Glossary of Archery Terms

Glossary Of Archery Terms

While the best part of archery is actually the deed of shooting the bow and arrow, there are several additional important things to consider. 

Knowledge of how to communicate with other archers and being familiar with the names of the most common equipment and techniques is also going to be extremely important. 

That is why we put together this glossary of common useful terminology.

A glossary of useful archery terms

Archery Terms

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



Anchor- Also known as the “anchor point.” It can be any specific point on the body used as a location to anchor the archer’s hand at full draw. The bow is drawn to that same location every time for consistency. 

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. 

Armguard- A sheath positioned on the bow arm that prevents the bowstring from slapping the arm.  

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 at the end of the arrow to accept the bowstring. Can be any various types of material, such as plastic, bone, metal or wood, or maybe cut directly into the shaft, called a self-nock. Some modern nocks can be lighted or come with GPS tracking.

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.  

Arrowsmith- A broad term used today to describe anyone who makes arrows.

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. 

Belly- The surface of the bow facing the archer when drawing the bow, the side with the bowstring. 

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.

Bolt- The arrow used in a crossbow. Known for their square shape, crossbow bolts are generally shorter in length than traditional arrows.

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. 

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. It can also be made of horn or other material. 

Bow Performance– The sum total of all the different aspects of shooting a bow that makes it satisfy the individual. 

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, wood or horn.

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

Brace height- The measured perpendicular distance from the braced bowstring to the low point of the belly of the grip. 

Broadhead- An arrow point with cutting edges (blades) used for bow hunting.

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

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. 

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

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

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

Deflex– A bow design where the limb angle towards the belly of the bow. 

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. (Don’t do this).

Dutchman- A small, cylindrical piece of wood tightly mounted into a knothole in a bow.

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.

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

Fletching- the feathers used to guide an arrow in flight.

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.

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

Handle- The riser or middle section of a bow to which the limbs are attached. The nonworking section of a bow. 

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. 

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

Limb- The two parts of bow extending from the riser to the tips. The working part of a bow. 

Limb Twist– A situation where the limbs of a recurve have taken a set off the 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. 

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. 

Nock- The notch in the arrow behind the fletching that receives the bowstring. It 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 knock your arrows.

Nock Piece- A thin piece of horn, wood or other material glued laterally in a self-nock to reinforce it. 

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 under spine, where the arrow is too weak for the bow.

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

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 recommended. 

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. 

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. 

Reflex- A bow design where the bow limbs, when unstrung, curve slightly toward the back of the bow, away from the archer. 

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

Rift- The section of an arrow that is contained within the grain of the wood. Rift can be seen in a shaft as a feathering of the wood. 

Riser- The nonworking middle section of a bow that separates the limbs. 

Roving- A form of practice whereby the archer chooses a target in the field or forest. This is one of the most effective methods of learning to shoot a traditional bow.

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.

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. 

Sight Window- The cut out a 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. 

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.

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.”

Tab- A flat leather piece worn on the string hand to protect the three drawing fingers from the release of the bowstring. 

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. It 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. A tapered arrow leaves the bow, especially a longbow, much quieter due to less chaffing of the arrow against the arrow plate.

Target Archery- The most popular style of archery, practiced indoors and outdoors at distances of up to 70m this style of archery involves shooting at a target mounted on a boss which displays concentric circles of different colors denoting differing scoring zone.

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

Throat- The narrowest portion of the grip where the thumb and index finger encircle the grip. 

Tiller- The difference between the upper limb and lower limb of the bow, measurements from the bowstring to the belly at the fadeout. 

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

Toxophile- A “toxophilite” is a person who is fond of or expert at the bow and arrow.

Tune- Adjustments to a bow and arrow to price the most accurate shots. The process of getting a bow to shoot an arrow straight and quiet, removing fishtailing and porpoising. 

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.



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