Slang dictionary

double-edged sword

[ duhb-uhl ejd sawrd ]

What does double-edged sword mean?

Literally, a double-edged sword is a sword that has two sharpened edges. Figuratively, double-edged sword refers to something that has both good and bad consequences.

When you’re wielding a double-edged sword, you have to be careful that you don’t cut yourself when you’re trying to swing it at an opponent. Such a sword can be helpful (in striking your opponent) and harmful (if you strike yourself).

If something is a double-edged sword, it will help you or be good for you but will also most likely hurt you or have a harmful cost.

Example: My new car is a double-edged sword, getting me to work but costing me a lot of money in gas and insurance.

Related words

you reap what you sow, existential threat, SHTF, self-fulfilling prophecy, screw the pooch

Where does double-edged sword come from?

The first records of the figurative sense of double-edged sword come from around the 1400s. This sense seems to be based on an idea that a sword with two edges poses a danger of bouncing back and cutting its own wielder.

Swords have been around since about 3000 BCE and by the Middle Ages double-edged swords, such as the longsword, were common. There is an idea that compared to a single-edged sword, such as the katana, a double-edged sword is more dangerous to the sword wielder.

Double-edged sword is a popular term for objects, strategies, events, or decisions that will help a person but also harm them. Double-edged sword is used to describe both small and large situations. For example, buying a puppy may be considered a double-edged sword because your children will have a friend to play with but you will have an animal to take care of. Similarly, social media is often a double-edged sword for many people because it provides an easy way to reach a lot of people but also provides an easy way to embarrass yourself in front of a lot of people.

Examples of double-edged sword

“The tongue is very small and light but it can take you to the greatest heights and it can put you in the lowest depths.” - Imam Al-Ghazali The tongue is a double-edged sword; it can raise your status, or secure your demise. Be wary of what you say.
@NoorUlUmmah, March 2, 2021
A proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief stimulus package from President-elect Joe Biden may prove a double-edged sword for investors, sustaining optimism for further economic revival while raising worries over how the United States will pay for it all.
David Randall, Reuters, January 14, 2021

Who uses double-edged sword?

Double-edged sword is a popular phrase that is used to describe things that are good and bad at the same time.

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This is not meant to be a formal definition of double-edged sword like most terms we define on, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of double-edged sword that will help our users expand their word mastery.