What Is a Claymore Sword

TLDR: A claymore sword is a large, two-handed Scottish sword with a broad blade, designed for powerful slashing and cutting, and often characterized by its distinctive cross-shaped hilt and double-edged blade.

The claymore sword is a legendary weapon that screams Scottish martial prowess! This iconic two-handed sword, named from the Scottish Gaelic term for “great sword,” burst onto the scene in the late 15th century and dominated Highland warfare for over two centuries. 

With its long, double-edged blade and unique crossguard, the claymore wasn’t just a weapon—it became a symbol of Scottish identity and resistance. From the battlefields of clan conflicts to its lasting presence in pop culture, the claymore continues to capture our imaginations and embody the fierce spirit of Scotland’s warrior past!

Claymore Definition and Etymology

Did you know that the term “claymore” comes from the Scottish Gaelic “claidheamh-mòr,” which means “great sword” or “big sword”? It’s a perfect name for such an impressive weapon, right? This name captures its massive size and impressive stature among Scottish arms! But here’s where it gets a bit tricky: “claymore” has been used to describe different types of swords over the years, causing a bit of confusion today.

So, what are the main types of claymores?

The Two-Handed Claymore: This is the classic one you probably think of first. It’s a huge, two-handed sword used from the 15th to 17th centuries. Imagine a long, double-edged blade with a unique crossguard curving towards the blade, often ending in quatrefoils. It’s the stuff of legends!

The Basket-Hilted Broadsword: Sometimes called a “claymore” too, this sword came about in the 17th and 18th centuries. It’s a single-handed sword with a basket-shaped hilt that protected the wielder’s hand. While it’s quite different from the two-handed version, it still got the name “claymore” in some circles, especially in military contexts.

This article is all about the two-handed claymore—the earlier, more iconic version of the sword. Understanding this distinction is super important for appreciating its role in Scottish history and how it evolved over time. The two-handed claymore is a unique piece of Scottish martial culture and has become a lasting symbol of Highland warrior tradition.

Claymore Historical Origins

The claymore sword, as we know it today, burst onto the scene during a thrilling period in Scottish history, spanning the late 15th and early 16th centuries. This was a time of constant clan warfare and epic battles with England, sparking the need for powerful and intimidating weapons!

The claymore wasn’t just invented out of the blue—it evolved from earlier sword designs. Its roots dig deep into Scottish and Irish Gaelic cultures, where swordsmanship had been a thing for ages. The claymore’s immediate predecessor was likely the “claidheamh dà làimh,” or two-handed sword, wielded by both Scots and Irish.

So, what shaped the development of the claymore?

Continental Influence: The Scottish claymore has a lot in common with contemporary European greatswords, showing that weapon design ideas were definitely being shared across cultures.

Adaptation to Highland Warfare: The claymore’s impressive length and weight made it perfect for the charge-and-shock tactics that Highland warriors loved.

Cultural Significance: With clan warfare heating up, the claymore became more than just a weapon—it turned into a symbol of clan pride and martial skill.

Technological Advancements: Improvements in metallurgy led to longer, stronger blades that could handle the demands of two-handed combat.

The 16th century was the golden age of the claymore! It became a favorite among Highland clans and was crucial in legendary battles like Flodden Field (1513) and Pinkie Cleugh (1547).

Even as firearms started taking over European battlefields, the claymore’s tactical importance faded, but its cultural significance stayed strong. It continued to be used in Highland warfare well into the 17th century, especially during the Jacobite risings.

Physical Characteristics of the Claymore

The claymore sword is famous for its massive size and unique features that make it stand out from other European swords of its time. Its design is perfect for powerful, sweeping cuts and making a grand statement on the battlefield!

Overall Length and Blade Dimensions

The claymore is known for its impressive length, typically ranging from 140 to 150 cm (55 to 59 inches). This length is split between the blade and the hilt, creating a sword that’s both striking and formidable.

  • Overall length: 140 cm (55 inches)
  • Blade length: 107 cm (42 inches)
  • Blade width: 5.3 cm (2.1 inches)
  • Grip length: 30.5 cm (12 inches)

These dimensions might vary slightly, but they give you a good idea of the claymore’s general proportions.

Distinctive Features

  • Blade: The claymore’s blade is long, straight, and double-edged. It tapers gradually from the hilt to the tip, making it great for both cutting and thrusting.
  • Crossguard: One of the most recognizable parts of the claymore is its crossguard, which slopes downward towards the blade and often ends in quatrefoils (four-lobed shapes). This design not only protects your hand but also helps control the blade during fancy maneuvers.
  • Grip: The grip is long enough for two hands and is usually wrapped in leather for better control. Its substantial length of about 30.5 cm (12 inches) allows for powerful, leverage-enhanced swings.
  • Pommel: The pommel at the end of the grip is usually circular or somewhat pear-shaped. It acts as a counterweight to the blade, improving balance and making the sword easier to handle.
  • Fuller: Many claymores have a fuller, which is a shallow groove running along part of the blade. This reduces the weight of the blade without compromising its strength.

These features combined to create a weapon that was perfect for Highland warfare. The claymore’s massive size and distinctive look have cemented its place in Scottish cultural identity and popular imagination!

How Heavy Are Claymore Swords?

The weight of a claymore sword is one of its most standout features, making it both a powerhouse in battle and a true test of skill to wield! On average, your typical claymore tips the scales at around 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs). 

Combine that weight with its impressive length, and you’ve got a weapon that’s a real game-changer in the hands of a trained warrior. But keep in mind that the weight could vary a bit depending on the sword’s design and craftsmanship.

Now, let’s compare it to other two-handed swords of the time:

  • European Longswords: These usually weighed between 1.1 to 1.8 kg (2.4 to 4 lbs), so they were lighter than the claymore.
  • German Zweihänder: These giants could weigh up to 3.2 kg (7 lbs) or more, even heavier than the claymore!
  • Italian Spadone: Similar to the claymore, these swords weighed around 2 to 2.5 kg (4.4 to 5.5 lbs), putting them in the same weight class.

The way the claymore’s weight is distributed is key to its effectiveness. Even though it’s pretty hefty, the balance point was usually around 3.5 inches from the guard. This made it surprisingly nimble, letting warriors pull off both powerful strikes and quick maneuvers with ease.

Sure, 2.5 kg might sound heavy for a sword today, but Highland warriors were tough and trained to handle these beasts! The weight, paired with the sword’s length, allowed for devastating swings that could slice through lighter armor and pack a punch even against heavier defenses.

The claymore’s size and weight demanded strength and skill, adding to the fearsome reputation of Highland warriors on the battlefield. This combo of weight, reach, and balance made the claymore a uniquely Scottish weapon, perfect for their style of warfare and martial traditions.

Claymore Materials and Construction

The claymore sword was a marvel of its time, thanks to top-notch materials and the incredible skill of its craftsmen! These mighty weapons came to life through careful material selection and precise forging techniques.

Blade Material

The blade of a claymore was typically made from high-quality steel, which was key to its awesome performance and longevity. During the 15th and 16th centuries, steel-making was getting better and better all over Europe.

  • Steel Quality: The finest claymores often used imported steel from Germany, famous for its top-grade metal. This steel made the blade strong and flexible, perfect for surviving intense battles.
  • Forging Process: Blades were forged with great care, often folded and reforged to get rid of impurities and boost strength. This process made sure the blade had the right mix of hardness (to keep a sharp edge) and flexibility (to avoid breaking).
  • Heat Treatment: After forging, blades went through meticulous heat treatment, including quenching and tempering, to hit the sweet spot between hardness and toughness.

Hilt Components and Materials

The hilt was just as important as the blade, offering balance, control, and protection to the wielder. It was made up of several key parts:

  • Grip: Usually crafted from strong yet lightweight wood like ash or oak, and wrapped in leather for a better grip and added durability.
  • Crossguard: Made from steel or iron, the distinctive downward-sloping crossguard protected the hands and often featured fancy designs or clan symbols.
  • Pommel: Made of steel or iron, the pommel acted as a counterweight to the blade. Often pear-shaped or circular, it could be decorated with engravings or inlays.
  • Fittings: Various metal fittings, like rivets and bands, held everything together and were typically made of iron or steel.
  • Decoration: Some claymores, especially those owned by clan chiefs or famous warriors, boasted extra decorative touches like precious metal inlays, engravings, or even gemstones.

The Claymore’s Use in Scottish Warfare

The claymore sword was a game-changer in Scottish warfare, especially from the 15th to 17th centuries! It wasn’t just a weapon; it was a symbol of Scottish military might, making a mark in numerous famous battles.

Why the Claymore Was So Effective

  • Reach Advantage: The long blade let warriors strike from a distance, keeping their enemies at arm’s length.
  • Devastating Strikes: With its weight and length, the claymore delivered powerful, sweeping cuts that could slice through lighter armor and cause serious damage.
  • Psychological Impact: Just imagine the fear it struck into enemies’ hearts seeing Highland warriors charging with these massive swords!
  • Versatility: While it was mainly a cutting weapon, you could also use the claymore for thrusting attacks when needed.
  • Group Tactics: In tight formations, soldiers wielding claymores formed a formidable wall of steel, effective against both cavalry and infantry charges.

But it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. The claymore had its drawbacks too:

  • Fatigue: The sword was heavy, so fighters could tire quickly in long battles.
  • Maneuverability: In close quarters, its long blade could be awkward, putting the user at a disadvantage against opponents with shorter weapons.

All in all, the claymore was an iconic part of Scottish history, blending power, intimidation, and versatility on the battlefield!

The Claymore in Pop Culture

The legendary Scottish claymore sword has made a huge splash in popular culture, popping up in all sorts of media and entertainment! Its unique look and rich history have turned it into the go-to weapon for showcasing fierce Scottish warriors and epic medieval battles.

Films: The Star of “Braveheart” (1995)

The claymore shot to fame with Mel Gibson’s epic movie “Braveheart” (1995). Sure, the film isn’t exactly a history lesson, but who can forget William Wallace swinging that massive claymore in battle? Even though the movie sword is way bigger and heavier than the real deal from the 13th century, “Braveheart” made the claymore a symbol of Scottish bravery and freedom!

Video Game

The claymore is a hit in video games, especially those with medieval or fantasy themes. You can find it in:

  • The “Dark Souls” series, where it’s a top choice for players thanks to its power and versatility.
  • For Honor,” featuring Scottish Highlanders wielding claymores in fierce combat.
  • Strategy games like the “Total War” series, where Scottish troops can be armed with claymores.
  • RPGs like “The Elder Scrolls” series, often featuring claymore-like swords.


The claymore has slashed its way onto TV screens in both historical dramas and fantasy series:

  • The “Outlander” TV series, bringing claymores to life in 18th-century Scotland.
  • The “Highlander” TV series, with its immortal Scottish hero wielding a claymore.
  • Fantasy series like “Game of Thrones,” showcasing claymore-inspired weapons in epic battles.

Where Can I Get My Own Claymore?

If you’re captivated by the rich history and iconic design of the Scottish claymore, you’re in luck! There are tons of options out there to get your very own replica. Loads of online retailers that specialize in historical weaponry have a fantastic range of claymore replicas to fit any budget and interest. Whether you’re looking for a cool decorative piece to hang on your wall or a top-notch, historically accurate replica made by skilled artisans, there’s something for everyone!

Medieval Collectibles

What I Like:

  • Fully Functional and Extremely Hardy: The Scottish Claymore with Scabbard is designed for powerful impact with every swing.
  • High-Quality Blade: It features a hand-forged 5160 high carbon steel blade with a deep fuller, dual-hardened for enhanced strength and balance.
  • Durable and Comfortable Hilt: The sword includes a leather-wrapped wood scabbard and a hilt with a full-length, peened tang for immense durability and a solid grip.

Kult of Athena

What I Like:

  • Sharp Blade of High Carbon Steel: The Braveheart Claymore features a sharp blade made of 5160/D2 high carbon steel, ideal for half-swording techniques.
  • Blued Steel Crossguard and Pommel: The crossguard and pommel are made of robust blued steel, with a grip overlaid in tight leather for secure handling.
  • Leather-Stitched Wooden Scabbard: The sword comes with a large, stained wooden scabbard, covered in stitched leather with brass rings for easy wear.

Dark Knight Armoury

What I Like:

  • Elegant Design: The Silver and Gold Claymore features gold detailing with a heraldry shield, geometric designs, and a Marto logo on the 440 stainless steel blade.
  • Rich Decorations: The crossguard, grip, and pommel are adorned with silver and 24k gold plating, showcasing intricate motifs like the fleur-de-lys, a central rampart lion, and a lion and unicorn in battle.
  • Impressive Display Piece: Measuring 57 inches in length and weighing 5 pounds 11.7 ounces, this decorative sword is perfect for display in an office or as part of a Scottish costume.







Based on everything I’ve learned about the claymore sword, it’s truly a fascinating piece of Scottish history and culture. Its evolution from the two-handed version to the basket-hilted broadsword reflects not just changes in design but also shifts in warfare tactics and cultural symbolism over the centuries. I find it impressive how the claymore became not just a weapon of practical use but also a powerful symbol of Scottish identity and resistance, embodying the spirit of Highland warriors who wielded it in battle.

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