Top 10 Best One-Handed Swords in Skyrim

By George Wood Jr.

The rugged alpine tundra of Northern Tamriel is no place for the warm hearted diplomacy beyond the mountain borders. A battle ready blade and an icy resolve to survive are the only deterrents from death by the many aggressive denizens of Skyrim.

Luckily, this is a land known for breeding some of the finest swordsmiths in the world, a necessity when anyone leaving town for a hike could encounter bands of giants, hulking ice trolls or even come face to face with a fire-breathing dragon.

The one-handed sword is a popular choice in Skyrim. These blades swing considerably faster than their two-handed counterparts, and leave an open hand for shields, spells or another weapon. Below are some of the best options for hacking apart whatever stands in your way in the frosty home of the Nords.

10. Dawnbreaker

Top 10 Best One-Handed Swords in Skyrim - Dawnbreaker
Image Credit - elderscrolls.fandom.com. © Bethesda Softworks

The golden holy light emitted from the hilt of Dawnbreaker hints at the awesome power this blade inflicts upon the damned, all agents of darkness and those of similar ilk.

Meridia, the Daedric Prince of Life who bequeaths this weapon to the player, holds a special disdain for the undead. Her blessing on Dawnbreaker makes it uniquely effective against draugrs, skeletons and vampires. Each strike has the potential to ignite these foes with a stupendous explosion, disintegrating any nearby enemies into smoking piles of ash. 

Meridia’s Retribution, this sword’s unique enchantment also deals formidable burning damage to all foes, undead or otherwise.

9. Harkons Sword

Top 10 Best One-Handed Swords in Skyrim - Harkons Sword
Image Credit - elderscrolls.fandom.com. © Bethesda Softworks

This demonic katana with a bat wing hilt is the preferred weapon for those who enjoy creeping around at night and draining the blood of the living. It’s bite is the perfect antidote for any sweet follower of Meridia who believes wholeheartedly in the power of good.

Harkon’s Sword is a vampire’s best friend, which makes sense considering its namesake is the most ruthless Vampire Lord in Elder Scrolls V: Dawnguard. While it doesn’t do as much base damage as Dawnbreaker, the weapon’s enchantment is far more effective in battle. Harkon’s sword, when wielded by a vampire, absorbs 15 points of Health, Magicka and Stamina with each hit.

By far the most most malevolent feature of this sword is that the screen dims into a shadowy darkness with each successful hit. Descending into the black, your opponent knows their impending doom is at hand.

8. Nightingale Blade

Top 10 Best One-Handed Swords in Skyrim - Nightingale Blade
Image Credit - elderscrolls.fandom.com. © Bethesda Softworks

If you prefer stealing people’s possessions rather than their blood, the Nightingale Blade is more suited toward your brand of vice. Formerly owned by Thieves Guild Guildmaster Gallus Desidenius, this is the signature sword for warriors who have pledged allegiance to the Daedric Prince of Night, Nocturnal. Her followers form a secret faction of master thieves known as the Nightingales.

Nightingale’s Talon is the special enchantment on this blade that absorbs a staggering 25 points of Health and Stamina with each hit. This is somewhat similar to Harkon’s Sword, but you don’t have to be a vampire to drain your enemy. This versatile enchantment, plus the leveled damage inflicted by this gladius-type sword make the Nightingale Blade a powerful yet silent killer.

7. Daedric Sword

Top 10 Best One-Handed Swords in Skyrim - Daedric Sword
Image Credit - elderscrolls.fandom.com. © Bethesda Softworks

This serrated ebony scimitar pulses with the demonic blood of a fresh-squeezed daedra heart, by far one of the most badass-looking blades in the game.

To forge the Daedric Sword, a Dragonborn will need a near-perfect smithing skill of 90. With some luck, it can also be found in certain chests around Skyrim after level 46.

Sans enhancement, this wicked sword easily rends and tears through the flesh of most foes encountered in Skyrim. In fact, the Daedric sword has an equal base damage of the Nightingale blade at its highest level. Further augmentation of the Daedra Sword with a burly enchantment is a sure-death guarantee that bodies will hit the floor.

6. Bloodscythe/Soulrender

Top 10 Best One-Handed Swords in Skyrim - Bloodscythe/Soulrender
Image Credit - elderscrolls.fandom.com. © Bethesda Softworks

This cursed pair of scurvy blades were once wielded by the legendary pirate king Haknir Death-Brand, a man known for his unquenchable lust for torture and frequent bouts of raging madness. He ruled ruthlessly over the Sea of Ghosts during his abnormally long lifetime. None were ever able to best the dual wielding swordsman in battle and he died refusing to designate a successor.

Individually, Bloodscythe and Soulrender have a high base damage but neither can use their enchantments without its brother equipped. When used together, they not only drain 15 Health and Magicka with each hit, but they also have a chance of lowering your target’s armor and magical defenses. Prolonged battles will only mean an increasingly vulnerable enemy.

While they only sit at number 6 on this list, if we were to do another list featuring the best names of one-handed swords in Skyrim, Bloodscythe and Soulrender win by a bloodflood.

5. Dragonbane

Image Credit - elderscrolls.fandom.com. © Bethesda Softworks

The Akaviri Katana is the traditional peacekeeper of the Blades, a sect of warriors in service to the Emperor of Tamriel. Sometimes, being a serviceman to the ruler of a continent requires dragonslaying.

Dragonbane is an enchanted Akaviri Katana that specializes in killing scaly winged fire breathers. The enchantment does a base 10 level of shock damage to any who feel it’s lighting-fused blade, plus a significantly higher amount of bonus damage when fighting dragons.  It is a leveled one-handed sword, which means that as the player levels up, the sword’s enchantment and its base slashing damage become even more vicious.

4. Miraak’s Sword

Image Credit - elderscrolls.fandom.com. © Bethesda Softworks

Miraak’s Sword is a tentacled monstrosity resembling a giant thorn dipped in toxic swamp water.  It claims the highest base damage among any other swords of this type, however, it is only available in The Elder Scrolls V: Dragonborn. Interestingly enough, it is also the second-lightest sword available in Skyrim, next to the Ghostblade..

The only way to acquire this wretched blade is to defeat the banished Dragon priest Miraak, a man who is understood to be the first Dragonborn. He is a cursed entity of tremendous power, able to control multiple dragons at once and drain their souls to replenish health. His mask resembles the tentacled visage of Cthulu, matching his sword whose hilt is multiple writhing squid arms.

Miraak’s Sword is a repulsive blade only made worse by its swing that extends a tentacle arm to punish your target. This hit will drain 15 Stamina from your opponent, though the weapon’s charge is so small you will only drain a small amount of their Stamina before needing a recharge. Fortunately, this only requires one petty soul gem to bring back to full charge.

3. Dragonbone Sword

Image Credit - elderscrolls.fandom.com. © Bethesda Softworks

The Dragonbone Sword looks as if it was crafted by slightly modifying a cracked Dragonbone femur. It’s roughshod and simple in make, but when imbued with a high level enchantment it is among the most dangerous weapons in the game.

It should be noted that, while the player can smith Dragonbone armor in the main game, it requires The Elder Scrolls V: Dawnguard expansion to make weapons with the bones of this beast.

With a full armor set, including this sword and a matching dragonbone shield, your Dragonborn will look like an absolute destroyer of worlds. Dragons will shudder at the sight of a mortal decked out in the bones of their brethren.

2. Windshear

Image Credit - elderscrolls.fandom.com. © Bethesda Softworks

At number two, this unassuming scimater is a confusing dark horse on this list. Wedged into the bowsprit of The Katariah, Windshear can only be pulled during or after the Dark Brotherhood quest “Hail Sithis!”

With base damage, this steel scimitar is weaker than Dawnbreaker wayyy up at the top of this list. It’s worth in gold is a paltry 40 Septims, which is nearly the equivalent of two potions of minor healing.

Even it’s stated enchantment, which has a 39% chance of paralyzing an enemy with a shield block, is quite unimpressive considering its placement on the list.

By all appearances, Windshear is a run of the mill steel sword. But, like a mild-mannered date who turns out to be an absolute hellcat in the sheets, this thing displays it’s true power in the action.

Windshear has a 100% chance of inflicting stagger for most assailants, which means each hit negates your opponent’s ability to counterattack or even run for their lives. They become a flinching mess, unable to react to your attacks until death takes them. It doesn’t work on all enemies, but for many it is an overpowered nuisance of a weapon.

1. Chillrend

Image Credit - elderscrolls.fandom.com. © Bethesda Softworks

Chillrend, a blade crafted elegantly of ice and malachite, tops this list as our number one. For such a powerful sword, the beauty of this blade is that with the help of some parkour and a couple lockpicks, it is possible to acquire this weapon as early as level one.

This is a leveled weapon, evolving with the Dragonborn, eventually becoming as damaging as the formidable Dragonbone Sword. It showers ice crystals into the air upon unsheathing, releasing a sizzling sound as the ice melts and refreezes at an eternally constant rate.

Frostfeed is Chillrend’s unique enchantment, and it packs a sting nastier than frostbite. Each swing causes high points of frost damage to your opponent’s Health and Stamina, as well as a decent chance to paralyze them for a certain amount of time. This paralysis leaves them open to more attacks, steadily diminishing their will to fight until they succumb to your blade like sleep to the freezing

Conclusion

One of the great aspects of Skyrim is the myriad ways in which you can continually fortify the strength of your weapons. High smithing and enchanting skills mean a deadlier blade brimming with magical power. Learning other skills along the different skill trees can also exacerbate the attributes of your weapons, like turning up the heat on fire damage and elevating frost damage to blizzard-level ferocity.

Now that you have an idea of the finest one-handed swords in the game, it is up to you to decide whether to equip a shield, spell or even another weapon for your off hand. To that measure, the choice is yours.

Latest posts by George Wood (see all)