Renaissance Military History Glossary

This glossary focuses on European troops and weapons from 1500 to 1660. (F)rench, (I)talian, and (S)panish terms are the most common. Types of cannon are listed separately at the end. Spelling can vary from what is listed here.

Term Definition
argoulets (F) French mounted arquebusiers.
aventuriers (F) Mercenary foot soldiers in the French army, mostly Frenchmen, usually armed with a crossbow.
barche A boat for 20 – 30 soldiers, with small cannons and a sail, for river combat.
bonnachts Irish light infantry, usually armed with sword and shield.
boyars Eastern European nobles.
caballos corazas (S) Armoured 17th C. Spanish sword & pistol cavalry (cuirassiers).
caballos ligeros (S) Lightly armoured Spanish knights – demi-lances.
caliver English large caliber arquebus.
caracole (S) A process in which pistol cavalry attacks in column, with the front rank discharging their pistols, and wheeling to the rear to reload. Used against pike blocks.
carrack The largest ship of the era. Usually Portuguese and usually armed. Used for overseas transport of valuable goods.
cavalleria leggiera (I) Lightly armoured Italian knights – demi-lances.
chebeck A mediterranean sailing ship with square and lanteen sails. Also called a Xebec.
colunella (S) A 16th C. Spanish column of foot, commanded by a colonel.
condotta (I)
condottieri (I)
Contract soldiers. Mercenaries. Usually used to refer to their leaders.
cromster A flat bottom sailing boat used by the Dutch to operated out of marshy areas to supply besieged towns and harass enemy shipping.
drabant Polish heavy infantry.
drujina Russian medium cavalry.
elmeti (I) Literally "helmets", Italian knights (non-noble)
en haye (F) Literally "in line". A cavalry line formation, usually only 1 to 3 riders deep, as opposed to the more common deep columns.
enfants perdus (F) Literally, lost children or Children of Hell. French skirmishing arquebusiers. See verlorne Haufe below.
escopeteros (S) Spanish mounted arquebusiers/musketeers.
famiglia ducale (I) Ducal bodyguard knights.
galleas A combination galley and galleon with oars and sails, and guns mounted fore, aft, and broadside.
galloglaich Mailed axemen (like huscarls) in the pay of an Irish chieftain.
gendarmes (F) Gents d’Armes. Heavily armoured (usually French) knights.
genitors See jinetes.
gulyai-gorod Portable palisade used by Eastern European armies to protect Shot and Artillery.
harquebusiers English mounted arquebusiers or dragoons.
herguletiers (S) Spanish mounted arquebusiers.
herreruelos (S) Spanish sword and pistol cavalry – like Reiters.
Huguenot French Protestant.
jinetes Spanish light cavalry, lightly armoured, with spear and shield.
Keil (G) Literally a wedge. One third of the Swiss army, or a Swiss pike block.
kern Lightly armed Irish skirmishers, who usually carried a missle weapon or firearm.
Landsknecht (G) A German/Imperial foot soldier, usually a pikeman and often a mercenary. Known for their brightly coloured clothes, and recklessness in combat.
lanze spezzate (I) Literally a broken lance. Independent mercenary knights, who did not belong to a company or band.
Millers Protestant French heavy cavalry, armoured nobles with sword and pistols.
Morgenstern (G) A two-handed Landsknecht sword.
pancerni Polish medium cavalry, armed with axe and bow or gun.
pedites (I) Ordinary Italian foot soldiers, often militia.
petronels Mounted handgunners.
provisionati (I) Short term Italian militia.
Reiter (G) Caracoling pistol cavalry, usually armoured, and usually German.
scapoli (I) Ships crews used for land combat, usually by Venetians.
stradiots Balkan light cavalry introduced into Italy by the Venetians. Unarmoured, but armed with javelins, shield, mace and sword.
streltsi Russian infantry, usually armed with muskets.
tercio (S) The standard pike and shot formation of the late 16th and early 17th C. Everything from 3000 man squares with shot on the corners to 1000 man blocks with "sleeves" of shot. Replaced in the 1630s and 1640s with Dutch-style battalions.
verlorne Haufe (G)
Forlorn Hope
Literally a "lost bunch" of Imperial skirmishers, usually armed with two-handed swords and halberds, who ran ahead of the army to disrupt enemy pike blocks. Musketeers and arquebusiers were similarly employed. The task was very hazardous, and these troops were written off as casualties as soon as they were comitted to battle.

Renaissance Artillery

Cannon Description
culverin A very long-barreled field gun firing 17-20 lb. shot.
Demiculverins fired 10 lb. shot.
drake Brass land and naval guns firing 6 lb. shot.
falcon Medieval light gun.
falconet Light swivel gun with 2″ bore.
minion 3.25″ bore, 4 lb. shot.
ribaldequin Organ or battery gun with several small-bore barrels mounted parallel on the same platform, the Renaissance equivalent of grapeshot.
saker Land and naval gun, smaller than demiculverin, 5 lb. shot.
serpentine Small gun with 1.5″ bore and removable breech.

Chris Salander

Miniature Wargaming