3 different melee weapons, a fighting boomerang (blunt), Yari (pointed), and Pattern 1907 bayonet (bladed).

A melee weapon, hand weapon or close combat weapon, is any handheld weapon used in hand-to-hand combat, i.e. for use within the direct physical reach of the weapon itself, essentially functioning as an additional (and more effective) extension of the user's limbs. By contrast, a ranged weapon is any other weapon capable of engaging targets at a distance beyond immediate physical contact.[1]


The term melee originates in the 1640s from the French word mêlée, which refers to disorganized hand-to-hand combat, a close-quarters battle, a brawl, or a confused fight; especially involving many combatants.[2][3][4]

The 1812 tabletop war game Kriegsspiel referred to the hand-combat stage of the game as a melee.[5] Later war games would follow this pattern.[6][7][8] From there, gamers would eventually begin to call the weapons used in that stage melee weapons.[9][10]


Melee weapons can be broadly divided into three categories:

Many weapons fit into multiple categories, or fit in between them; many polearms such as halberds, lucerne hammers, and guisarmes add edged and blunt methods of attack to a spear base, and various hooked weapons such as billhooks, fauchards, falxes, and becs de corbin evade simple classification; while flexible weapons such as whips don't fall into any of these categories.

List of melee weapons

See also


  1. ^ Michele Byam (2010-11-30). Arms and Armor, Discover the story of weapons and armor-from Stone Age axes to the battledress of samurai warriors. New York: Dorling Kindersley.
  2. ^ "the definition of melee". Dictionary.com. Archived from the original on 2 March 2021. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  3. ^ "Definition of MELEE". Merriam-Webster. Archived from the original on 2 March 2021. Retrieved 10 June 2017.
  4. ^ Oxford English Dictionary. 2015. mêlée. "A battle or engagement at close quarters, a skirmish; a confused struggle or scuffle, esp. one involving many people. Also hist.: a tournament involving two groups of combatants."
  5. ^ W. R. Livermore (1882). The American Kriegsspiel (PDF). Riverside Press, Cambridge. p. 105. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2020-06-04. Retrieved 2019-08-14. The first point to be considered is the number of combatants on either side and the relative advantages under which they are fighting; the second the losses and duration of the melee
  6. ^ H.G. Wells (1913). Little Wars. Frank Palmer Publishing. We did at last contrive to do so ; we invented what we call the melee, and our revised rules in the event of a melee will be found set out upon a later page
  7. ^ Trevor Timpson (August 3, 2013). "Little Wars: How HG Wells created hobby war gaming". BBC News. Archived from the original on October 7, 2017. Retrieved October 6, 2017.
  8. ^ Luke Plunkett (September 18, 2012). "HG Wells Practically Invented Modern Tabletop Wargaming". Kotaku. Archived from the original on October 7, 2017. Retrieved October 6, 2017.
  9. ^ "Interview with Gary Gygax". Gamebanshee. Archived from the original on 2009-02-03.
  10. ^ Michael J. Tresca (November 10, 2010). The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games. McFarland. ISBN 9780786460090. Archived from the original on March 27, 2023. Retrieved October 27, 2020.