An assegai or assagai (Arabic az-zaġāyah, Berber zaġāya "spear", Old French azagaie, Spanish azagaya, Italian zagaglia, Middle English lancegay)[1][2] is a pole weapon used for throwing, usually a light spear or javelin made up of a wooden handle and an iron tip.

An Askari guard at an Allied air training school at AFB Waterkloof, Pretoria, South Africa, January 1943

Area of useEdit

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, Xhosa 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 stabbing spear with a two-foot (0.61 m) shaft and a larger, broader blade one foot (0.3 m) 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 This weapon is otherwise known as the iklwa or ixwa, after the sound that was heard as it was withdrawn from the victim's wound.[3][4] The traditional spear was not abandoned, but was used to range attack enemy formations before closing in for close quarters battle with the iklwa. This tactical combination originated during Shaka's military reforms. This weapon was typically used with one hand while the off hand held a cowhide shield for protection.


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-speaking people of southern Africa.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin: 2009. (
  2. ^ "assegai | Definition of assegai in English by Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford Dictionaries | English. Retrieved 2019-03-28.
  3. ^ Zulu 'Iklwa' war spear,
  4. ^ McBride, Angus (1976). The Zulu War. Osprey Publishing. pp. 9. ISBN 9780850452563.