Starting around the early 12thC they were in essence small swords, in that they looked fairly similar and were constructed in the same way.
They have remained current through to the modern day but obviously styles have changed rather than the basic method of construction.
During the 15thC. they really started to come into their own finding their own styles separate from swords.
If one form or another these were popular across all of Europe, but only really for the military part of society.