For other meanings see Assegai (disambiguation).
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An Askari guard at an Allied air training school at Waterkloof, Pretoria, South Africa, January 1943

An assegai or assagai (Latin hasta, [1]cf Arabic az-zaġāyah, Berber zaġāya "spear", Old French azagaie, Spanish azagaya, Italian zagaglia, Chaucer lancegay)[2] is a pole weapon used for throwing, usually a light spear or javelin made of wood and pointed with iron or fire-hardened tip.

Area of use

The use of various types of the assegai was widespread all over Africa and it was the most common weapon used before the introduction of firearms. The Zulu and other Nguni tribes of South Africa were renowned for their use of the assegai.


Zulu man with the shorter iklwa

Shaka of the Zulu invented a shorter-style spear with a two-foot shaft and which had a larger, broader blade one foot long. This weapon is otherwise known as the iklwa or ixwa, after the sound that was heard as it was withdrawn from the victim's wound.[3][4] It was used as a stabbing weapon during mêlée attacks. The traditional spear was not discarded but was used for a softening range attack on enemy formations before closing in for close quarters battle with the iklwa. This tactical combination originated during Shaka's military reforms.


It is also the name of a southern African tree (Curtisia dentata) whose wood was suitable for making spears or lances, most notably by the Bantu peoples of southern Africa.

See also


  1. Encyclopaedia of Southern Africa - Eric Rosenthal, 1973
  2. The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin: 2009. (
  3. Zulu 'Iklwa' war spear,
  4. McBride, Angus (1976). The Zulu War. Osprey Publishing. p. 9.
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