Lightsaber or Lightsabre: How Are They Different?

Some people might think that using British spelling or American spelling doesn’t really matter. A few forum discussions debate on the spelling variation of the word lightsaber, but most of them simply shrug it off as a preference.

If you look in the Oxford English Dictionary, you will find the term lightsabre. It gives the definition and it mentions Star Wars.

However, this didn’t convince me to stop digging for more information. Actually, it did quite the opposite as I asked myself more questions.

Is the word trademarked?

To start with, let’s clarify that George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, did trademark the word lightsaber. Also, trademark law will still be violated if you use the British variation.

However, even though a few companies make use of lightsabre, there is no news of George Lucas disputing them for using the British spelling. At least not yet, maybe.

Is the spelling Canon?

Through the years, many changes have been made with the franchise, including what is considered to be canon and not. Therefore, we must question the canonicity of Star Wars resources that did, in fact, make use of “lightsabre”.

What we know is that the official Star Wars Databank is canon. On this website, we see that they use the American spelling standard.

In the 1977 Star Wars Official Collection Edition, 1st UK Edition, published by Marvel Comics Group, the British spelling was used. However, just like many other Star Wars materials, this is no longer considered canon.

It’s also worth noting that even the author of the said document admitted that it was a spelling mistake, among other names that were also misspelled. Therefore, we can confirm that to be canonically correct, we must use lightsaber.

Are there lightsabres outside the Star Wars universe?

In my search for answers, I came across Diablo II: Lord of Destruction. In this game, a lightsabre is a phase blade that makes use of lightning and magic. Pretty nifty. 

The first Diablo game was released in 1996, and the second game in 2000. On the other hand, Star Wars came out in 1977. This made me wonder how they got away with using the same term. 

If you think about it, it’s quite a surprise that a popular game from Blizzard Entertainment was bold enough to name one of the weapons “lightsabre”. Because, as we know, the suing that comes along with the Star Wars franchise is intense. 

Upon further reading, I found that the trademark application for “lightsaber” was only passed in the year 2000 and it was only registered in 2003. So I guess they just barely missed the mark.

Takeaway

To finally clarify this, the canon and trademarked spelling is “lightsaber” but “lightsabre” is used in non-canon Star Wars media, although it’s also admitted to being misspelled. 

Personally, I would rather use “lightsaber” for the unique Star Wars plasma sword, and “lightsabre” to refer to the Diablo 2 weapon. In this way, fans of either can avoid confusion.

saber sword

Saber vs. Sabre

In this case, we can be more forgiving as to whether we should use the British or American spelling. With a common word and no trademark issues, it all depends on your preference and the spelling consistency of the written material.

Of course, if you start writing with the American spelling standard, it’s only right that you use this all throughout the text. This can help your piece be more formal.

Saber is the US standard, while Sabre is the UK. This noun is used to pertain to the massive swords that cavalrymen or sabreurs used. 

But, it could also refer to a lightweight curved sword. If you’re familiar with the painting called “Napoleon Crossing the Alps”, you can see this kind of saber.

The etymology of the word

The term is actually an adopted French word. It literally means “tool for cutting”. 

But it is also believed that it was derived from the German word Sabel which in turn came from the Hungarian word szablya. Similarly, the Italian sciabla is thought to have the same descent. 

Sabers in Sci-Fi

In hindsight, a lightsaber isn’t really similar to either of the aforementioned descriptions. I have a hunch that they used the compound word “lightsaber” simply because it sounds better than “lightsword”

Furthermore, the use of sabers in fantasy video games is incredibly popular. For instance, Final Fantasy, Soulcalibur, and Chrono Trigger are just a few of the many games that make use of sabers in their weapon list.

In Power Rangers, they do use sabers many times. But because the characters had different fighting tools, the main weapon was never really embedded in the viewer’s memory. 

With 9 movies, 86 books, and over 150 video games, I think lightsabers have to be the most popular among all sabers in the realm of sci-fi. Absolutely brilliant, considering that it’s technically not even a saber in design.

  • Updated October 30, 2019
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