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Samurai Sword Terminologies A-Z Guide

A samurai sword, or Japanese sword, is one of the traditional cold weapons of Japan. There are many different types of Japanese swords based on size, wearing method, and purpose of the weapon.  There are many different terminologies associated with samurai sword and its complicated forging process.  Here at, we compiled this list of samurai sword terminology A-Z guide for sword enthusiasts to reference.

Ai: Sword Tempering Process
Aikuchi: Short Japanese Tanto sword up to 1 foot long  without tsuba
Akihagi No Tsuyu: A dew-like spot on the hamon
Aosan No Mitsuke: Straight temper lines on blade
Aoyaki No Kitae: A white gold line along dark ji portion of blade.
Arare No Midare: A traditional hamon style with small irregular lines mixed here and there in the hamon
Aratogi: The stage of Japanese sword forging before tempering
Asai No Tare: A type of hamon with shallow wavy lines
Asagido: A grindstone formerly used for Japanese sword forging
Ashi Sadamaru: A type of hamon with straigh line
Asobi Tama: A gem-like spot on the hamon
Atobi: Carvings on a blade by a smith after the sword is forged
Atobori: Carvings added later to decorate or to hide defects on the sword.
Ato Mei: Smith signature added after the forging date
Awase Do: Whetstone
Azuki Midare: Temper line on the Japanese sword that looks like a row of small beans

Bagai Mono: Japanese sword that made by average or lower class swordsmiths
Bakufu: Shogun military government
Batto: Sword drawing action
Bizen: A province in Japan, modern day Okayama, famous for its katana forging
Bizen-to: Japanese sword forged in Bizen province
Bizen Zori: A special kind Katana forging style with deep curvature close to the nakago area of the blade, also known as Koshi Zori.  Japanese swords forged from Bizen province typicall carry this type of characteristics
Bohi: Wide groove on the blade, also called Hi
Bohi Soyebi: Wide groove beside a narrow groove
Bokken: Wooden sword normaly in Katana shape for kata sword practicing
Bokuto: Wood sword
Boshi: Temper line near kissaki (point)
Boshigata: Smooth and small round shape Boshi
Boshisaki: Tip of Boshi
Botan Ba: A peony flower pattern in the hamon about 6 inches below the kissaki in Katana blade
Bu: Japanese measurement unit (approx 0.1 inch)
Budachi: General name for Japanese military sword
Bugei: Martial Arts
Bueito: Special kind of Japanese Military sword in Tachi style
Bu Jin (Bujin): "People of the Samurai Spirit." A philosophy of honor, respect, and contemplation of life's mysteries developed in both women and men, and the people who lived by the samurai code.
Buke: Miliarty men
Bun No Kitae: Japanese sword forging style in which the back half of the blade surface is faintly white
Bushido: A code of ethics, honor, and moral principles for Samurai.
Bushi: Another term for samurai - the warrior class

Chiburi: The action of slinging blood off the sword before re-sheath
Chigusa: A special kind of steel produced in Harima area. This type steel contains about 0.7% to 0.8% carbon (AISI 1070 1080 Grade High Carbon steel)
Chiisa (Chisa) katana: Shorter katana. A general term for all swords shorter than the katana but longer than wakizashi
Chikuto: A bamboo sword. Also, a bamboo fencing sword. In olden times a bamboo knife was used to cut the umbilical cord of new-born babies.
Chiri: The narrow surface on either side of a groove
Choji: Clove seed shaped folds in hamon
Choji Midare: Choji pattern with irregularity patterns in hamon
Choji Kage: Choji pattern with shiny spots in hamon
Choji Oil: Japanese sword care oil
Chokuto: Straight sword with single edge, ancient Japanese sword appeared before Katana
Chu-Handachi: Medium length tachi sword
Chu Kissaki: Medium sized kissaki (tip)
Chu Suguba: Medium size straight hamon

Dabira Hiro: Wide Japanese broadsword, similar to Chinese Dao, usually single edged
Dabira Seba: Narrow Japanese broadsword, usually single edged
Dai Mei: Student smith signing master's name on behalf of the master
Daimyo: Japanese feudal warlord
Daisho: Matching pair of katana and wakizashi
Daito: General name for long sword, such as Katana and Tachi
Dambira(Danpira, Dabira): Very wide blade
Denaori: Re-tempered blade
Dogane: A metal band around the tsuka
Doran (Toran): High wave patterns hamon
Doyo No Juka: Double choji patterns of different sizes along the blade

Ebira Katana: Extra long sword carried on the back, also called seoi katana
Eboshigata: Boshi pattern that looks like feudal offical hat

Fuchi: Hilt collar between tsuba and tsuka
Fukura: Kissaki cutting edge
Fukura Karu: Sharply curved kissaki edge
Fukura-Kareru: Straight line kissaki edge
Fukura-Sugu: Nearly straight line kissaki edge
Fukura-Tsuku: Curved kissaki edge
Fukure: Flaws on the blade
Funagata: Ship bottom shaped nakago
Funbari: Type of katana blade that is noticeably wider near the base notch than regular katana blade
Furisode: A style of Japanese sword tang construction with the end deeply curved toward the back side which resembles a kimono sleeve
Futamata Yari: Two prong spear
Futokoro Katana: Katana or tanto sword that can be worn inside of cloth.  Normally without tsuba

Gaku Mei: Signature from original nakago inserted in shortened (o-suriage) nakago
Gendaito: Traditionally forged sword blades by modern smiths before WWII
Gennoba Tetsu: Steel of 0.3 to 0.4% carbon, softer low carbon steel
Gijoto: Ceremonial court sword, the mountings on the sword indicate the rank of the wearer.
Ginken: Iron sword with silver plated fittings, commonly used as gift
Gimei: A false signature of a well known smith on a blade
Gin No Ha: Silvery lines about one to three inches long appearing along a straight temper line or on the surface of blades
Gito: General term for ceremonial swords
Gomae Kitae: Five layer sword forging
Gonome Midare: Irregularly waved hamon
Gunome: Wavy hamon
Gunto: Machine made blade for Japanese army or military sword
Gyaku: Reversed or slanted hamon patterns
Gyaku Ashi: Hamon patterns with reversed slanted ashi pattern
Gyaku Choji: Hamon patterns with reversed slanted Choji pattern
Hirazaya Tachi: A tachi only placed in Imperial carriage
Hirazukuri: Flat surface blade without shinogi ridges
Hiro Suguba: Wide straight temper line
Hisaki-Agaru: Style of Bo-Hi that reaches the kissaki
Kisaki-Sagaru: Style of Bo-Hi that does not reach the point.
Hishu (Hishu-Katana): Short dagger
Hitatsura: Full temper pattern scattered all over the blade
Hitoye Habaki: One piece habaki
Ho: Kozuba blade
Hocho Tetsu: Soft steel contains 0.1 to 0.3%
Hokkoku-Midare: Zigzag hamon pattern
Honsanmai Gitae: A three blade lamination forging+B37
Horimono: Engravings on blade, usually at the bottome of the blade near tsuba
Hoso Suguba: Narrow straight yakiba
Hotsure: Strays along a hamon
Hoso Dachi: Slim decorative ceremonial tachi not for actual use
Hyotan Ba: Gourd shape irregular patterns Hamon

Ibuse: Big round boshi on tachi sword, typically seen in Northern Japan
Ichimae Gitae: Blades forged from one piece of steel
Ichimai: one-piece sword construction
Ichimai Boshi: Fully templered Kissaki
Ikari Kissaki: Strong curve on Kissaki
Imono Tsuru: Thick nie hamon line like sweet potato vine
Inazuma: Lightening shape marks in yakiba or hada
Irokogata: Fish scales patterend hamon
Ito: Silk or cotton hilt wrapping
Itomaki No Tachi: Tachi with top of saya wrapped with ito
Ito Sugu: Thin, thread like hamon
Ito Sugba: Narrow straight yakiba

Jami: Steel contains 0.3 to 0.4% carbon, medium carbon steel
Ji (Hiraji): Sword surface between the shinogi and the hamon
Ji Gane (Jigane, Shigane): Soft sword steel
Ji Han Getsu: Half moon patterns in Ji
Jindachi (Jintachi): Another name for Tachi sword
Jinto: A fighting Tachi sword
Jin Wakizashi: Medium length sword worn with a tachi
Juka: Reheated or re-tempered blade
Jukaba: Large choji hamon
Juka Choji: Double choji patterned hamon
Jumonji Yari: A spear with doubled-edged cross blades
Juzu: Rosary bead shaped hamon

Kabuto: A helmet used with traditional Japanese armour as worn by samurai
Kabuto Gane: Tachi style pommel cap
Kabuto-Wari: Helmet breaker, it's a square pointed rod about 12" long with hook
Kadoba: Box pattern hamon
Kagehi: Small groove beside a regular groove on a blade
Kai Gunto: WWII Imperial Naval sword
Kaji: Japanese swordsmith
Kaki Nagashi: Pointed shape end of groove
Kaki Toshi: Groove continuing to end of sword tang
Kaku Dome: Square shape end of groove
Kaku-Mune: Square shaped back ridge of sword
Kamakura Mono: A general term for Japanese sword forged by most famous swordsmiths including Shintogo Kunimitsu, Yukimitsu, Masamune, Sadamine  in Sagami province.
Kamasu Kado (Kamasu Zukuri): Large kissaki with straight edge
Kamishimo Zashi (Kamishimozashi): Daisho sword pair with conservative black mountings
Kamon (mon): Family crest
Kanasuji: Small wood grain pattern near the cutting edge
Kana Toku: Anvil
Kan No Ha: A straight line patterned hamon continues all the way to just above the yokote, then curving with the kissaki, the line finishes at about touching the blade edge
Kanmuri Otoshi: Beveled back ridge
Kao: Carved monogram of swordsmith on nakago
Kashira: Cap at the end of tsuka
Katachiri: Flat surface left by groove that extends to shinogi
Katakiri: Japanese sword with one side entirely flat
Katakiri Ba: Blades sharpened to one side only, similar to chisel grind
Katana: Long sword
Katana Kaji: Swordsmith
Katana Kake: Sword stand
Katana Mei: Katana signature
Katana Hai: The back of the katana blade
Katana Shin: Katana blade
Kawazu Choji (Kawadzunoko-Choji): Mmushroom shape choji hamon
Kawagane: Medium hardness steel, used mainly for blade surface folding
Keiko: Practice battle
KEN : Straight double edged sword
Kengata Choji: Fist shape choji hamon pattern
Kenshi: A sword master
Kesso : Groove on the blade, same as Hi, Bo-Hi
Kibaha: Saw tooth pattern hamon
Kidachi:  Wooden fencing sword
Kijino Tachi: Ceremonial tachi to welcome emperor's visit
Kikuba: Chrysanthemum patterned hamon
Kikushui Ba: Chrysanthemum blossoms floating on water patterned hamon
Kiri: Paulownia, royal tree in Japanese culture
Kiri Ha Tachi: Long tachi with straight kissaki
Tameshi Kiri (Kiri Tameshi): Blade cutting tests, also called Tameshigiri
Kissaki: The tip portion of Japanese sword
Kitae: Sword forging
Kitae Kata: Sword forging methods
Kobuse : Sword forging method with hagane ( harder surface steel) and shingane (soft core steel)
Kochoji: Small choji pattened hamon
Kodachi: Short tachi sword
Kogarasu Tsukuri: Blade with shinogi ridge turning into sharp edge towards kissaki
Kogatana: Short Japanese knife with a hole or ring at pommel
Koiguchi (Koyiguchi, Koyiguci): Mouth and the mouth fitting of the saya
Kojiri (Sayajiri): Bottom end and its fitting on saya
Ko Mei: Small text on nakago
Ko Shinogi: Shinogi continue on all the way into kissaki
Koshizashi: Short dagger
Ko Wakizashi: Short wakizashi, approximately 12"-16" long
Kuge Tachi: Tachi used by Imperial family
Kurikata (Kurigata): Fittings on saya for tieing sageo cord
Kusungobu: Armor piercing tanto, aame as Yoroidoshi
Kwai-Ken: Short tanto that can be carried inside clothing

Machi: Notches in blade to stop habaki, Ha-Machi (edge notch), Mnue-Machi (back notch)
Makura Dashi: A pillow sword
Makuri Gitae: Folding technique by wrapping the kawagane (medium steel) around the shingane (soft steel)
Mamori Katana: Short Japanese tanto, first sword for a boy under 5 years old
Maru (Maru-Kitae): Japanese sword forged from one single piece of steel, no folding or wrapping invovled
Maru Dome: Round shaped groove end
Maru Mune: Round shaped mune (back of the black)
Matsuba Saki: Blade surface between back and small ridge above yokote
Mei: Signature engraved on Japanese sword, usually in nakago
Mekugi: Bamboo peg or metal rivet holding the handle on a sword
Mekugi Ana: Mekugi hole in nakago
Mempo: Face guard, mask
Menuki: Ornament under ito to improve grip
Metezashi: Dagger with red wood handles
Mi: The blade portion of Japanese sword
Midare Choji: Irregular Choji hammon pattern
Mihakashi: Emperor's sword
Mimigata: Ear shaped hamon pattern
Mitokoro Mono: Matching set of kozuka, kogai and menuki
Mitsumata Yari: Three prong spear, like a Trident
Mitsu Mune:  Three surface blade back
Mizuheshi: Water tempering process, the heating and chilling in water to harden the edge of the blade
Mokko: Four leaves tsuba shape
Mon (Kamon): Family crest
Mon Habaki: Family crest habaki
Mono-Uchi (Mono-Uci): Striking potion of the katana blade, usually 4-5 inches below kissaki
Mono Nogu: Armor
Moraha: Double edged Japanese sword, Ryoba
Moroha Tsukuri: Short double edged Japanese sword
Motagi: Decorative menuki head
Muku Kitae: Forging method using almost pure iron
Mumei: Unsigned sword
Mune: Back ridge of the blade
Mune Machi: Back notch on the blade to stop habaki
Munesuji: Center ridge line at mune
Mune Uchi: Use the back of the blade to strick
Mune Yaki: Hamon on mune

Nagadachi: Extra Long sword, same as Nodachi
Nagae Katana: Same as Nodachi
Nagamaki: Same as Nodachi
Naginata: Short sword mounted on long handle, a polearm
Nakago: Sword tang
Nakago Jiri: End of Nakago
Nakago Mune: Back of Nakago
Nakago Saki: Tip of Nakago
Nakago Shinogiji: Nakago ridge
Nakago Shiri: Nakago tip surface
Nie: White crystals in Ji and/or Hamon
Nie Deki: white crystal hamon
Nihonbi: Double groove on blade
Nihontou: Japanese sword
Nijuba: Double hamon
Ninjato (Ninjaken): Ninja sword
Nioi: Finer and darker crystals than nie, also found in Ji and/or hamon
Nodachi: Extra Long sword, also called great field sword, used mainly by foot soilders when dealing with calvary
Notare: Wavy hamon pattern

Obi: Belt sash
O-Choji: Large choji patter on Hamon
Odachi: Very long katana sword, normally between 65-80 inches, carried mainly by calvary
Oino Dachi:  Large sword carried on the back. Same as seoi tachi.
O-Kissaki: Large Kissaki
Omote: Outter side of the Japanese sword when it's worn.  The side againste body (inner side) is called Ura.  Katana Omote and Tachi Omote are opposite due to the style of wearing
On Ken: Another name for Wakizashi
O-Notare: Large wave patterned hamon
Ori Awase Ni-Mai: Two plate folidng techinique for Japanese sword forging
Ori Awase San-Mai: Three plate folidng techinique for Japanese sword forging
Origami: Certificate of appraisal
Osame Tachi: Ceremonial tachi offered to shrines
Otachi:  Very long tachi sword
Oto: Another name for tachi
O-Wakizashi: Long wakizashi, wakizashi that's about 2 feet long

Ryoba: Double edged sword
Ryojiri: Flat surfaces on either side of groove in the shinogi
Ryu: Dragon horimono
Ryugo Choji: Choji patterns that look like dragon head

Sabidoro: Clay coating for tempering purpose
Sageo (Sagiyo): Cord attached to kurikata on one side of saya
Saka-Choji: Choji pattern slanting down towards the bottom of the blade
Saka-Te: Holding sword with kissaki down
Sakazuno: Hook fittings on wakizashi and tanto
Same (Same Kawa): Patch of sking from the belly of giant ray, used to wrap tsuka and sometimes saya
Samurai: Warriors
Sanbonsugi: Three cedar tree pattened hamon
Sanmai Kitae: Three layer folding technique
Sash Gatana: Medium length wakizashi
Sashi Utsumuku: Tanto with back curved toward cutting edge
Saya: Japanese sword scabbard
Sayaguchi: Same as koyiguchi, mouth of saya
Seki Gane: Soft metal plug in tsuka
Sena: Ridge of the sword
Seoi Tachi: Large tachi used in battle field
Seppa: Washer in between habaki and tusba
Shihozumei: 5 layer folding techinque, with shigane core, hagane edge, and kawagane mune, shinogi and shinogi ji
Shimotsu Tachi: Gift sword for New year or wedding
Shinai: Kendo bamboo sword
Shin Gane: Soft steel, mainly used for core during Japanese sword forging
Shinogi: Ridges on each side of the blade
Shinogi Hikushi: Flat shinogi
Shinogi Ji: Flat surface between the mune and shinogi on Japanese sword
Shinsakuto: Japanese swords made after WWII
Shirasaya (Shira Saya): Originally referring to one piece wood sword storage, eventually evolved into a unique form of Japanese sword in which the tsuka and saya becomes one piece wood stick when the sword is concealed
Shita Gitae: The heating-forging-folding process of making sword steel
Shitodome : Small collars in the kurikata and/or kashira
Shogun: Military dictators of Japan from 1192 to 1867.
SHUMEI : Red lacquer signature
Shuri Ken: Throwing knife
Soshu Kitae: 7 layer folding technique, with shigane core, hagane edge, mune, shinogi and shinogi ji, and layers of kawagne inbtween hagane and shigane.  This is the most complexed folding method, used by famous sword smith Masamune
Sugaba (Sugaha): Straight hamon line

Tachi: Long sword more curved and longer than katana, often worn with edge down as oppose to katana
Tachi Kaki: Tachi cutting dance
Takendo Gatana: Bambo fencing sword
Tamahagane: Jewel steel, steel made from black sands, mainly used for samurai sword forging
Tameshigiri: Sword cutting test
Tanto: Dagger or knife shorter than 1 foot
Tanzaku Kitae: Mixed steel forging
To (Tou): Sword
Tsuba (Suba): Sword guard
Tsuchi: Small hammer for removing mekugi in tsuka
Tsuka: Samurai sword handle
Tsuka Gashira: Pommel
Tsuka Guchi: Hole in tsuka to insert  nagako
Tsukeo: Cords attached to tsuba or tsuka
Uchiko: Powder for cleaning sword
Uchizori: Curved toward cutting edge, like a reverse sword
Udenuki: Cord on saya
Uma-ha: Horse teech patteneed hamon
Ura: Side of samurai sword against body when worn
Ura Mei: Signature on ura side, ususaly the forging date
Urizane : Oval shape mekugi ana, sometime is gourd shape

Waki: Boundary between ji and yakiba
Wakizashi: Medium length sword from 12 to 24 inches
Wariha Gitae (Wariha Tetsu): Forging technique with hagane edge inserting into hawagane sword body
Warikomi Kitae: Same as Wariha-gitae, a simple and popular method for forging Samurai swords

Yagen Doshi: A short heavy armor smashing Samurai sword
Yakiba Watashi: Hardening and tempering process
Yakidashi : Hamon beginning above hamach
Yama Gatana: Mountain knife, hunting dagger
Yamazakura: Choji patten look like cherry blossom
Yanone: Arrow head
Yari: Japanese spear
Yokete: Line between ji and kissaki
Yokote Shita: Small surface just below yokote
Yokote Uye: Small surface just above yokote
Yokotegiri: Horizontal cut with a sword
Yoroidoshi: Armor cutting tanto, usually double edged

Tom Kishida, Kenji Mishina: The Yasukuni swords: rare weapons of Japan, 1933-1945
John M. Yumoto: The samurai sword: a handbook
George Cameron Stone: A Glossary of the Construction, Decoration and Use of Arms and Armor
Nick Evangelista: The encyclopedia of the sword
Kōkan Nagayama: The connoisseur's book of Japanese swords
Leon Kapp, Hiroko Kapp, Yoshindo Yoshihara: Modern Japanese swords and swordsmiths: from 1868 to the present

About the Author

Michael Xie is a content writer for xandlnet is one of the largest online sword, katana, knife, and armory distributors.  Our collection includes a wide varieties of Japanese samurai swords, training swords, medieval swords and armories, daggers, and knives. To find great deals on your hand forged katana and other types of Japanese samurai sword, please visit our website.

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