Glossary of Archery Terms

Definitions for common archery terms.

Common Traditional Bow Designs

Actionwood — A popular limb core material made from laminated rock maple. Although not fancy, Actionwood is strong and reliable, making it a great core wood choice.

Aim — The concentrated effort to direct an arrow to its target.

Anchor — Also know as the “anchor point.” Can be any specific point on the body used as a location to anchor the archer’s hand at full draw, most often a spot on the face, such as the corner of the mouth. The bow is drawn to that same location every time for consistency. Once called “anchorage.” Related article: The Follow Through Anchor Related Forum Posts: Where’s Your Anchor, Anchor Point

Archer — One who shoots with, or is skilled in the use of, a bow and arrow.

Archer’s Paradox — The horizontal flexing of an arrow as it goes around the riser of the bow, after which it straightens out and flies its normal trajectory. Related Forum Post: Archer’s Paradox

Armguard — A sheath positioned on the bow arm that prevents the bowstring from slapping the arm or catching sleeves. Also called a “bracer.”

Arrow — A straight, slender rod, usually fletched and tipped, that is the projectile shot from a bow.

Arrowhead — The striking end of the arrow, usually a separate piece fastened to the arrow shaft.

Arrow Nock — A notch in the end of the arrow to accept the bowstring. Can be any various types of material, such as plastic, bone, metal or wood, or may be cut directly into the shaft, called a self-nock.

Arrow Plate — A piece of leather or other material placed on the lateral side of the sight window, just above the arrow rest, to receive the chaffing of the arrow when released. See diagram above.

Arrow Shaft — A rod used to make an arrow. Also called a “stele.”

Arrow Shelf — The flat or radiused portion of the sight window where the arrow rests, just above the handle, and is usually covered with leather or felt. See diagram above.

Arrowsmith — A broad term used today to describe anyone who makes arrows. Originally an arrowsmith was the maker of metal arrowheads; a fletcher was the one who fletched and finished an arrow.

Ascham — A tall, slender wooden case used to hold bows and arrows. Pronounced “ask-am,” it is named after Roger Ascham, the author of Toxophilus, the first English book on archery.

Atlatl — A primitive hand-held device used for throwing a spear.

Back — The bow surface facing away from the archer when the bow is being drawn. See diagram above.

Backing — Material placed on the back of bow to help reinforce the limbs, such as fiberglass, hickory, rawhide, baleen, sinew, or a variety of other materials.

Backset — A longbow design where unbraced limbs angle backward, away from the shooter, in a reflexed position. This design preloads the limbs of the bow when braced. See diagram above.

Bamboo — A tropical grass used as a bow core wood. When heat treated produces a limb with exceptional elasticity and cast.

Banana Fletch — A fletching design with the highest portion of the arc at or near the middle of the fletching, tapering off on both ends equally.

Barb — A point of an arrowhead that flows back behind the ferrule, preventing the head from being extracted easily. Illegal for bowhunting today.

Barred Fletching — Feathers with a striped appearance as naturally found on the wild turkey or dark domesticated bird (as opposed to white turkeys). Artificial barred feathers are less expensive and quite common.

Barrel Tapered Arrow — An arrow thickest in the center that tapers down on both ends.

Belly — The surface of the bow facing the archer when drawing the bow, the side with the bowstring. See diagram above.

Billet — A length of wood used in making selfbows. Billets are split from a side by side position in the same log to obtain similar limb performance characteristics, and spliced in the handle section of a bow.

Blunt — An arrowhead with a flattened point, used for small game hunting or roving.

Bodkin — A conical arrow point having three or four sides. At one time used to penetrate chain mail armor.

Bois d’Arc — Pronounced “bow-dark.” A French term given to Osage orange meaning “wood of the bow.”

Bow — A weapon made of a long piece of material, with a cord that connects the two ends. When bent, it is the means by which an arrow is propelled. See diagram above.

Bowhunter — One who hunts with a bow and arrow, a name widely believed to have been coined by Roy Case around 1950.

Bow Length — The length of a bow, commonly measured from nock to nock, along the back of the bow.

Bowman — An archer. One who uses a bow and arrow.

Bow Nock — The tip of the bow limb that is grooved to accept the bowstring. Can also be made of horn or other material. See diagram above.

Bow Performance — The sum total of all the different aspects of shooting a bow that makes it satisfy the individual. Common aspects are accuracy, smoothness of draw, handle comfort, degree of handshock, quality, looks, durability, travelling convenience and arrow speed. Notice that arrow speed is the last on the list. Most bows are used to hunt deer. All hunting weight bows, regardless of the arrow speed, will take deer with instinctive accuracy and a sharp broadhead.

Bowstring — The string used to draw a bow.

Bow Stringer — A device using leather cups on each end for stringing and unstringing traditional bows.

Bow Tip — The outer end of a bow limb, often reinforced with either bone, micarta, wood or horn.

Bow Weight — The drawing force, measured in pounds, required to draw a bowstring a specified braced distance, commonly 28 inches.

Bowyer — A person who crafts, builds or makes traditional bows.

Brace — To string a bow to its recommended brace height.

Brace height — The measured perpendicular distance from the braced bowstring to the low point of the belly of the grip. This measurement can be adjusted by twisting or untwisting the bowstring during the tuning of a bow. See Brace Height Consistency

Bracer — See Armguard.

Broadhead — An arrow point with cutting edges (blades) used for bowhunting.

Brush Button — A rubber button placed on the bowstring where the string touches the belly of the recurve to prevent brush from getting caught between the bowstring and limb tips. See Brush Buttons

Cant — To tilt the bow off center when shooting so as to remove the bow’s sight window from view.

Cast — The farthest distance a bow will shoot an arrow.

Centerline — A straight line that runs through the middle of the bow handle and extends through the center of the limbs to the limb tips.

Centershot — A design where the sight window is cut at or past the centerline of the bow. This design reduces the effects of the archer’s paradox. Chrysal — A hairline fracture on the belly of a selfbow caused by compression.

Clarified Calfskin — A processed calfskin, also called rawhide, most commonly used for backing selfbows.

Clicker — A device normally attached from the belly limb of a bow to the string, making a sound when the archer reaches full draw. Useful in solving target panic and for learning when full draw is achieved.

Cock Feather — On an arrow with three feathers, the feather at a right angle to the nock or string, perpendicular to the arrow plate.

Composite Bow — A bow made with strips of wood, fiberglass, horn or other materials that are laminated together.

Compressed Shaft — An arrow shaft that has been compressed for strength and straightness. See Forgewood.

Cordovan — Leather that comes from the rear end of a horse that has a smooth texture. Used on shooting gloves and tabs to allow a smooth release of the bowstring.

Core — The material in the center of a laminated bow.

Crester — A device that is used to turn an arrow easily while applying colored bands, or cresting.

Cresting — An identifying mark, usually bands of different colors, on the fletching end of an arrow. See Cresting and Pictures

Crown –The peaked or radiused profile of an arrow shelf designed to improve arrow clearance from the shelf when shot.

Cross Dominance — An adverse affect to shooting a bow, this is a condition where the dominant eye is reversed from the dominant side of the body. Such a condition would be where a right handed archer has a left dominant eye. The best solution is to change to a left handed shooting form. Related article: Help for Cross Dominance

Crown Dip — A colored lacquer applied to the nock end of an arrow for decoration and identification. Usually the crown dip is applied the last ten inches of the arrow.

Dacron — The trademark name for a synthetic polyester textile fiber used for making bowstrings.

Deflex — A bow design where the limbs angle towards the belly of the bow. See diagram above.

Deflex-Reflex –A bow design where the limbs deflex off the riser back toward the archer, and then reflex back toward the limb tips. A very stable and efficient design, and one of the most common today. See diagram above.

Delamination — The separation of limbs in a laminated bow due to either high heat, moisture, or a failed glue joint.

Dished Grip — A concave bow grip designed for repeatable hand placement on the bow.

Dominant Eye — Everybody has a dominant hand, arm and eye. In archery, a right handed archer should have a right dominant eye if he or she is ever going to be consistent in shooting a traditional bow. Related article: Dominant Eye

Draw Length — The length, for a given archer, from the front of the sight window, to the bowstring in his fingers at full draw.

Draw Weight — The pounds of pull exerted on the bowstring when drawn a specified braced distance; commonly measured at 28 inches of draw length.

Dry Fire — The releasing of a bowstring when at full draw without an arrow attached. This event may cause the bow to break or splinter in the limbs. A faux pas to be avoided.

Dutchman — A small, cylindrical piece of wood tightly mounted into a knot hole in a bow.

Endless String — A common string that is made from one endless piece of material and is served around the nock loops.

Face — See Belly.

Fadeout — The tapered piece of wood that fades out into the limb from the riser.

Fast Flight — Trademark name of a bowstring material used for making bowstrings. It is a low stretch material as opposed to Dacron, and can add up to seven fps, but also adds more stress to the bow limbs when shot. Must only be used on bows designed for Fast Flight.

Feather — A whole feather, or one of its sections used on an arrow for guidance.

Feet Per Second (fps) — The measurement of the velocity of an arrow shot from a bow.

Ferrule — The cone-shaped portion of a broadhead that fits over the tapered end of an arrow.

Finger Pinch — A condition where the fingers of the string hand are pinched when the bow is nearing full draw. This is caused by too short of bow length: the shorter the bow, the more probable the archer will feel finger pinch.

Fish-tail Joint — A “V” shaped joint the length of the bow hand, to attach two billets together for the building of a selfbow.

Fishtailing — The wobbling left and right of an arrow during its flight.

Fiberglass — A composite material made of spun unidirectional glass fibers bonded in a high tensile strength, flexible epoxy matrix having approximately sixty-eight percent glass fibers by weight.

Fistmele — This term comes from a medieval word meaning “fist measure,” and was used as a method of measuring brace height. Fistmele is the breadth of the fist with the thumb stuck out, used to set the distance from the bow handle to the bowstring.

Flatbow — A straight-limbed bow designed after the Plains Indian bows having a relatively flat, wide limb.

Flemish Twist Bowstring — A popular style of bowstring that is easily handmade, attributed to the people of the medieval region of Flanders.

Fletch — A term for the process of gluing or tying feathers to an arrow shaft.

Fletcher — A person who actually makes arrows, as opposed to an arrowsmith, the person who makes metal arrowheads and points.

Fletching –The feathers used to guide an arrow in flight.

Flu-Flu — Also spelled floo-floo. Fletching that causes enough drag to slow an arrow down on purpose so that it will not fly as far as usual. Feathers may be completely spiraled around the shaft, or very large feathers can be used to create drag, usually used for small game and aerial shooting. The original name was “FLOO-HOO,” so called by Tommy, the Seminole Indian, in Maurice Thompson’s book The Witchery of Archery.

Follow the String — A term applied to bows that take a set from being strung and the limbs not returning to their original position when unstrung. A malady most common in selfbows.

Footed Arrow — An arrow with hardwood spliced into its forepart, or pile end, to give the arrow greater durability and better balance.

Forgewood — A compressed wood arrow shafting having high density, small diameter, and heavy weight, designed by the late Bill Sweetland of Oregon.

Glove — Also called a shooting glove. Normally a three-fingered, skeletonized glove made of leather to protect the fingers of the shooting hand as the string is drawn and the arrow released.

Grain — A small unit of weight commonly associated with arrows and broadheads equaling 0.002285 ounce. There are 480 grains to the ounce.

Grip — The middle part of the bow handle gripped by the archer. Usually covered with leather on longbows and selfbows. See diagram above.

Handle –The riser or middle section of a bow to which the limbs are attached. The nonworking section of a bow. See diagram above.

Handshock — The vibration felt in the bow hand at release when a bow is shot.

Hen Feathers — On a three-feathered arrow, the two feathers that project inward toward the riser when the arrow is nocked on the string.

Heartwood — The core wood of a tree.

Helical Twist — A method of applying the fletching in slight spiraling around the arrow shaft. Helical fletching allows the arrow to spiral in flight, stabilizing the flight much sooner than a straight fletch. Very effective in hunting conditions where high wind or crosswind can occur.

Hinged Bow — A bow that has a hinge attached to the back to facilitate travel.

Instinctive Shooting — The most popular method of shooting traditional bows. Instinctive shooting is the ability to use hand/eye coordination to send an arrow where the archer is looking.

Ishi — The last surviving Yana Indian of the Yahi tribe in northern California. Ishi lived and worked at the University of California, Berkeley, where he met Dr. Saxton Pope, who befriended him. Ishi got Pope interested in archery, who promoted the sport in the United States.

Laminated Bow — Same as Composite Bow except this term is most often used when describing a bow composed of fiberglass and wood.

Lamination — One of the layers of a laminated bow limb; thin layers of material bonded together to form a bow limb or riser. Creates strength in risers and high performance in limbs.

Limb — The two parts of bow extending from the Riser to the tips. The working part of a bow. See diagram above.

Limb Twist — A situation where the limbs of a recurve have taken a set off centerline of the bow. Usually a problem associated with using the push-pull method of stringing the bow, or from abuse of the bow while stored. Can be corrected.

Longbow — Generally, any straight or nearly straight bow of five feet or longer where the bowstring does not touch the limb when braced.

Loose — Releasing an arrow on a fully drawn bow. Same as Release.

Micarta — A dense, fiber impregnated resin often used to reinforce limb tips when a Fast Flight string is used on a bow.

Nock — The notch in the arrow behind the fletching that receives the bowstring. Can be either a self-nock, which is a notch in the arrow shaft itself, or a plastic string-holding device that can be open-throated, which does not pinch the string, or snap-on, which does pinch the string.

Nocking Point — The place on the bowstring where you consistently nock your arrows.

Nock Piece — A thin piece of horn, wood or other material glued laterally in a self-nock to reinforce it. Related article: Laminated Wood Arrow Self Nocks.

Nock-Set — A metal crimp used on a bowstring to facilitate nocking the arrow to the same place every time. Can also be of thread, dental floss, plastic or heat shrink material.

Osage orange — A native North American wood historically popular for making self wood bows. Also used for risers and core woods in laminated bows. Known for its resiliency and toughness. Originally found on the confluences of the Illinois and Missouri rivers and later transplanted across the country. Also known as hedge apple.

Overbowed — A situation where the archer is using a bow that is too strong; can result in poor shooting habits, inaccuracy and physical damage to the archer.

Overspine — Said of an arrow that is too stiff for the bow it’s fired from, as opposed to underspine, where the arrow is too weak for the bow.

Parabolic Fletching — Feather fletching with a higher, rounded profile at the back end of the feather toward the nock of the arrow.

Pile — An old term still used today to designate the forepart of an arrow.

Point — The ferrule-like end of an arrow that attaches to the tip, to protect and balance the striking end of the arrow. Pile was the medieval name.

Point of Aim — A sighting method where the archer uses the tip of the arrow by placing it on a certain object to attain accuracy when shooting.

Point-On — The measurement of distance a given bow and arrow will shoot when an archer sights the tip of his arrow upon the point of aim and hits that target.

Porpoise — The undesirable up and down motion of an arrow in flight.

Push-Pull Stringing — The act of stringing the bow by placing the lower limb against the instep of the shoe, pulling inward on the handle section (toward the archer) and then pushing the top string loop into place on the nock groove of the upper limb. This is not a recommended procedure to brace a bow as it may cause twisted limbs.

Quill — The shaft of a feather, which is ground flat to fit on the arrow.

Quiver — A container that holds arrows conveniently while hunting and/or shooting. There are several types for different uses and preferences: backquiver, bow quiver, hip quiver, pocket quiver, shoulder quiver and solo quiver are the most common.

Recurve — A design of bow where the limbs form a constant curving arc from the riser to the limb tips, and the string, when the bow is braced, touches the belly of the limbs. See diagram above.

Reed — The grain of a wooden arrow that the spine is measured against, as opposed to the rift side of the wood.

Reflex — A bow design where the bow limbs, when unstrung, curve slightly toward the back of the bow, away from the archer. See diagram above.

Release — The act of releasing the bowstring at full draw, propelling the arrow away from the bow and the archer. See Loose.

Reverse Handle — A handle design in which the bow handle sets flush with the bow belly, and extends out over the back of the bow. Reduces brace height for a given bow.

Rift — The section of an arrow that is contained within the grain of the wood. Rift can be seen in a shaft as feathering of the wood. Related article: Wood Grain Direction

Riser — The nonworking middle section of a bow that separates the limbs. See diagram above.

Roving — A form of practice whereby the archer chooses a target in the field or forest. The archers picks out small targets, such as dirt mounds, rotten stumps or leaves at unknown yardages, shoots one arrow, and repeats the practice on a new target. This is one of the most effective methods of learning to shoot a traditional bow.

Sap Wood — The outer, lighter-colored recent growth of a tree, just under the bark.

Self Arrow — An arrow consisting of one piece of wood with the nock cut into the shaft.

Selfbow — A bow entirely composed of one stave of wood or dovetail billets, with no laminations. May be backed with sinew, rawhide or other material to add strength to the back and prevent wood splinters from lifting, causing a failure in the limb.

Serving — The thread, or monofilament, wrapped area in the midsection of the string that accepts the nock set. Used to protect the actual bowstring from continuous use when the arrow is nocked. Related articles: Accuracy and Nock Fit, Coming Unraveled.

Shaft — The dowel part or body of the arrow, sometimes used loosely to mean the arrow itself.

Shelf — The ledge, usually radiused, at the base of the sight window where the arrow rests. Also called the arrow shelf, it is that part of the riser on a bow that forms a platform for the arrow rest. See diagram above.

Shield Cut — Feather fletching with a concave profile at the back.

Sight Window — The cut out portion of a recurve or longbow riser that allows the arrow to come closer to the centerline of the bow. Aids in reducing the effects of the archer’s paradox. See diagram above.

Silencer — Strands of material, either of rubber, plastic, yarn or natural material, attached to the string to help stop it from vibrating after the shot, thus eliminating string noise. Related article: Heterodyning, Wool String Silencers

Sinew — The tough, fibrous tendon material from an animal leg or loin used as a backing material on many selfbows.

Snap Shooting — A method of shooting proven to be very effective with many archers. Also a condition associated with target panic.

Spine — There are two types of spine: static and dynamic. Static spine is the stiffness, resiliency, and elasticity of an arrow shaft measured over a 26-inch span with a spine tester. In archery, it is the stiffness of an arrow: more stiffness equals greater spine. Normally measured in five-pound increments for wood arrows, such as 55/60 or 60/65. Dynamic spine is the bending characteristics of the shaft when it is shot from a bow.

Spine Tester — A device used for measuring the spine of arrow shafts. Related article: Make Your Own Spine Tester

Stacking — Widely misunderstood jargon for a bow that pulls an increasing number of pounds or fraction of pounds per inch for each inch of draw.

Stalls — Leather fingertip coverings that look like a shooting glove without the strap. These cover the appropriate fingertips of the shooting hand only, slipping into place.

Static Recurve — An older design of recurve bow where the limb tips bend abruptly toward the back.

Stave — A full-length, unspliced piece of wood used for making a selfbow.

Straight Fletch — The placing of feathers parallel to the shaft with no helical twist.

String Groove –A shallow groove in the belly of a recurve limb where the bowstring lays.

String Keeper — A piece of leather, string or ribbon attached to the bowstring loop on one side and the bow limb tip on the other. Used to keep the string taut when the bow is unstrung. Also called a “bow ribbon.”

Stump Shooting — See Roving.

Swage — The tapered shaping of an aluminum arrow tip to accept any number of glue-on points or broadheads.

Tab — A flat leather piece worn on the string hand to protect the three drawing fingers from the release of the bowstring. Related article: Make Your Own Leather Tab

Takedown Bow — The most common name for a bow that comes apart at the handle to make the bow shorter and easier to travel with. Can be a 2- or 3-piece bow, recurve, longbow or selfbow.

Tapered Arrow — An arrow that tapers from 23/64″ to 5/16″at the nock, usually starting approximately nine inches from the nock. A tapered arrow leaves the bow, especially a longbow, much quieter due to less chaffing of the arrow against the arrow plate.

Target Panic — The inability to loose the arrow, but more commonly letting the arrow fly before full draw is reached. Once called “archer’s catalepsy.” Related article: Target Panic

Tassel — A tassel of yarn once worn at the archer’s belt for cleaning arrows.

Taxus Brevifolia — The genus and species of yew wood used for making selfbows.

Throat — The narrowest portion of the grip where the thumb and index finger encircle the grip. See diagram above.

Thumb Ring — A simple ring for the thumb that is used to draw and release the string.

Tiller — The difference between the upper limb and lower limbs measurements from the bowstring to the belly at the fadeout. Most bows are ordinarily tillered to allow a stiffer lower limb due to the drawing hand being placed above the center of the string.

Timber Hitch — A knot which, when used on a bowstring, makes an adjustable loop to quickly change the length of the bowstring.

Tip Overlays — Material laminated to the back of the limb tip, usually to strengthen them and to provide additional material for fashioning the string nocks.

Torque — The unintentional twisting of the bow in the hand during shooting, causing undesirable arrow flight.

Toxonana — The literature of the bow and of old archery tackle.

Toxophile — A very old word pertaining to archery; a “toxophilite” is a person who is fond of or expert at the bow and arrow.

Traditional — Knowledge, customs, doctrines, lore, and practices passed on from generation to generation.

Tune — The process of getting a bow to shoot an arrow straight and quiet, removing fishtailing and porpoising. Related article: Tuning 101, Paper Tuning

Underspine — Said of an arrow that is too flexible for the bow it’s fired from, as opposed to overspined, where the arrow is too stiff for the bow.

Whet — To sharpen or hone, such as a knife or broadhead.

Yew — Extremely popular selfbow wood used over the centuries by archers in many parts of the world. Found in the coastal regions of the western United States. Also makes excellent limb laminates for bows.

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