SWASHBUCKLING: a swaggering or flamboyant adventurer

Although used most commonly in reference to pirates, the term swashbuckler need not be boxed in.  It is a term found in literature as early as the 16th century, and seems to have something to do with fencing.  A swashbuckler is someone who “bounces his sword  off the shield of an opponent.”

As the centuries have unfolded, however, the term has been more generalized to mean someone who is adventurous beyond the norm.   Sailors who steer their craft into the midst of a stormy sea; race car drivers who push the pedal beyond usual boundaries; mountain climbers who stretch beyond the boundaries of safety and embrace risk.

And, to make it even more interesting, an entrepreneur who reaches beyond the norm and risks a new enterprise, a new product, or a new marketing method could be called an entrepreneurial swashbuckler.  It is a dramatic word, leaving little to the imagination.  *

The very use of the word brings to mind pirates battling on the open sea, Musketeers brandishing swords and backing their enemy up a curved stairway, or princes rescuing their princess from a prison tower.  All those are legitimate images of swashbucklers in literature and film.   Even the attire is appropriately designated as swashbuckler garb.  Designers of men’s (and women’s) clothing embrace the flowing fabric, bright colors, tights and boots, and bling beyond the norm.  Without specifically labeling it swashbuckler it is clear that the theme is taken from the action films which feature pirates and adventurous characters of the age of the  16th to 18th centuries.   Treasure chests overflowing with gold, silver and diamonds produce images which are found around the necks of even the most glamorous models of the 21st century.

But the visual image of the swashbuckler is only one way of depicting the term.   In literature it is a term which produces immediate recognition.   The James Bond image is that of a swashbuckler, and you might even consider someone like a Tom Brady of the Patriots.   There is an indication that the term is no longer just about men.   So let’s not overlook someone like Serena Williams or Danika Patrick.   Or how about Lady Gaga?   Talk about stomping  off into uncharted waters…..!

In any case, it’s a good word to keep in one’s lexicon for that moment when a dynamic character arises who defies most descriptions.   If the character is dashing, brave, daredevilish, and out in front of the crowd, the term swashbuckler might just work.


Photo Credit:  Ullam

*The Urban Dictionary points out a seedier side of the word having to do with sexual activity, but I’ll leave that to them.  


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