Is A Machete A Knife or A Sword

Those machetes can surely be confusing.

For some of us, they are best known as cutlasses or corn pickers. You might even have other local names for this diverse tool.

Looking at one, though, is a machete a knife or some kind of sword or something else?

Machetes are considered bigger knives due to their build, purpose, and construction. The tang of the machete is shorter than a sword’s and closer to that of a knife. Fitted with a thinner edge compared to most cutting tools, they are best placed in the larger knife category instead.

Top Differences Between a Machete and Sword

Do you still think a machete is closer to the sword family than knives?

How about I interest you in some of the glaring differences that will help you see how they are miles apart?

Good. Let’s get to it then.

Primary Purpose

A sword is defined to be a weapon while the knife is designed to be a tool.

Nobody makes swords to go use them on the farm – and I don’t believe that machetes are made for the sole aim of fighting battles.

This puts the machete closer to the knife also. While knives can be deployed for self-defense, they were primarily made for domestic usage.


Swords are known to have two sharp edges. This allows for easier usage and better penetration on the battlefield.

The double edges also make it possible to slice an opponent with either part of the sword that lands on them, so the user doesn’t need to be conscious of where the sharp side is.

That is not true for the machete which boasts only a single sharp edge. This edge is so defined that it can handle the basic chopping, clearing, and cutting tasks that a machete is best suited to.


If you don’t know what a bevel is, you might want to look at my guide to knife parts first.

That said, the bevel on an average sword is designed to be thicker than what you get on the machete. Since the sword is designed to hit harder items (such as shields, body armor, bone, etc), it needs to be able to take a beating without damaging the edge.

Thus, the bevel on the sword is thick enough to withstand such repeated impact till the blade can be sharpened again.

Look at your machetes and knives and you see that they have a much thinner bevel. Even meat cleavers don’t carry the same bevel as a sword, and they are specialized in cutting bone!

Type of Metal

The standard sword construction uses a metal that is softer in the middle, gently sloping into harder metals around the edge. This is important because the harder metal holds the edge for longer while the softer metal in the middle can absorb the impacts of multiple hits better.

With machetes, they are usually stamped (like knives) from a huge sheet of metal, shaped, and attached to a suitable handle. Some of them could also be forged to make them stronger and of better quality, but you would rarely come across such these days.

Blade length

Now, this could be a little bit subjective.

There are swords with shorter blades than others. Even at that, though, machetes are generally going to have a shorter blade than the corresponding sword. Sword makers tend to want to make them as long as possible without breaking the structural integrity of the whole setup.

Machetes, on the other hand, have standard measurements that they keep to which ensures uniformity and best usage.


A good sword is made to balance towards the handle where the user grips it. For a machete, the weight is moved to the front so that the tool has a lot of power for cutting and chopping as that region is intended for.

Are machetes illegal?

If we will consider machetes to be knives, it is only normal that they obey the same established knife laws, right?

Not quite that simple.

Cos, you see, machetes have grown to be known as agricultural and gardening tools. Under this status, they enjoy the kind of legality that knives will envy.

The fact that they are also usually designed in one way makes it easy to grant legal status to all of them. That is unlike knives where we can have everything from a balisong/ butterfly knife to a ballistic knife and bowie knife.

As long as you don’t use your machete for anything illegal in itself, the tool is considered legal across the US. However, you don’t want to have one on your person as an EDC as that just looks like you’re looking for trouble – and an arrest.

Can you travel with machetes?

You can travel within the United States with your machetes, and legally.

Make sure to have a valid reason for choosing to carry a machete with you on a trip, though. This helps explain things away if your luggage were ever searched,

Likewise, you can buy a machete from a foreign country and bring it into the States. The machete would have to go into your checked luggage and cannot be brought on as a carry-on.

If you were traveling from the United States into other countries, make sure to have checked their local laws to be sure that the machete is legal there. Most often than not, it would be legal, but it doesn’t hurt to be sure.

Wrapping Up

Long story short, all machetes are knives but not all knives are machetes. The instance when a machete is wielded like a weapon, it might be seen as a sword. That is, however, an abuse of this tool and should not constitute how we judge what it is used for.

With that in mind, and the differences listed above, you should already know what class your machete falls in.

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