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This is a listing of traditional archery terminology.
Some of the terms are to the point of almost being considered archaic,
but I have listed them here for historic importance. I very often
come across many of these terms in the old books I like to read. As
you may know, a current Webster's dictionary will not have many of
these terms listed. I have, however, not listed terms related to the
modern craze in high tech machinery.
* Many of these terms and their definitions were pulled
from Dr. Robert Elmer's Archery, 1926 *
Allow: To aim an arrow windward to compensate for the
Allowance: The change of aim to compensate for windage.
Angular bow: A short bow with a peculiar angular shape
at the handle. Most, if not all, were probably made by joining two
staves at the handle with a severe backward angle to make stringing
the bow easier and allow for a longer arrow. These bows were known
to be used by the ancient Assyrians.
Arbalest: See Arbalist.
Arbalist: A crossbow.
Archer: A person who shoots a bow.
Archer's rood: A measure of seven and one-half yards.
Archery: 1. The use of the bow and arrow; 2) The practice, art, or
skill of archers; 3) Archers collectively
Armguard: A piece of leather or other material attached to the forearm
of the arm holding the bow. The armguard protects the forearm from
the slap of the string. Also called a bracer.
Arming: Now more commonly called the handle wrap. The material wrapped
around a bow handle.
Arrow: The missile that is shot from a bow.
Arrow-guide: Now, more commonly called an overdraw. A material or
setup fastened to the bow near the top of the handle or to the wrist,
traditionally, to guide a short arrow that is drawn past the bow and
the bow hand.
Arrowhead: It now commonly refers to the flint, obsidian, or other
natural material heads used by native American groups. Traditionally,
it meant the tip or pile of an arrow.
Arrow-horn: Anock insert traditionally made of horn, ivory, or other
Arrow hound: 1) The shooter that collects the arrows from the target;
2) A shooter that is especially good at finding lost arrows.
Arrow mark: A mark on an arrow to indicate ownership.
Arrow plate: Traditionally, a thin piece of hard material set in
a bow where the arrow crosses to prevent wear to the bow. Leather
is more commonly used now. Also called a strike plate.
Arrow rest: A small projection at the top of the bow handle area
on which to rest the arrow.
Arrowsmith: A maker of arrowheads or broadheads. This term is commonly
misused to mean a fletcher.
Arrow stand: A vase or support on the ground for holding arrows.
Compare to ground quiver.
Arrow stave: A slender rod of wood ready for further shaping to form
an arrow shaft (stele).
Artillery: 1) Bows and arrows; 2) All projectiles and machines for
Ascham: 1) A tall, narrow cabinet for bows, arrows, and associated
tackle; 2) A portable case for bows, arrows, and associated tackle.
At home: An arrow is said to be at home when it falls upon, or not
short of, the mark.
Back: 1) (n) The side of the bow that is away from you when you shoot;
2) (v) To Glue an elastic material on the back of the bow in order
to make a stronger, safer, water resistant, or more decorative bow.
Backing: A material put on the back of a bow to increase
its strength, protect it from possible breakage, make it more water
resistant, or make it more decorative. Hickory, sinew, rawhide, snakeskins,
birch bark, cherry bark, bamboo, and fiberglass are commonly used.
Balloon fletching: 1) Fletching in the shape of an arc,
not as stretched as parablic; 2) Parabolic fletching.
Barbed arrow: A hunting arrow with a barbed broadhead.
Barbs: 1) The points projecting back from an arrowhead
or broadhead. They were designed to prevent an arrow from easily coming
out of a point of entry so that continued damage could be done. It
is illegal in most areas to use these heads for hunting purposes,
but collectors like them. 2) The thin, obliquely set plates which,
collectively, form a vane in a feather.
Barrelled (adj): Used to describe the shaft of an arrow
that is larger in diameter in the middle than at the ends. It was
thought that these arrows would be more aerodynamic. It was also done
to reduce the physical weight of the arrow without reducing the spine
Battle bow: A powerful bow used for military purposes.
"Out of him came forth the battle bow." - Zechariah
Bearded arrow: An arrow with a barbed broadhead.
Bearing arrow: 1) An arrow which possesses a steady
flight; 2) An arrow carried as a badge of authority.
Belly: The part of the bow that faces you when you shoot.
Also called the face.
Bend: 1) (n) The space between the bent bow and its
string; 2) (v) To string a bow, not to draw it.
Bending: The lower loop of the bowstring.
Benn: A pink silk sash given as the chief prize at the
Papingo Shooting at Kilwinning, Scotland.
Billets: Two sections of wood used to make a bow. The
sections are connected by way of a splice or by using some sort of
Black: 1) A hit in the black ring, counting three; 2)
The fourth ring of the target, even if it is not colored as in clout
shooting; 3) A dark spot seen and used as a mark in roving.
Blazon: A square target formerly used in Flanders. It
is divided into fifty squares, the middle one counting 26 and the
next in value being in the corners. Beside each number is a square
that counts nothing.
Blazonry: The shooting of a blazon.
Blue: 1) A hit in the blue ring, counting five; 2) The
third ring of the target, even if it is not colored as in clout shooting.
Bobtailed arrow: An arrow that increases in diameter
from the point to the nock.
Bolt: The arrow used in a crossbow.
Bonarro: A word coined in 1924 by the California By-Products
Company of San Francisco, CA to denote a roving game of their invention.
Bone: The hard, resinous layer of coniferous trees.
Bought: A twist or turn in the grain of wood. "In
knots and many boughtes." - Spencer, Faerie Queen
Bow: 1) A weapon consisting of a strong strip of elastic
wood, or other material, with a string stretched between its ends
used for shooting arrows. With this definition, one can certainly
eliminate other things commonly referred to as bows; 2) A measure
of six feet, used principally in clout shooting and roving.
Bow arm: The arm that supports the bow during shooting.
Bow-boy: A young bowman. "Alas, poor Romeo! he
is already dead; stabbed with a white wench's black eye; shot through
the ear with a love song; the very pin of his heart cleft with the
blind bow-boy's butt-shaft."-Romeo and Juliet, Act 2,
Bow cord: Bowstring
Bow hand: The hand that holds the bow by the handle
Bowman: an archer.
Bow ribbon: A loop of ribbon (or thread) fastening the
eye of the string to the top bow horn or through the hole in the top
tip when the bow is unstrung.
Bowshot: The distance a bow will shoot an arrow.
Bowstave: A split section of a log to be used to make
a bow. Also called a stave, staff, or bowstaff.
Bowstring: The cord joining the two ends of the bow
in a taught position.
Bow tire: Loss of cast in a bow due to it having been
drawn and held too long or having been strung too long.
Bowyer: A maker of bows.
Brace: To string a bow.
Break: An open fracture in a wooden bow, as opposed
to a chrysal.
Breast: The part of the arrow at about the same distance
from the nock as the string is from the bow.
Breasted arrow: Properly, an arrow heaviest at the breast.
Often used synonymously with barrelled arrow.
Broad arrow: 1) An arrow with a wide flat head and large
barbs used for hunting or warfare; 2) A heraldic design stamped on
the clothing of English convicts and used in blazonry, somewhat resembling
Broadhead: A sharp metallic arrow point used in hunting.
Bullet arrow: An arrow with a cavity in the end for
throwing a bullet or small stone. It is often tied to the bow with
a string and is used for very small game animals.
Bull's eye: 1) The gold; 2) The center of the target
at which you shoot.
Butt: 1) An embankment of dirt, straw, fiber, or other
material used in back of a target (especially in field archery) to
stop stray arrows; 2) Such an embankment used as the taget itself.
Butt-arrow: An arrow used in shooting at short targets,
the same as a target arrow.
Butt-mark: A four-inch disc of paper pinned to a butt
as a target.
Butt-shooter: An archer who shoots at the butts (targets).
Butt-shooting: Shooting at butt-marks or pricks placed
on butts (targets).
Butty: An archer's shooting companion. It may be the
original of the "buddy" of World War I.
Carriage bow: A jointed or hinged bow.
Carry the shot: Win the cast.
Cast: 1) The ability and efficiency of a bow in shooting
an arrow; 2) The coefficients of resilience of a bow; 3) Any lateral
warping in a bow or an arrow; 4) The right of shooting first by winning
the last shot; 5) A tilt in the back of a bow out of the perpendicular
to the plane passing through the string and the longitudinal center
of the bow.
Cement: A gluing compound used to attach points and
heads to arrow shafts.
Check: 1) Shake; 2) Gizzen
Chest guard: A garment worn by women to prevent the
left breast on a right-handed shooter from obstructing the release
of an arrow and to protect the breast from string slap.
Composite bow: A bow made from more than one type of
material. Horn bows made from horn, wood, and sinew are most commonly
thought of as composite bows. Fiberglass and wood laminated bows are,
technically, composite bows.
Compound bow: 1) A bow made from more than one piece
of the same type of material. A bow with a bamboo backing over bamboo
laminations would be a compound bow; 2) This term has been used to
mean composite bow; 3) No, nothing else!
Core: The middle section of a composite bow (or other)
to which other materials are glued.
Cylindrical arrow: An arrow made with a parallel shaft.
Distance-of-jump: The short distance after release of
an arrow in which the arrow straightens itself.
Flight-test: An arrow whose flight has been tested prior
Flirting: The erratic flight of an arrow to the left
caused by insufficient spine.
Footed arrow: An arrow with a main body of a lighter
wood like cedar and a footing or foreshaft of a heavier denser wood
spliced to the front.
Footing: The forward section of an arrow that has been
spliced to the lighter main section and to which the point or head
Foreshaft: See footing.
Gadding: The erratic flight of an arrow to the left
caused by insufficient spine.
Gizzen: 1) (n) A longitudinal crack in wood; 2) (v)
To crack, or check, longitudinally in the seasoning of wood.
Ground quiver: A wood, aluminum, or metal stake with
a ring on it pushed into the ground to hold arrows during shooting.
Compare to arrow stand.
Group: The concentrated location of a shooter's arrows
in the target.
Hinged bow: A take-down bow utilizing a hinge mechanism
at the handle area that allows the limbs to fold down when not strung,
thereby allowing for more compact transport of the bow.
Honing: A process of using a round object such as a
bone or a section of an arrow shaft to compress the wood fibers of
a wooden bow in order to give it a nice sheen and to aid in water
resistance; also known as boning.
Jointed bow: A take-down bow joined by a socket, sleeve,
hinge, or other method.
Laminated bow: A bow made from strips of material glued
together, modern wood and fiberglass recurves and longbows are commonly
referred to as laminated bows.
Lamination: A thin strip of wood glued to one or more
others to form the core of a bow limb.
Lemonwood: Also called Degame, a species of wood
commonly used for lower-priced longbows prior to the Cuban Embargo.
Loading: The reinforcement of the front of an arrow
with a heavier rod, wire nail, or such in an effort to bring the balancing
point of the arrow forward or to simply add weight to an arrow.
Nock insert - A piece of bone, horn, wood, fiber, or
other material spliced into the nock section of an arrow in an effort
to reinforce the nock or to add to the asthetic value of the arrow.
Osage: Osage orange, Maclura pomifera, bois d' arc
in French, hedge in the Midwest,
Overdraw: 1) (v) To draw a bow farther than it was meant
to be drawn or can safely be drawn; 2) (n) a specialized armguard
or arrowshelf that allows a short arrow to be drawn past the back
and belly of the bow. This was commonly used in flight competitions
with composite bows.
Parallel shaft: An arrow shaft that has no taper.
Pile: Arrow point.
Prima donna: An arrow with uniquely bad flight characteristics.
Rankling: A long arrow point, often seen on Asiatic
Resin: 1) Free gum of woods; 2) A well defined layer
Self arrow: An arrow made from a single stick of wood.
Compare to footed arrow.
Selfbow: A bow made from a single piece of wood.
Shaf: A section of wood used to make an arrow, dowel.
Shake: A longitudinal crack in wood.
Shelf: A shelf cut out of the riser above the handle
area of the bow on which arrows are placed if an arrow rest is not
Sinew: Dried tendon commonly used as backing on bows,
reinforcing self arrow nocks and mounting arrowheads and homemade
Stave: A split section of a log to be used to make a
bow. Also called a bowstave.
Strike plate: Traditionally, a thin piece of hard material
set in a bow where the arrow crosses to prevent wear to the bow. Leather
is more commonly used now. Also called an arrow plate.
String: (n) The cord joining the two ends of the bow
in a taught position; (v) to flex the bow and slip the bowstring into
the string grooves in preparation of shooting; also called to brace;
Stringer: A section of cordage with leather caps at
either end used in the safe stringing of longbows and recurves. Stringers
allow the limbs to be bent evenly during the stringing process, thereby
avoiding damage to the limbs that can happen by stringing a bow without
Take-down bow: A bow whose construction allows for it
to be taken apart into more than one piece, thereby allowing for more
Tillering board: A tool (commonly a 2 X 4) used to hold
a bow while its arms are checked for even bending.
Tiplik: A piece of wood with a rouded side and a flat
side used with sections of cordage in the initial process of stringing
a composite horn bow.
Win the cast: 1) Win the shot at roving; 2) Have the
honor of shooting first at the next mark because of winning the last