Excalibur: The sword of King Arthur

Excalibur, or Caliburn, is the legendary sword of King Arthur, sometimes attributed with magical powers or associated with the rightful sovereignty of Great Britain. Sometimes Excalibur and the Sword in the Stone (the proof of Arthur’s lineage) are said to be the same weapon, but in most versions they are considered separate. The sword was associated with the Arthurian legend very early. In Welsh, the sword is called Caledfwlch; in Cornish, the sword is called Calesvol; in BretonKaledvoulc’h; and in LatinCaliburnus.

Forms and etymologies

The name Excalibur ultimately comes from the Welsh Caledfwlch (and Breton Kaledvoulc’hMiddle Cornish Calesvol) which is a compound of caled “hard” and bwlch “breach, cleft”.[1]Caledfwlch appears in several early Welsh works, including the poem Preiddeu Annwfn (though it is not directly named – but only alluded to – here) and the prose tale Culhwch and Olwen, a work associated with the Mabinogion and written perhaps around 1100. The name was later used in Welsh adaptations of foreign material such as the Bruts (chronicles), which were based on Geoffrey of Monmouth. It is often considered to be related to the phonetically similar Caladbolg, a sword borne by several figures from Irish mythology, although a borrowing of Caledfwlch from Irish Caladbolg has been considered unlikely by Rachel Bromwich and D. Simon Evans. They suggest instead that both names “may have similarly arisen at a very early date as generic names for a sword”; this sword then became exclusively the property of Arthur in the British tradition.[1][2]