Anatomy of Armor
and helms have changed a great deal over the centuries, and various
designs have appeared and disappeared (and reappeared), depending on
available technology, use, and even fashion.
list below provides a general glossary of terminology. For a more detailed
study of armor, we suggest that you visit the Arador
-- A flat plate of leather or parchment which tied to the point of the
shoulder. Worn between 1250-1350 to display the owner's coat of arms.
Aketon -- A padded and quilted garment, usually of linen,
worn under or instead of plate or mail.
Armet -- Fifteenth century helmet of Italian origin consisting
a skull, two hinged cheek pieces which lock at the front, and a visor.
Arming doublet -- Quilted garment worn under armour from
the early fifteenth century, equipped with points to attach mail gussets
and pieces of armour.
Arming points -- Ties (usually of flax or twine) by which
armour was secured in place.
Aventail -- A curtain of mail attached by means of staples
(vervelles) around the base of a helmet (especially the basinet), and
covering the shoulders. Also called camail (a French term).
Back Plate -- Plate armour protecting the back half of the torso.
Barbote -- A high bevor with a falling lame containing
eyeslits; used in Spain.
Barbut -- Also called barbute, or barbuta. An open-faced
shoulder-length Italian helmet, made in one piece, with a T-shaped face
opening. Barbuta is the Italian term.
Bard -- A full horse armour, which could include a shaffron,
crinet, peytral, crupper and flanchards.
Basinet -- Also called bascinet. An open-faced helmet
with a globular or conical skull enclosing the sides of the face and
neck. Usually worn with and aventail, and occasionally a visor.
Bellows Visor -- A modern term for a visor with horizontal
ridges, such as on 'Maximilian' German fluted armours of the early sixteenth
Besagew -- Defensive circular plate suspended over the
Bevor -- Also called bavier or buffe. A chin-shaped defense
for the lower face, incorporating a gorget plate. The buffe was an early
sixteenth century variant, worn strapped to an open-faced helmet such
as the burgonet.
Birnie -- Also called byrnie. A mail shirt. See also Hauberk.
Bishop's Mantle -- Modern term for the cape of mail worn
(largely in Germany) in the early sixteenth century.
Blueing -- An oxidized blue surface on plate armour, produced
through heat treatment, or in modern times with chemicals.
Bouche -- The notch cut in the top (dexter) corner of
a shield, to rest the lance when jousting.
Bracer -- Early fourteenth century form of defence for
the lower arm; also a term for an archer's arm guard to protect the
forearm from the bowstring.
Brayette -- Armored codpiece.
Breast Plate -- Armour that protects the front of the
Breaths -- Holes or slits in the visor of a helmet or
the lames of a falling buff or bevor, for ventilation; also usually
permitting a degree of extra vision.
Brigandine -- A flexible body defence consisting of a
large number of metal plates riveted inside a cloth covering.
Buckler -- Small round shield carried by infantry.
Buffe -- see Bevor.
Burgonet -- A light, open-faced helmet popular in the
sixteenth century as an alternative to the close-helmet for light cavalry.
It was usually furnished with a peak over the brow, a combed skull,
and hinged ear pieces. The face opening could be closed with the addition
of a falling buffe.
Byrnie -- see Birnie.
Cabasset -- Also spelled "cabacete". A type
of Spanish war hat (popular thoughout fifteenth century Europe) with
a turned-down brim and an almond-shaped skull ending in a stalk. See
Camail -- see Aventail
Cannon -- Individual plate armour defence, of tubular
form, for the upper and lower arm. See also Vambrace and Rerebrace.
Case-hardening -- A method (described in the twelth century
treatise 'De Diversis Atibus' by Theophilus the Monk) for surface hardening
wrought iron (or low carbon steel) by packing it in charcoal or other
organic material and heating it for hours above 900 degrees Celsius.
Casque, casquetal -- A light open helmet; usually late
fifteeth to mid-sixteenth century helmets of 'antique' form, such as
Italian parade 'casques' of the mid-sixteenth century, embossed with
grotesques or fashioned in the classical style. These were often similiar
in shape to the burgonet.
Celata -- Open-faced Italian sallet, common in the fifteenth
Cervelliere -- Steel skull cap, aslo called an arming
Chanfron -- see Shaffron
Chapel de Fer -- Also called a kettle hat. A simple open-faced
helmet with a wide brim.
Charnel -- The hinged staple or bolt that secured the
fourteenth century helm or great basinet to the breast and backplate.
Chausses -- Mail protection for the legs, either in the
form of mail hose or strips of mail laced round the front of the leg.
Close-helmet -- Helmet which, with a full visor and bevor,
completely encloses the head and face. Modern use of the term tends
to refer not to helmets with hinged cheek-pieces opening at the front
(the armet,) but visored helmets pivoting open on bolts or rivets on
each side of the skull.
Coat armour -- A quilted garment worn over armour in the
fourteenth century. Also called a gambeson, aketon or arming coat.
Coat of fence -- Also called fence, jack, or brigandine.
A doublet or tunic lined with small metal plates or, more rarely, just
padded with stuffing of tow. See also Brigandine and Jack.
Coat of plates -- Also called a brigandine, a pair of
plates, or simply plates. A cloth garment with a number of large plates
riveted inside, worn in the fourteenth century.
Cod-piece -- Fabric covering for the groin, latterly padded.
Its counter part in armour could be either mail or, more usually, plate.
Coif -- A hood, usually of mail. By the twelfth century
it often incorporated a ventail.
Collar -- see Gorget
Comb -- The keel-shaped ridge, often very pronounced,
that passes from front to back of a helmet over the skull, conferring
extra strength and rigidity and contributing to its glancing surfaces.
In the mid-sixteenth century, the combs of morion helmets were raised
and enloarged to an excessive height for 'fashionable' reasons.
Corslet -- Also spelt "corselet". A light half-armour
popular in the sixteenth century for general military use (town guards
for example). It consisted of a gorget, breast, back and tassets, full
arms and gauntlets. The term can also be applied to the cuirass only.
Couter -- Also spelt "cowter". Plate defence
for the elbow.
Crinet -- Defence for a horse's neck.
Crupper -- Defence for a horse's rear.
Crest -- A heraldric recognitive device fixed to the top
of the great helm, introduced in the second half of the thirteenth and
in wide use by the fourteenth century.
Cuir Bouli -- Also called "cure belly" by the English.
A thick leather, boiled in oil or wax, that hardens with a near-steel
Cuirass -- Also called pair of curates. A backplate and
breastplate designed to be worn together.
Cuisses -- Armor for the thigh.
Elbow Cop -- Also "Couter." Armour covering the elbow.
Fan Plate -- Projection from an elbow or knee cop designed
to prevent a blow from wrapping around and landing in the joint.
Fauld -- Articulated plates at the base of a breastplate,
comprised of horizontal lames.
Flanchards -- Armor for the sides of a horse, below the
Garniture -- A set of armor with interchangeable parts
for various combat or sporting uses.
Gorget -- Armour protecting the throat. May be a simple
collar or a more elaborate design composed of several pieces.
Grandguard -- A plate of reinforcement sometimes worn
with jousting armor to protect the lower face, left shoulder, and left
Greave -- Also "jamb." Plate armor shaped to
fit the lower leg and sometimes the ankle.
Hauberk -- A long shirt of mail.
Haute-piece -- A plate rim attached upright to a pauldron
for protecting the neck.
Jamb -- See Greave.
Knee Cop -- Also "Poleyns." Armour covering
Lames -- Plates of steel, often articulated either by
gliding rivets or a concealed strip of leather under the plates, to
allow freedom of movement yet still providing protection. Used where
a solid sheet of steel would be too constrictive.
Mail -- Metal rings linked together into sheets which
drape over the body, or which can be suspended from plate armor. A very
early form of metal armor.
Morion -- A 16th and 17th Century open-faced helm with
a round skullcap and combed top ridge, and a curving brim with pointed
Ocularium -- Holes or slits in the visor of a helmet for
Pauldron -- Armour covering the shoulder. Usually large,
covering the upper 1/3 of the torso.
Peytral -- Armor for a horse's breast.
Rerebrace -- Armour covering the upper arm from the elbow
to the shoulder.
Repousse -- A decorative technique in which metal plates
are embossed by hammering from the interior, then the design is further
defined by hammering and punching the exterior.
Sabaton -- Armour covering the foot.
Sallet -- A helm characterized by a round skullcap and
visor, with a fanning "tail" sloping over the neck.
Shaffron -- Head armor for a horse.
Spangenhelm -- method of helm construction using vertical
bands for the framework, filled with triangular plates.
Spaulder -- Armour covering the shoulder joint. Not as
large as a pauldron.
Tassets -- Plates, usually attached via straps and buckles
to the bototm of a breast plate, that provide extra defence for the
Vambrace -- Armour covering the lower arm from the wrist
to the elbow.
Vervelles -- Staples which attach a curtain of mail around
the base of a helmet, especially the basinet.
Zischagge -- A cavalry helm popular all over Europe in
the late 1600's, sometimes called a "lobstertail burgonet". Main features
included a domed skullpiece (often fluted), a long adjustable nasal
defence, and a neck guard consisting of several lames, or plates.