Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A short pike carried by infantry officers and sergeants in the 18th century.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A pointed weapon similar to a pike.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A kind of half-pike, or halberd, formerly borne by inferior officers of the British infantry, and used in giving signals to the soldiers.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A kind of halberd or partizan formerly serving as the distinguishing arm for certain officers of the British infantry. Compare half-pike. Also called demi-pike.

Etymologies

French sponton, from Italian spuntone : s-, intensive pref.; see sforzando + puntone, kind of weapon, augmentative of punto, point (from Latin pūnctum, from neuter past participle of pungere, to pierce, prick).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Examples

  • A spontoon was a kind of half-pike, a military weapon carried by officers of infantry and used as a medium for signalling orders to the regiment.

    Candide

  • Coming down to us ceremonially, the British infantry senior NCOs used what was called a spontoon, which was a badge of office and used for dressing the lines, among other things.

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  • “I am just now like the half-pike, or spontoon of Achilles, one end of which could wound and the other cure — a property belonging neither to Spanish pike, brown-bill, partizan, halberd, Lochaber-axe, or indeed any other modern staff-weapon whatever.”

    A Legend of Montrose

  • I would like to see some company make just spontoon heads that you could attach to wire.

    My Jacobite Army

  • If I could figure out how to affix the tip of the halberd, spontoon or whatever onto the piano wire, I might try that, but I think that you will be OK if you don't.

    In The Grand Manner Napoleonics

  • Frae the gilded spontoon tae the fife I was ready;

    Sodger Laddie

  • He was carrying a spontoon that he had picked up from a dead Connaught Sergeant.

    Sharpe's Battle

  • A spontoon wounded his horse, but the Hussar held on.

    Sharpe's Waterloo

  • The broad lance subsisted till lately in the halberd; the spear and framea in the long pike and spontoon; the missile weapons in the war hatchet, or North American tomahawk.

    The Germany and the Agricola of Tacitus

  • There are two ranges of them down the back, shaped exactly like the head of a spontoon, and opposite to the point of the scale has a little shank, about three tenths of an inch long, which the natives insert into the end of their arrows, making the scale serve for a head.

    History of Louisisana Or of the Western Parts of Virginia and Carolina: Containing

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Comments

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  • Half-pike with triple twist is sp~on~to~on. I know lots about diving, you see.

    October 14, 2008

  • Thanks, c_b!

    October 14, 2008

  • OED: "A species of half-pike or halberd carried by infantry officers in the 18th century (from about 1740).
    The It. form spontone is used as a foreign word by Barret Theor. Warres (1598) IV. iv. 113." So yes, just like a half-pike.

    Also says it's derived from French sponton (also espontoon) and Spanish esponton (both originated in Italian).

    October 10, 2008

  • Like a half-pike?

    October 10, 2008

  • "SPONTOON, a spear used by infantry officers; anciently the spontoon was used in the following manner: when it was planted, the regiment halted, when pointed forward, the regiment marched, and when pointed backwards, the regiment retreated." (citation in Historical Military Terms list description; see also espontoon)

    October 9, 2008

  • Wow. It took me a long time to find this word.

    May 20, 2008

  • "The two strangers were brought in between two ranks of soldiers; the Commandant was at the end, with a three-cornered hat on his head, his gown tucked up, a sword at his side and a spontoon in his hand."
    - Candide

    February 27, 2008