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Spear and a Lance-What is the difference?

Spear and a Lance-What is the difference?

The distinction between lance and spear as nouns is that a lance is a weapon of war composed of a long shaft or handle and a steel blade or head; a spear is carried by horsemen, whereas a spear is a long stick with a sharp tip used as a weapon for throwing or thrusting, or anything used to make a thrusting motion.

Lances are a little heavier, but they are sharper, designed primarily for horseback riding and sports. Spears are typically designed for use as defensive weapons in actual combat. You may have seen in movies that soldiers fighting with spears carry shields, as it is the best weapon for defensive purposes.

Generally, lances and spears are weapons used in wars and battles by soldiers to protect themselves and fight back. But they have some of the contrasting traits that I will be discussing in this blog. All I need is for you to get through the end.

What is a Spear?

A spear is used for various purposes. It is a noun that has various contextual meanings. The following description gives us the idea of the word “spear” being used as a noun for various purposes.

A spear carried by horsemen is a weapon of war with a long shaft or handle and a steel blade or head. It is a wooden, sometimes hollow, spear used in jousting or tilting that is designed to shatter on impact with the opposing knight’s armor.

It has a variety of applications depending on the context.

  • In terms of fishing, whalers, and fishermen use a spear or harpoon.
  • A horseman’s spear is a weapon of war with a long shaft or handles and a steel blade or head.
  • Whalers and fishermen use a spear or harpoon to catch fish.

What do you know about a Lance?

A device is used to convey and force the charge of a piece of ordnance. It is a sharp-edged knife with a blade that is used in making incisions. Lances are not only used as weapons but have other applications too.

Let’s have a look at them.

  • In the military, A lancer is a soldier who is armed with a lance.
  • Or we can say it is a device that conveys and forces the charge of a piece of ordnance.
  • Also known as a small iron rod that suspends the mold’s core when casting a shell.
  • In the case of “pyrotechnics” A small paper case filled with combustible composition that marks the layout of a figure.
  • In medicine, Lancet is used to make incisions.


In the case of other foundations of use, a small iron rod suspends the core of the mold in the casting of a shell.

The lance and the spear have several meanings as nouns and verbs. The use of them as a noun has already been explained, but now I’ll be telling you the characteristics that differentiate them as a verb.

Lance; verb

Lancing, lanced

As a transitive verb: 

It means to pierce with a lance or to appear to pierce with a lance or to lance or appear to lance a boil with a lancet.

To put it forward, “hurl” is an intransitive verb. or to make rapid progress.

Spear; verb

Speared or spearing on

As a transitive verb it means,
  • To pierce or strike with, or as if with, any long, narrow object. To make a thrusting motion with the tip of a long device that catches an object.
  • To develop a long stem, as some plants do.
  • To advance quickly.
An image of a knight holding a lance to get to the joust
A knight preparing for the joust with a lance

Lance vs. Spear

Lance and a spare differ from each other as a verb and a noun separately. They are not at all same. To know the similarities and differences we need to compare them individually, such as:

As nouns; a lance is a weapon of war composed of a long shaft or a handle and a steel blade or head; While a spear is carried by horsemen, whereas a spear is a long stick with a sharp tip used as a weapon for throwing or thrusting, or anything used to make a thrusting motion.

The distinction between lance and spear as verbs is that lance means to pierce with a lance or any similar weapon, whereas spear means to penetrate or strike with, or as if with, any long narrow object to make a thrusting motion that catches an object on the tip of a long device.

Lances were only used by cavalry, spears by infantry, and halberds by cavalry. Spears were mostly used as missiles, but Roman armies used a shorter version as stabbing weapons. Halberds were a hybrid of an ax and a stabbing spear.

I think it is quite comprehensive, and we are familiar with the contrasts between a lance and a spare, right?

Check out the comparison of a lance and a spear

Do Lance and a spear differ in terms of weight and design?

A lance is a pole weapon or spear used by a mounted warrior. During the periods of Classical and Medieval warfare, it evolved into the leading weapon in cavalry charges, but it was unsuited for throwing or repeated thrusting, unlike similar infantry weapons of the spear/javelin/pike family.

It’s mostly about terminology.

Lancea was the Latin word for “javelin” or “throwing spear.” Lances are now used for everything from cavalry spears to specialized jousting spears.

In other words, a lance is a spear designed for use while riding a horse. Therefore, they are longer than the shortest foot spears and shorter than the longest foot spears.

During the high Middle Ages, the European lance evolved into the couched lance charge, so they needed to provide a good grip for the lancer and possibly break rather than throw off a rider if they hit something solid, such as the ground. They had hand guards and were generally heavier than the older lances that were commonly used to stab people.

Lances became more like ordinary spears and were generally shorter during the modern period. Their goal was to outmaneuver pike formations with sabers and possibly bayonets.

Now you know how and why Lance and spears are different from one another in terms of weight and designs.

An image of a knight holding a spear
Spears are thrown by knights

What is the contrast between a spear, a javelin, a lance, and a pike?

Spears, javelina, Lance, and a pike are four different weapons. They have startling characters. Both spears and javelins are designed to be thrown, but spears are longer and can be used in close combat as well. Lances are designed to be used by a horse, whereas pikes are designed to be used by a large number of footmen.

  • A javelin is a lightweight throwing weapon.
  • A lance is a heavier weapon designed for use by riders on horseback.
  • A pike is a very long weapon, which seems like a fish.

Hence, A spear is either a broad term that encompasses all of these and more or a specific term referring to a more common, general-purpose type of spear.

There are some constructional differences between these types of polearms, but the main difference is the method of deployment.

  • Pike – stationary or positioned
  • Ground weapon with a spear (wielded on foot)
  • Weapon mounted on a lance (wielded from horseback or vehicle)
  • Javelin is a long-distance weapon (thrown or bolted)

A lance is used from a horse, even though it is essentially the same as a spear. A pike is a two-handed weapon that is typically much longer than its wielder is tall. A javelin is designed to be thrown, and its small size reflects this, though it is certainly useful in melee combat. Spear is the most difficult to track down. A man on foot, about the same height or taller than the man using it, uses it either one-handed or two-handed.

Stated above are some of the distinguishing characteristics among all the weapons such as pike, javelin, spear, and a lance.

Various types of Lances are explained in this video

Is lance a spear?

A lance is a light-throwing spear or javelin. The term came from the 17th century, it referred specifically to spears that were not thrown and were used for thrusting by heavy cavalry, particularly in jousting. Pike refers to the longer types of thrusting spears used by infantry.

DifferencesLanceSpear
Used asCavalryInfantry, Cavalry
LengthThrusting and rarely throwing weaponThrowing and stabbing weapon
Used byMinimum 2.5meters1.8-2.4 meters
Main differences between a lance and a spear

What is a purpose of a Lance?

Lances were widely used throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. They were made of wood, usually ash, with an iron or steel tip. Because the lance did not always survive the initial impact unscathed, it was frequently supplemented by melee weapons like swords, axes, hammers, or maces.

The Lance is a type of pole weapon that was commonly used for cavalry charges during classical and medieval warfare. The lance, unlike the javelin or pike, was not designed for throwing or repeated thrusting. They were usually outfitted with a small circular plate to keep the hand from sliding up the shaft when struck.

Types of spears presented in the image
There are various types of spears with different names

What do you know about the history of “spear”?

The Spear surname is derived from the Old English word “spere,” which means “spear.” It could have been a nickname for a tall, skinny person, or a hunter skilled with the spear. The phrase could also have been used for a “watchman or lookout man.”

What do you know about the history of a Lance?

The term “lance” is derived from the Latin word “lancea” (the javelin or throwing knife used by auxiliaries). The Sarmatian and Parthians are said to have used lances that were 3 to 4 m long and held in both hands. The Byzantine cavalry used them both overarm and underarm, and usually in mixed lancer and mounted archer formations.

Because of its extreme thrusting power, the lance quickly became a popular infantry weapon, and lancers became a staple of every Western army and highly sought-after mercenaries.

The introduction of the wheellock (a significant advancement in firearms technology) signaled the end of the heavy knightly lance in Western Europe.

This was a slight overview of the history of the term “Lance” and its traditional use.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, a spear and a lance are two different weapons used for war and battle purposes. The spear needs a shield because it is much heavier than a lance. A spear and a lance have many differences based on their types, i.e., a noun and a verb.

They have contrasting histories and applications as well. A lance is used as a lancet for medical purposes, specifically to make incisions. For conceptual purposes, the spear is referred to as “speared” or “spearing”. Pike, javelin, spear, and lance are not the same. They have characteristics that set them apart from one another.

So to know the meanings of all these terms and their uses on the battlefield, we need to do research and review their ancient histories.

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Click here to view the web story version on spears on lances.