The difference between a dagger and a knife?

Jan 19, 1999
Hi all,

I have a question. What is the difference between a dagger and a knife? Is there a cut and dried definition, or is it simply just the difference between double edged and single edged blades?

BTW, NetSword: The Internet Sword and Medieval Weapons Discussion Group ( is going great guns again (or should I say great swords!). Our new server is working out well. I want to thank those from from BladeForums who have stopped by.

A dagger is a double-edged knife with a symmetrical blade. Not all double-edged knives are daggers -- not double-edged Bowies, for instance.

-Cougar Allen :{)
Daggers were outlawed in Europe centuries ago as their purpose was presumed to be to assassinate.
Today, a dagger is generally assumed to be a small double edged knife. 5 inches or less? This is a largely subjective standard as medieval daggers could be VERY large by today's knife standards. Even if you go back as "recently" as the War for States Rights.(Civil war to you Yankees.) Check out the old "Arkansas Toothpick" design. This was a dagger that could have a blade as long as 9 or 10 inches. Huge by our standards.
So there, you have it. Still no good definition. DOH!

I cut it, and I cut it, and it's STILL too short!

Expounding on Cougar's definition..most legal jurisdictions see the dagger (as per Cougar's definition) as an offensive weapon, as opposed to a tool, hence in many places (California included) ban the carry of "daggers"
There is no cut and dried definition of a "dagger." One dictionary definition says "short stabbing weapon." If you ask a knife maker to show you some daggers, chances are you'll see some symetrical double edged blades. On the other hand, the legal definition of a dagger in California is so broad that it includes a ball-point pen.

I would say that a knife is primarily a cutting instrument, and a dagger is primarily a stabbing instrument.

And I would guess that their origins are completely different, though now they may come from the same workshop, and even be the same object in the eyes of different beholders.

Knives begin with flaked flint and obsidian and such. Stone cutting tools, the foundation of all culture. Daggers begin with short pointed sticks. In primitive technology, stone is a bit brittle for a close-quarters weapon, but hardwood or bone work well enough. It's when we get into metal work that we start combining and confusing the two different instruments.

Here's the difference between a dagger and a knife.

A dagger is a stabbing weapon, can eithe have a cutting edge or not (like an icepick), I have a ceremonial dress dagger that has been passed from generations that has never been sharpened and a turkish battle dagger (dating back to the crusades) that was only sharpened at the tip and had no signs of ever being sharpened at the cutting edge.

A knife on the other hand, is a weapon sporting a sharpened cutting edge, can be symmetrical or not, and is usually larger, with the exception of only a few select timeframes/types of knives.

Hope this helped you out.