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A trident ( ), also called a leister or gig, is a three-pronged spear. It is used for spear fishing and was formerly also a military weapon. Tridents feature widely in mythical, historical and modern culture. The sea god Poseidon or Neptune is classically depicted bearing a trident.

Note that a trident is not a pitchfork. A pitchfork is an agricultural tool with two to six tines (also called prongs) which are shaped in such a way that they can be used to lift and pitch (throw) loose material.


The word "trident" comes from the French trident, which in turn comes from the Latin tridens or tridentis: tri "three" and dentes "teeth". Several Indian languages use a similar word for "trident", trishula(tri-three + shool-thorn), derived from Sanskrit, meaning "triple spear". The Greek equivalent is τρίαινα, tríaina, from Proto-Greek *trianja, threefold, cognate with the Latin triens.


A number of structures in the biological world are described as trident in appearance. Since at least the late 19th century the trident shape was applied to certain botanical shapes; for example, certain orchid flora were described as having trident-tipped lips in early botanical works. Furthermore, in current botanical literature, certain bracts are stated to have a trident-shape (e.g. Douglas-fir).


Tridents for fishing usually have barbed tines which trap the speared fish firmly. In the Southern and Midwestern United States, gigging is used for harvesting suckers, bullfrogs, flounder, and many species of rough fish.

Military use

As a weapon, the trident was prized for its long reach and ability to trap other long-weapons between prongs to disarm their wielder. In Ancient Rome, in a parody of fishing, tridents were famously used by a type of gladiator called a retiarius or "net fighter". The retiarius was traditionally pitted against a secutor, and cast a net to wrap his adversary and then used the trident to kill him.

Symbolic use

Parallel to its fishing origins, the trident is associated with Poseidon, the god of the sea in Greek mythology, the Roman god Neptune, and Shiva, a Hindu God. In Greek myth, Poseidon used his trident to create water sources in Greecemarker and the horse (from sea foam in a contest for the name of Athens). Poseidon, as well as being god of the sea, was also known as the "Earth Shaker" because when he struck the earth in anger he caused mighty earthquakes and he used his trident to stir up tidal waves, tsunamis and sea storms. In Roman myth, Neptune also used a trident to create new bodies of water and cause earthquakes. A good example can be seen in Gian Bernini's Neptune and Triton.

A trident also has references as: Image:statueofshiva.JPG|A statue of Hindu God Shiva, holding a trishula, near Indira Gandhi International Airportmarker, DelhimarkerImage:Trident fishing gallaeus.jpg|Dutch fishermen using tridents in the 17th centuryImage:Trident, Burmese, 18th century.JPG|Trident, Burmesemarker, 18th centuryFile:Tridents (Trishul) brought as offerings to Guna Devi., near Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh.jpg|Tridents (Trishul) brought as offerings to Guna Devi, near Dharamsalamarker, Himachal Pradeshmarker, Indiamarker.

See also


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