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

  • n. The art or sport of using a foil, épée, or saber in attack and defense.
  • n. Skillful repartee, especially as a defense against having to give direct answers.
  • n. Material, such as wire, stakes, and rails, used in building fences.
  • n. A barrier or enclosure of fences.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. Present participle of fence.
  • n. The art or sport of duelling with swords, especially with the 17th to 18th century European dueling swords and the practice weapons decended from them (sport fencing)
  • n. Material used to make fences, fences used as barriers or an enclosure.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The art or practice of attack and defense with the sword, esp. with the smallsword. See fence, v. i., 2.
  • n. Disputing or debating in a manner resembling the art of fencers.
  • n. The materials used for building fences.
  • n. The act of building a fence.
  • n. The aggregate of the fences put up for inclosure or protection.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The art of using a sword or foil in attack and defense, or practice for improvement or the exhibition of skill in that art.
  • n. That which fences; an inclosure or fence; the fences collectively.
  • n. Specifically, a protection put round a dangerous piece of machinery; brattishing.
  • n. Material used in making fences.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. material for building fences
  • n. a barrier that serves to enclose an area
  • n. the art or sport of fighting with swords (especially the use of foils or epees or sabres to score points under a set of rules)


Sorry, no etymologies found.



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  • I want this to be what fence-sitters do.

    February 12, 2009

  • You could stream the Olympics live; I haven't visited the site again to see if they've archived any of the fencing bouts, but there's a good chance.

    August 28, 2008

  • I'll check it out. Alas, I don't have a television and the Olympic coverage here was not conducive to the gatecrashing of friends' homes for the purpose of watching an arcane sport. Sigh.

    I will investigate The Duellists.

    August 28, 2008

  • The frindley, if she is still interested in watching awesome realistic swordplay, should try to get the frindley's hands on a film called "The Duellists," with Harvey Keitel and Keith Carradine. My fencing/stage combat instructors made us watch it repeatedly, and now with DVD remotes you can slow down the action and see what they do.

    Also, did you see the Olympic fencing last week? Thrilling bouts. A fencing coach/friend of ours is fond of telling people that the second-fastest object in the Olympics is the tip of a fencer's foil. The only thing faster is, of course, a bullet.

    August 28, 2008

  • The frindley took up fencing when she was, well, too old. (All the best fencers begin at the age of six or so, like ballet I guess.)

    And why? Mainly because she was suffering, in the professional environment, from a particularly obnoxious and petty boss. And so it seemed like the right time to pursue a long-held dream while enjoying general catharsis. She was also somewhat inspired by the Australian conductor, Simone Young, also a fencer, who once talked about how conducting and fencing both involve waving a stick, but with conducting you are trying to communicate intent, whereas with fencing you are trying to conceal intent. Very interesting thought. She had probably seen The Fencing Master on television as well, and had spent her childhood reading books like the Scarlet Pimpernel and other period romances. Oh, and the oft-quoted analogy of fencing being like chess speeded up probably had an influence too.

    A postscript. Given her story, the frindley was especially amused by this site, which offers "fencing" as a corporate team-building exercise. (A "modern, collaborative experience" is their way of describing it.) Sounds dodgy to me.

    August 28, 2008