Are Machetes Considered Knives? Or Are They Something Else?


Just looking at a machete, it’s not absolutely clear whether it would be considered a knife, a sword, or something completely different. This question got me thinking, are machetes knives? I was so intrigued that I decided to look into it for myself. So I did a bit of research, and this is what I found out.

A machete is considered a type of knife. Some people argue that machetes are chopping tools or swords, but their construction and design are very similar to a knife’s. While machetes can chop, their blade edge is thinner than most chopping tools that enable them to cut and behave more like knives.

Sometimes, the terminology that goes along with knives, swords, and other blades can be confusing, and you can see one of the most prominent examples of this confusion with machetes. There are just so many opinions and arguments that it’s tough to find out the truth among all the noise.

If you’re still confused, you’re not alone. This argument about whether a machete is a knife or not has been going on for quite some time. Below I’ll break it all down and explain what machetes are considered and the reasons behind them. Let’s get right into it!

Is a Machete Considered a Knife, Sword, or Something Else?

While many people will debate whether this is right or wrong, the vast majority agree that machetes are knives.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a machete is “a large heavy knife used for cutting sugarcane and underbrush and as a weapon.” It’s just one more thing pointing to and proving a machete is a knife, besides all of the other reasons that I’ll go over in a minute.

When you look at a machete, all of its attributes point to it being a knife and not a sword or something else. Swords and other chopping tools that machetes are sometimes confused with, such as axes and hatchets, have entirely different qualities that a machete doesn’t possess.

The literal definition of the word “machete” says that it is a knife, so I’m not sure why there is still debate surrounding this, but there is. There are substantial reasons why machetes should be considered knives.

I’ll go more in-depth later, but just know that all signs point to machetes being knives.

Why is a Machete a Knife?

Now that I have just blatantly stated that machetes are knives, many of you are very skeptical. Luckily for you, there are many supporting ideas to this statement that I’ll dive into in the following sections.

This debate of what to consider a machete has been going on for a long time by now. I’m not expecting this article to change everyone’s mind on the subject, but this is just what I’ve found throughout my research.

From everything that I’ve used, read, and seen, it all points in the direction of a machete being a knife. So let’s get right into some of the specific reasons why a machete is, and should be, considered a knife.

Edge of the Blade

The edge of a blade, also known as the bevel, is slightly different on different tools and blades.

For instance, swords and chopping tools have a much duller bevel than a knife or machete would. The reason for this is because swords and other chopping tools often collide with tough materials repeatedly.

Whether they are smashing into a piece of wood, body armor, or many other things, swords and chopping tools must stand up to the beating and not become too dull in the process. If a sword or chopping tool had a very sharp and thin bevel, it would become very dull quickly and have a high probability of chipping.

Because chopping tools and swords can’t have thin and sharp edges, their bevels are more rounded and intentionally dull. The more rounded bevel keeps whatever sharpness they initially have longer and makes sure their blade won’t chip super easily.

And this is where machetes become more like knives. Knives, because they must slice and cut, have a much thinner bevel than chopping tools do. And while machetes are great chopping tools because they perform the function quite well, they also have a pretty thin bevel that makes the blade super sharp.

When considering the thickness of a bevel and how sharp the edge of a blade gets, knives and machetes fall into one group, while other chopping tools and swords fall in a different one.

Blade Makeup and Construction

Another reason machetes are considered knives is the similarities between the materials used to make their blades. While different, their manufacturing processes have many similarities that machetes don’t share with swords or other chopping tools.

Most knife makers make their knives out of a single piece of metal either forged or ground down into the desired shape and size. Machetes are generally made very similarly by grinding down a single piece of metal into the correct blade shape.

On the other hand, swords are usually only forged, and their makeup is often quite different. While the vast majority of machetes and knives are made out of a single piece of metal and ground down, swords are usually made of many metals and forged together into a single blade.

The heat treatment of a machete or knife will often strengthen the blade and make it harder along the edge. Swords take a different approach because the edge of the blade is usually made of a harder metal, while the rest is a metal that is a little softer.

In both cases, the harder edge enables the blade to stand up to intensive use and not chip, while the softer part of the blade can absorb impact and not make the entire blade too brittle.

While both methods of making a blade are legitimate, they are merely different ways of going about it and one more difference that makes machetes more like knives and less like swords or other chopping tools.

Intended Purpose

This next reason why machetes are more like knives and less like swords is a little convoluted and is more accurate in theory. A bunch of technicalities and ambiguities make this so difficult!

The vast majority of knives are made as practical tools and not intended for any sort of combat. Sure, there are combat knives out there, but most knife makers design their knives with more utilitarian purposes in mind.

Machetes, contrary to how films often portray them, are not made for combat. While they took some inspiration from the combat-intended medieval falchion, they were, and still are, primarily used for agricultural purposes and other non-combat tasks.

On the other hand, swords have a singular purpose of being a weapon.

This singular purpose verses a multifunctional tool is what separates knives and machetes from swords. Knives and machetes share a common use, utility, and practical tasks, while swords are just for combat.

This single thing, not even considering all of the other reasons that I’ve mentioned, makes machetes more like knives than swords. In the end, it’s all about how you use a tool or weapon, and machetes have an intended purpose that is in line with knives more so than with swords.

Overall Design

Now let’s get to one of the most striking reasons why machetes are knives—the blade’s design, handle, and the overall look.

If you think about it, it is the design of a weapon or tool that differentiates it from similar items. A sword, chopping tool, knife, and machete all have common qualities like handles and blades, but their unique design makes them different from one another.

When you compare the four main bladed items that we have been talking about today (knife, machete, chopping tool, and sword), you can notice similarities. 

While they take a few design features from chopping tools and swords, machetes are pretty much large knives. If this isn’t enough to convince you that machetes are knives, compare the overall look of a machete to a sword or chopping tool such as an ax or hatchet.

The resemblance just isn’t there like it is with the knife. Machetes are knives.

You can’t make the argument that a machete is a knife based solely on its design and looks, though. Its the combination of all the previously mentioned reasons in addition to its overall design.

Conclusion

The debate on whether a machete is a knife or not might ever truly reach a conclusion, but I hope I have shown you some of the reasons why machetes are widely considered knives.

There are always going to be the people out there who insist that machetes are swords, chopping tools, or garden hoes, but you can’t please everyone.

From all of my research and experience, I have found a definitive answer to the question of “are machetes considered knives?” And the answer is yes. Many people in the outdoors community agree that machetes are knives, so I hope to clarify any confusion on the topic.

Machetes are considered knives. Not swords, chopping tools, or anything else. Knives.

Townsen Bell

I'm the founder and primary author at Knife Manual. Over many years, I have become proficient at survival and bushcraft skills through lots of practice and many great teachers. I enjoy spending time outdoors, collecting knives, and learning new skills.

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