A recent conversation has revealed that a few people cannot tell one sword from another. While this may not be vital information I would like to take the opportunity to spread a bit of knowledge on that which I am passionate about. what follows is a brief description of five similar swords, the saber, the scimitar, the smallsword, the falchion, and the cutlass.
A saber possesses a slender, curved blade in the area of about 35 inches long. Sabers are most often used by mounted soldiers and thus are made with a hilt just long enough to be held in one hand which sports a brass knuckle or "D" guard. Though it may sound cliché, the saber is indeed an elegant weapon which boasts a repertoire of graceful slashes, chops, and thrusts.
A scimitar (pronounced Sem-ih-tar) is another curved sword used in the middle east and some parts of north africa. The scimitar has a broad blade with a small "tooth" along the spine. Its been speculated that this tooth is present to add a bit more strength to the part of the blade that receives the force of a blow. Scimitars can be used either to delivers wide sweeping cuts, or can be held close to the body to deliver shorter slashes better suited for close quarters.
A little known sword that was widely popular in its time was the falchion (fall-shen) which was a favored side weapon of the famous English Longbow men. The falchion features a straight, single-edged blade ideal for cutting and chopping. Other than this, there is little else to be known.
A friend of sailors and pirates alike is the cutlass. The cutlass is a varied weapon sporting everything from a scimitar-like blade favored by the Corsairs, to the more slender hanger sword used by Caribbean pirates. Whether curved or straight the blade is most often of a stouter and broader design, this was key since a longer blade was impractical aboard an 18th century ship due to all the rigging. The blade was typical fixed to a short hilt with a basket or cup guard which was often solid enough to be used as a blunt weapon. The cutlass was used in an odd mix of stylized fencing and direct, brutal attack.
An evolution of the rapier, the smallsword is still with it today, though often as an ornamental piece carried by an military officer during formal occasions. The smallsword retained the rapier's straight, slim blade, but was considerably shorter in length. In it's time the smallsword was a civilian weapon and was carried for as long as a sword was an integral part of fashionable dress and as such was made to be pretty, though far less ornate than its rapier predecessor.