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.

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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

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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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Note

This is not meant to be a formal definition of double-edged sword like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, 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.