double-edged sword

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English[edit]

A pair of literal double-edged swords.

Etymology[edit]

From the notion that if two sides of the same blade are sharp, it cuts both ways. The metaphor may have originated from the Arabic expression سَيْف ذُو حَدَيْن ‎(sayf ḏū ḥadayn, double-edged sword). (In the Bible, the word of God is described as a being sharper than a double-edged sword.) The metaphor is first attested in English in the 15th century. It is not to be confused with a double-ended sword.

Noun[edit]

double-edged sword ‎(plural double-edged swords)

  1. (idiomatic) A benefit that is also a liability, or that carries some significant but non-obvious cost or risk.

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