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Archery Help for Writers in Middle-earth: 1. Glossary of Basic Archery Terms

Since many of our beloved characters of Middle Earth include Elven or other archers, I thought perhaps a simple Glossary of Terms might be useful, for when we are writing and find ourselves thinking, "Now WHAT is that called...?"


This is the revised version of my earlier article, as I have since taken up archery myself.  However, bear in mind that I am very much a beginner, and there is far more to the art and skill of archery than I can cover in a few pages.  This is simply information gleaned from several written sources, which I thought might be of use to writers of Middle Earth.  A bibliography of my sources appears at the end.


~ Erin

November 2005



By ErinRua



The place where an arrow's nock is drawn to before release, usually the chin, cheek, ear or chest. Used to help aiming.
Anchor Point:
The position to which the bowstring and the arrow are pulled to.
Archer's paradox:
In period bows (without a shelf or centre shot) the arrow which is properly shot will fly in the line of aim although the string propelling the arrow moves directly to the centre of the bow. The arrow in fact bends around the bow after release but after passing the bow returns to its proper line of flight.
The missile shot by an archer from a bow.
The striking end of an arrow, usually made of a different type of material from the shaft such as iron, flint or bronze, depending on the purpose of the arrow.  Also called a point.
Arrow Straightener:
Device to straighten bent (damaged) arrows.
The person making metal arrowheads.
A covering for an archer's wrist (for the bow arm), used to protect the wrist from the slap of the string.  Also called an Arm Guard or Brassard.
(MY NOTE:  Not to be confused with Vambrace, which is the piece of a suit of armor which fits same place, but is made of steel.  Some sources say archers often simply grew calluses over time, but if so, I would say the process left some incredible bruises.)
A type of medieval arrowhead. It has generally 4 faces with 4 edges (like a small pyramid) in order to open and/or to cut chain mail.
A wide steel arrowhead used on hunting arrows. Used for hunting big game and during the Middle Ages for wounding the battle horses.
An archer; somebody who shoots a Bow.
One who builds or repairs bows.
[1] The distance a bow can propel an arrow.
[2] An earthen mound used as a backing for a target, and/or the target area.
[3] A target made from compacted straw. (MY NOTE: 2 and 3 most common.  Target practice was called "shooting the butts.")
Cloth yard arrow:
An arrow of a certain length used for medieval English arrows, about 36 inches in length.
A white cloth placed on the ground as a marker for long distance shooting.
Clout shoot:
An archery contest where the aim is to hit a target laid out horizontally on the ground.  (MY NOTE:  Archer must shoot in a high arc into the air in order to hit the clout, a very different challenge from shooting at an upright target.)
Cock feather:
The feather at right angles to the string position in the nock on three feathered arrows. (MY NOTE: The Cock feather will differ in color or type from the other feathers, for quick nocking to the string.)
Composite bow:
A recurve bow made from a number of materials laminated together (e.g. wood, sinew and horn).
Allows the arrow to edge forward at full draw just before the release of the arrow. (MY NOTE: Creeping is a fault, lest it weaken aim or the force of the arrow's flight.)
Colored marks or bands painted near the nock of an arrow for identification purposes.
The pull of the bowstring back into the shooting position with proper anchor.
Draw Weight:
The draw weight of a bow is calculated by the number of kilograms (or pounds) required to draw the bowstring back to full draw length (Usually to a standard length of 28').
Draw Length:
The draw length of a bow is the distance the arrow is drawn back before release. To determine your correct draw length, draw an arrow all the way back and have someone mark the shaft with a pencil at a point even with the front of the bow. To make sure that arrowhead does not contact the fingers of the bow hand when shooting, an additional 2 to 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) is added to the measured draw length. Draw length determines what length of arrows you should use.
(Also called Vanes.) The flights on an arrow to aid in stability in flight. The larger the feathers are, the faster the arrow stabilizes, but the slower the arrow flies. It is a part of the fletching.
(MY NOTE: In target shooting, recovery of spent arrows is concerned with retrieving the arrows with the fletching undamaged. e.g. Don't just rip them up out of long grass, or the fletching may be torn or mangled, and thus require replacement before the arrow can be used again.)
Fletch (to) :
Action to attach fletches to arrows.
An arrow maker.  Also, a person who attaches fletches to arrows.
To add feathers to an arrow. Or the set of feathers on an arrow.
(MY NOTE:  An old superstition was that there must be clouds in the sky for fletching.)
Flight Shooting:
Long distance shooting.
Flinch (to) ::
To move the Bow arm or the string arm to the side at the moment of the release. This is a very common fault especially amongst beginners.
End part of the arrow (where the nock is).
Hen feathers:
The feathers which are NOT at right angles to the string position in the nock on three feathered arrows. (= all feathers except the cock feather)
A defense work consisting of sharpened wooden stakes driven into the ground pointing towards the oncoming enemy, used to protect archers from cavalry charge.
Herse of Archers:
A wedge formation of archers supported on the flanks by men-at-arms, used by the English during the Hundred Years War.
Usually on Longbows. It is a piece of horn which is glued at the tips of the Bow and contains the groove in which the bowstring goes.
Hunting Arrow:
Type of arrow used for hunting. There are many types of hunting arrows: they can be mounted with different sorts of hunting point, with 2 or 4 blades, with blunts, with judo points, ...; they can also have different types of vanes: broad and long for bird hunting, "normal" for bigger game, other vanes for fishing, etc...
Instinctive shooting:
Shooting without the aid of sights, used particularly in field archery and hunting.
Kisser Button:
Put on string and placed in such a way that it touches your lips when at full draw. Helps to maintain consistency.
(MY NOTE: In the form of a small bead which does not interfere with nocking arrow - Not common in English longbow shooting.)
The two "ends" of a bow, from the handle out, which bend and give the arrow its flight motivation.
A self bow longer than the height of the user, commonly between 66 and 76 inches length, preferably made of yew and made famous by the English at Crécy, Poitiers and Agincourt.
Also called release.  To release the string of a bow to propel an arrow towards its target.
Master Eye:
The eye the Archer actually uses for aiming.
Nock (1) :
[1] The deep groove in the end of an arrow into which the bowstring is fitted.
Nock (2) :
[2] Also, the grooves at either end of the bow (or teardrops) which hold the bowstring in place.
Nock (3) :
[3] The act of fitting an arrow to the string.
(MY NOTE: Not to be confused with stringing, the act of putting the string on the bow.)
The grooves at either end of the bow (or teardrops) which hold the bowstring in place.
Nocking Point:
The spot on the bowstring where the nock of the arrow is to be placed prior to drawing and shooting.
A type of arrow head used for target shooting.
A figure of a bird suspended from a pole and used as a target by archers and crossbowmen.  Also called Papegay.
The act of pulling the bowstring to full draw.
A device for holding arrows, located on the bow or the archer himself. Some models can be fixed on the back, others on the shoulder or at the belt.
Recurve bow:
A bow where the limbs bend away from the archer when held in the firing position.
(MY NOTE: This means both ends of the limbs curve forward a bit like the top of an S. When unstrung, a Recurve bow bends in the opposite direction that it bends when drawn. A long or short bow only bends one way.  This bow will use a shorter arrow than the Longbow.)
Roving (or Stump Shooting) :
Shooting practice or exercise where the Archer walks through the countryside and shoots at any natural objects he decides to. It is an EXCELLENT exercise because the distances are never known, and he may choose targets as difficult as he wants to.
Self Bow:
A self Bow is a bow made completely of wood. It can be made out of a single piece (called a stave) or two pieces (called billets) joined at the handle. A self Bow can have a backing, although if that backing is another wood, it becomes a laminate.
The extra thread wrapped around the middle of the bowstring to prevent the arrow or the archer's fingers from fraying the string causing it to break.  (MY NOTE: This is the point where the arrow is nocked to the string. This is the ONLY part of the bowstring that is NOT kept waxed. Serving must be dry and non-sticky, and can be re-wrapped when worn.)
The body of an arrow.
Sheath of arrows:
A bundle of twenty-four arrows.
Short bow:
A bow usually half the height of the archer using the bow.
(MY NOTE: This bow will not be able to safely or effectively shoot the same arrows as the longer, stronger Longbow.)
A piece of wood destined to be shaped into a bow.
(MY NOTE:  Staves usually of dark yew wood, and were seasoned for at least seven years before shaping.  Must be straight-grained and free of knots.)
[1] A bowstring.
[2] To fit a bow with a string.
(MY NOTE: this is not to be confused with fitting / nocking an arrow to the string.)
[1] An aid to stringing a bow.
[2] A maker or seller of bowstrings.
War bow:
A bow primarily made for use in war, often of stupendous draw-weights of 100 pounds or more.
Whistling arrow:
An arrow with a large hollow head with openings in front and sides. When shot the air rushing through the openings makes a whistling noise. (MY NOTE: These were sometimes used to send messages on a battlefield, as the whistling would bring attention to their arrival.)

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Last Update: 30 Dec 09
Stories: 4
Type: Reader List
Created By: Elena Tiriel

Non-fiction works about topics useful to writers.

Why This Story?

I am not an archer, therefore I need all the help I can get to incorporate archery in my stories.


Story Information

Author: ErinRua

Status: General

Completion: Complete

Era: Other

Genre: Research Article

Rating: General

Last Updated: 11/21/05

Original Post: 09/19/02

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