The halberd was a staff weapon favored by European infantries (foot soldiers) of the 1400s and 1500s for its versatility and deadly effect. The word halberd comes from the German words Halm (staff) and Barte (axe). The halberd is, in fact, an axe that served multiple functions: the axe blade was used for hacking, the spike for thrusting, and the beak for piercing plate armor or for pulling a knight from his saddle. The halberd was used by shock troops (those who lead an attack) and by Swiss and German mercenaries. After about 1550, the halberd gradually became less functional. Its large blade provided space for coats of arms and insignia. By the late 1500s, the parade halberd had become a ceremonial weapon for palace guards.