What is a Trident?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A trident is a staff or spear which is topped with three prongs. Tridents have been used historically as hunting tools and weapons, and they also have cultural associations in some parts of the world. Many examples of historic tridents can be seen in museums, and they are also depicted in numerous paintings, tapestries, and statues, among other works of art. It is also possible to purchase tridents for various purposes from suppliers who specialize in them.

Tridents are used for catching frogs.
Tridents are used for catching frogs.

The word trident comes from the Latin tri- for “three” and dens, for “teeth.” Tridents are probably closely related to the pitchfork, a highly useful agricultural tool. As weapons, tridents can be quite effective, because they extend the range of the user and act to trap the weapons of an opponent between their tines. Tridents are also very useful for hunting and fishing; in the Southern United States, the trident is known as a “gig,” and “gigging” for various small prey like frogs is quite common.

Many people associate the trident with the Greek god Poseidon, and his Roman equivalent, Neptune. These gods are both associated with the ocean, and they carried tridents as ceremonial staffs of office. The Hindu god Shiva is also sometimes depicted carrying a trident. These historical associations explain why tridents often appear in the logos of organizations focused on marine activities like fishing and boating.

In Rome, the trident was used as a weapon by some gladiators. To use the trident, these gladiators cast a net to trap their pray, and then utilized the trident as a stabbing weapon. Tridents were also ritually carried in some religious parades, and were used in the symbolism for some religious cults. Neptune and Poseidon were said to have used their tridents for things like creating new rivers and generating earthquakes, suggesting a magical link with the trident for the Greeks and Romans.

When tridents are used as weapons, they more commonly have two teeth, which means that they technically aren't tridents, but rather military forks. Forks were used extensively for military purposes up until the 19th century, with various European people developing their own distinct version of the military fork, along with an assortment of fighting styles which maximized the efficiency of this weapon. Forks had a number of uses beyond being pure weapons; they could be used to lift and toss things, for example, much like the pitchforks which inspired them.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Besides ancient Rome I have to wonder if there are any other cultures throughout history that utilized the weapon known as the trident. The trident seems to be a very popular weapon throughout pop-culture, being depicted as both being a weapon of choice by the devil and the old logo of the Seattle Mariners baseball team, but I do not know many instances throughout history, besides between Roman Gladiators, that they were used.

I have always found this puzzling as the trident is a very well known weapon but there are very few historical instance of use, besides being used as a symbol for the Greek God Poseidon.


Although some people have seen the trident associated with the devil I have always seen it associated with the sea. Along with it being the preferred weapon of choice of the Greek God Poseidon, it was also the first logo of the Seattle Mariners baseball team.

Growing up as a kid I loved watching the Mariners, as bad as they were sometimes, and fell in love with their tribute to the sea faring community of Seattle. Although the Greek God Poseidon had little to do with Seattle as a community they did adopt the trident as their logo because the weapon was associated with the sea and to be honest a pretty cool looking weapon. I do not know how effective it would be in the course of battle, but I do know one thing. The trident was a popular logo among Mariner fans and made many baseball fans wonder more about this ancient weapon.


@Emilski - I know what you mean. The only times I have ever seen a trident depicted or mentioned is either associated with Halloween and Satan or with the Greek God Poseidon holding a trident.

I have always thought that a trident was a very cool weapon and it may be due to the fact that the trident has been depicted as being used by Gods and demons alike. In reality a trident is not a very effective weapon in battle and is like throwing a pitchfork at someone, it may strike them but once you throw it away it is gone.

I also dressed once for Halloween as the devil and I made sure to include a trident in my costume. Although I never understood why a trident was associated with the devil I included it in anyway because I have always seen it shown to go along with Satan as well as being a tool used by the devil.


Whenever I think of a trident I think of what the devil or a demonic creature would use. I once dressed as the devil for Halloween and I did not think it was complete without me adding the trident into my costume. I do not know what it is about the trident but I have always seen this weapon associated with the devil or a demonic creature and see no mention of it at all in this article.

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