An assegai or assagai (originally Berber zaġāya "spear", from Old French azagaie Old Spanish azagaya < Arabic az-zaġāyah) is a pole weapon used for throwing or hurling, usually a light spear or javelin made of wood and pointed with iron.


The assegai was probably exported to the Iberian peninsula from Berber Africa although it resembled the ancient Iberians' falarica. The assegai became popular among the Christian warriors of the Reconquista and was used extensively throughout the High Middle Ages. The 14th century Catalan Christian foot mercenaries called the Almogàvers wielded this weapon to great effect throughout southern Europe and the Levant.


The use of various types of the assegai was spread all over Africa and it was the most common weapon there. The Zulu and other Nguni tribes of South Africa were renowned for their use of the assegai. Shaka of the Zulu invented a shorter-style assegai which had a larger, broader blade. This weapon was known as the iklwa or ixwa – for the sound that was heard as it was withdrawn from the victim's wound – and was used as a stabbing weapon during mêlée attacks. The traditional assegai was not discarded but was used for a softening range attack on enemy formations before closing in for close quarters battle with the iklwa. This tactical combination originated at Shaka's military reforms much resembled the Roman's tactical combination of pilum and gladius.


It is also the name of a southern African tree (Curtisia dentata) whose wood was suitable for making spears or lances, most notably by the Bantu peoples of southern Africa.

See also


Search another word or see assegaion Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature