AskDefine | Define joust

Dictionary Definition

joust n : a combat between two mounted knights tilting against each other with blunted lances [syn: tilt] v : joust against somebody in a tournament by fighting on horseback

User Contributed Dictionary



From etyl fro joster (modern French: jouter), from etyl la juxtare


  • /dʒaʊst/ /dZaUst/


  1. A tilting match: a mock combat between two mounted knights or men-at-arms using lances in the lists or enclosed field.


  1. To engage in mock combat on horseback, as two knights in the lists; to tilt.

Derived terms


Extensive Definition

Jousting is a sport and an entertainment for the rich and noble. It consists of martial competition between two mounted knights using a variety of weapons, usually in sets of three per weapon (such as tilting with a lance, blows with the battle axe, strokes with the dagger, or strokes with a sword), often as part of a tournament.
Jousting was just one of a number of popular martial games in the Middle Ages referred to generically as hastiludes.
Though the first recorded tournament was staged in 1066, jousting did not gain in widespread popularity until the 13th century. It maintained its status as a popular European sport until the early 17th century.
Jousting was added to tournaments several centuries after their inauguration. The joust permitted a better display of individual skill and, although dangerous, offered large sums of prize money. Many knights made their fortune in these events, whilst many lost their fortune or even life. For example, Henry II of France died when a shard of his opponent's broken lance went through his visor and into his eye.

Medieval jousting

The skills and techniques used in jousting were also used in combat. In combat, mounted knights would charge at their enemies with weapons to try to kill or disable them. The primary use of the jousting lance was to unhorse the other by striking them with the end of the lance while riding towards them at high speed. This is known as "tilting". Other weapons were also used for jousting. It is mentioned frequently in the novel Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott. In the late medieval period, castles and palaces were augmented by purpose-built tiltyards as a venue for "jousting tournaments".

The horse

main article Medieval horses
The two most common kinds of horse used for jousting were warmblood chargers and coldblood destriers. Chargers were medium-weight horses bred and trained for agility and stamina, while destriers were heavy war horses. These were larger and slower, but helpful to give devastating force to the rider's lance through its weight being about twice as great as that of a traditional riding horse. The horses were trained for ambling, a kind of pace that provided the rider with stability in order to be able to focus and aim better with the lance.
During a jousting tournament, the horses were cared for by their grooms in their respective tents. They wore caparisons, a type of ornamental cloth featuring the owner's heraldic signs. Competing horses had their heads protected by a chanfron, an iron shield for protection from otherwise lethal lance hits.
Other forms of equipment on the horse included long-necked spurs which enabled the rider to control the horse with extended legs, a saddle with a high back to provide leverage during the charge or when hit, as well as stirrups for the necessary leverage to deliver blows with the lance.

The armor

Jousting was popular from the Middle Ages until the early 1600s. During that time armour evolved from being chain mail (called simply mail at the time), with a solid, heavy helmet, called a "great helm", and shield. By 1400 knights wore full suits of plate armour, called a "harness". A full harness frequently included extra pieces specifically for use in jousting, so that a light military combat suit could be reinforced with heavier, "bolt-on" protective plates on the cuirass (breastplate) and helmet, and also with jousting-specific arm and shoulder pieces, which traded mobility for extra protection. These extra pieces were usually much stronger on the side expected to take the impact of the lance. Special jousting helmets were sometimes used, made so that the wearer could only see out by leaning forwards. If the wearer straightened up just before the impact of the lance, the eyes would be completely protected. Some later suits had a small shield built-in the left side of the armor. In some cases this was spring loaded to fly into pieces if struck properly by the opponent's lance.

The lance

In modern times, jousting is often done for show or demonstration purposes, and the lances used are usually made of light wood and prepared so that they break easily. Lances were often decorated with stripes or the colors of a knight's coat of arms. In a real joust, the lances were of solid oak and a significant strike was needed to shatter them. However, the (blunt) lances would not usually penetrate the steel. The harnesses worn by the knights were lined on the inside with plenty of cloth to soften the blow from the lance.

Modern-day jousting

Modern day jousting or tilting has been kept alive by the International Jousting Association,, which has strict guidelines for the quality and authenticity of jousters' armour & equipment, and has developed the use of breakable lance tips for safety.
Jousting under the IJA rules follows a points system where points are given for breaking the lance tip on the opposing knights shield, note there are no points given for unhorsing an opponent. IJA sanctioned tournaments also include skill at arms where the riders display their horsemanship and weapons handling skills with swords on the Moors Head, they use spears for the rings and spear throw, and use the lance against a spinning quintain. Many IJA tournaments also include a mounted melee with fully armoured riders using padded batons in place of swords for safety. None of the IJA events are theatrically based and they offer the public a chance to observe living history as opposed the Renaissance Fair type entertainment type jousting.
Today, tent pegging is the only form of jousting officially recognized by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports. The sport involves using a lance or sword to strike and carry away a small wooden ground target. The name "tent pegging" is derived from the cavalry tactic of causing confusion in enemy camps by galloping though the camps and collapsing the tents by pulling up the tent peg anchors with well-placed lance tip strikes. The actual sport of tent pegging, however, originates in medieval India, when horse cavalrymen would try to incapacitate elephant cavalry by striking the elephants with lances on their extremely sensitive toenails.
Ring jousting is the official state sport of Maryland, and was the first official sport of any American state.
The Italian town of Foligno also holds an annual jousting tournament, the Giostra della Quintana, that dates back to the 1613. The Knights have to spear rings from the statue of the Quintana.
The Italian town of Arezzo continues to hold an annual jousting tournament, which dates to the Crusades. Jousters aim for a square target attached to a wooden effigy of a Saracen king, whose opposite arm holds a cat-o-three-tails — three leather laces with a heavy wooden ball at the end of each lace. The riders strike the target with chalk-tipped lances and score points for accuracy, but must also dodge the cat-o-three-tails after they have struck the target.
In Port Republic, Maryland the annual Calvert County Jousting Tournament is held every August on the grounds of historic Christ Episcopal Church. In 2005, the tournament was featured in an edition of ESPN's SportsCenter.



  • Strong, Roy: The Cult of Elizabeth: Elizabethan Portraiture and Pageantry, Thames and Hudson, 1977, ISBN 0500232636
  • Young, Alan: Tudor and Jacobean Tournaments, Sheridan House, 1987, ISBN 0911378758
Giostra Del Saracino, Arezzo:

Further reading

joust in Catalan: Justa
joust in German: Tjost
joust in Spanish: Justa
joust in French: Joute équestre
joust in Hebrew: תחרות הפלה ברומח
joust in Dutch: Steekspel
joust in Japanese: ジョスト
joust in Norwegian: Dysting
joust in Simple English: Jousting
joust in Finnish: Turnajaiset
joust in Chinese: 马上长矛比武

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Olympic games, Olympics, battle, bout, box, brawl, broil, clash, close, collide, combat, come to blows, concours, contend, contest, cut and thrust, derby, duel, encounter, engagement, exchange blows, fence, feud, fight, fight a duel, game, games, give and take, give satisfaction, go, grapple, grapple with, gymkhana, jostle, match, matching, meet, meeting, mix it up, quarrel, rally, rassle, rencontre, riot, run a tilt, scramble, scuffle, skirmish, spar, strive, struggle, test, thrust and parry, tilt, tournament, tourney, trial, tussle, wage war, war, wrestle
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