double-edged sword

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A pair of literal double-edged swords.


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 سَيْفٌ ذُو حَدَّيْنِ(sayfun ḏū ḥaddayni, double-edged sword). In the Bible, the word of God is described as being sharper than a double-edged sword.[1]

The metaphor is first attested to in English in the 15th century.

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It is not to be confused with a double-ended sword.


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double-edged sword (plural double-edged swords)

  1. Used other than with a figurative or idiomatic meaning: see double-edged,‎ sword.
  2. (figuratively) A benefit that is also a liability, or (a benefit) that carries some significant but not-so-obvious cost or risk.
    Synonym: two-edged sword
    • 2020 June 23, Tiffany Hsu, “Ad Boycott of Facebook Keeps Growing”, in New York Times[1]:
      He added: “Facebook is a double-edged sword. You don’t want to support it, but you have to use it in order to reach a large audience.”


See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), imprinted at London: By Robert Barker, [], 1611, OCLC 964384981, Hebrews 4:12: “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”.