushion to absorb the impact that armor would otherwise transfer to the body. In some cases, a thick gambeson was the only armor worn at all by poorer troops. Sometimes called an arming doublet or aketon, depending on the time and place from which the armor comes.

Gauntlets - hand defenses. They can be either “mitten” gauntlets, in which the fingers are all armored collectively, or “finger” gauntlets in which each finger is armored separately. In addition, there are “demi-gauntlets” or “half-gauntlets” in which only the back of the hand and wrist are protected, but the fingers are not.

Gorget - an armored collar that protects the throat. Sometimes strapped directly to the breastplate. These were worn relatively rarely in the Middle Ages, as they interfere with neck flexibility. However, they are recommended for many modern re-enactors because they defend against injury to the upper spinal column. Derived from the French word for “throat.”

Greaves - lower leg defenses. Greaves can protect just the shin, or both the shin and calf. Greaves can be attached the the poleyns and sabatons, and are sometimes also called jambs.

Harness - a word used in the Middle Ages that often referred to an entire suit of armor.

Hauberk - a name for the mail shirt. Hauberks can also be referred to as haubergeons and byrnies, depending on the length of the mail shirt and the time and place in which the armor was worn. Hauberks in one form or another were one of the most popular pieces of armor to be worn throughout the medieval era. Derived from the Old English word for “hood” because the coif was often integrated with early hauberks.

Helm/Helmet - armored head protection. A helm is generally a fully-enclosed helmet that rests close to the shoulders when worn, and may be won on top of an arming cap or coif. A helmet is merely any sort of armored head covering.

Jamb - see greaves. Derived from the French word for “leg.”

Plackard - a separate lower torso defense. Often the lower half of a cuirass. A plackard often has faulds attached.

Pauldrons - shoulder plates. Pauldrons often also protect the upper arm and are generally found on later-period armor in place of spaulders. They can be attached to the gorget in some armors. Derived from the French word for “shoulder.”

Poleyns - knee protection. Often attached to both the cuisses and the greaves.

Roundels - see besagews.

Sabatons - foot protection. Sabatons are generally not found on most armors, except for expensive later-period armors. Once in a while, foot armor is made of mail, but this is not properly a sabaton. Generally attached to the greaves.

Spaulders - armor that covers the point of the shoulder and the upper arm. Spaulders are often replaced by pauldrons in later armors. Derived from the French word for “shoulder.”

Tassets - see faulds.

Vambraces - see bracers.

Continue to Armor Types




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