Swords have been used as combat weapons since the bronze age, but have since the 16th century they have as well been developed to duel and competitive arms. The security requirements in the fencing sport are today high, and the swords are no longer sharp.
The sabre is a weapon for slashing which have evolved from military sabres, among others used by cavalrymen in the 16th and 17th centuries. One scores points in combat with weapon for slashing by hitting the opponent’s upper body with one’s blade. Modern sabre fencing, and foil fencing, use priority rules to decide who gets points when the two opponents hits each others simultaneously.
The foil is a weapon for thrusting which have evolved from civilian weapons. That means that one scores points by stabbing the opponent with the tip of the sword. One can only hit the opponent on the upper body in foil fencing, except for the arms or head. It is often explained by the fact that the foils were used to training when there was little protecting gear. An other explanation is that the foil were used in duels to the death, and the fencers wanted to harm the most vital organs. There are priority rules in foil fencing as well.
The épéé is a weapon for thrusting. It have also evolved from civilian weapons, and was designed for first blood-duels (not to death). Following the whole body is target area in épéé fencing. The rules are more simple then in foil: points are given to the one who hits the opponent first with the tip of the épéé. It the two opponents hits each others simultaneously within 40 milliseconds, both fencers gets a point, whit other words a double point.