A dagger is a small weapon with two sharp edges and a pointed tip. The dagger was a typical short-range combat weapon used explicitly for stabbing or thrusting.
In human history, many cultures used different types of daggers to perform certain rituals, making them symbolic and iconic tools.
The dagger had adopted a definite design that includes a short sharp point, a central fuller, two cutting edges, and a crossguard in recent years.
Origin & Uses of Daggers
Daggers were first made out of bone, flint, or ivory in the Stone Age period. They were succeeded by copper daggers during the Bronze Age. The first copper daggers were documented in the Knossos between 2400 and 2000 BC. Copper and Bronze daggers were common in ancient Egypt in 3100 BC, where they were used for ceremonial purposes. They first had golden hilts, and as they developed further, they became ornamented and had different construction.
In 1924, two daggers were recovered from the Tomb of Tutankhamun. They were made of smelted iron and gold, respectively. Legends in this era were buried with their weapons like swords, amours, and daggers. Iron daggers were first made in 1200 BC in Egypt. They had the same value as gold daggers.
Daggers were carved out of molten iron slightly before 2000 BC. Between the 5th and 3rd centuries, Iberian blacksmiths produced more iron daggers. They gained popularity in the Roman Empire as pugio and were used by soldiers for defense and close-quarter combats in the line of duty. When not used in battles, the pugio served as a kitchen knife.
The dagger disappeared in the Early Middle Age when seax or hewing knife was commonly used. It reappeared in the Late Middle Age (around the 12th century) and was referred to as a quillon or knightly dagger. They looked like small swords as they had a pommel and a crossguard. They were commonly used as a combat weapon for secondary defense.
The dagger had already evolved into a baselard knife by the 14th century. It was used by knights fighting on foot to strengthen their defense system. The baselard was also a popular civilian weapon. A larger baselard was known as anelace, and it was classified between a short sword and a large dagger.
In the late Medieval Age, daggers with intricate blade designs became popular, with the stiletto being a classic example of this type of weapon. They were primarily used in battles to thrust into plate armors. These tools were classified according to the shape of the hilt.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the dagger was popularly used in fencing and Olympic sports. In the Renaissance period, daggers became a part of dressing, and commoners could freely walk around with them. In the 17th century, a special kind of dagger -plug bayonet was used to make spears. They were also used for eating and performing other activities such as farming tasks, house repairs, and mending boots.
The dagger also had the critical function of enhancing men’s appearance. All men were required to carry them as a sense of fashion.
Different Types of Daggers
Daggers are one of the oldest weapons in the world. They were mostly used as backup weapons to spears, maces, and axes. Even with the introduction of advanced weapons like guns, daggers were still used for stealth killings and close combat. Here’s is a list of historical daggers you should know.
1. The Bollock Dagger
The Bollock Dagger had a distinct oval-shaped hilt that looked like male genitalia. It was popularly used in Scotland, Flanders, England, Wales, and Scandinavia from the 13th to the 18th century. It was mainly a backup for the lance and sword when going to the battlefield.
The bollock dagger was referred to as the “kidney dagger,” a description of the lobes at the guard to avoid sexual reference. It is out of this dagger that the expression “bollocking,” meaning receive or give, came to be.
The dirk was a long Scottish dagger worn by highlanders as a personal side and used as a weapon in hand-to-hand tackles. It was long enough, about 12 inches, and specially made for slicing and thrusting. The blade was typically decorated with pommels and silver mounts.
Unlike most daggers, the dirk was single-edged. It was a symbolic and ceremonial weapon worn by drummers, officers, and pipers of Scottish descent.
3. Push Dagger
Often referred to as a punch dagger or punch knife, this was a short-bladed tool with a very sharp point and a T-shaped handle design. It was an important weapon for close combat from the 19th century and was also used in World War I.
It was easily portable and concealable, making it suitable for politicians and civilian owners who wanted to have them for personal security. It re-emerged in World War II and became popular among British Commandos.
4. Bag Nakh
Originally from South Asia, the bag nakh was a small claw-like weapon. It was made to be worn on the fingers knuckles and concealed beneath the palm. It featured 4 or 5 blades slightly curved towards the end, fixed onto a steel bar.
Bag nakh is a good close combat weapon that tears through the skin into the muscles. Several variations of this dagger were observed, with some having an additional loop for the thumb and a double crossbar.
A Kali is a double-edged weapon originally from the Philippines. It had a close resemblance to a small sword. It had a straight blade that was a little curvy towards the handle. A few of these daggers had a fully wavy or straight blade.
This heavy tool was mainly used for slashing and chopping. The curvy part of the blade facilitated easier slashing. The hilt, which was slightly curvy, was made of hardwood covered by natural fiber like jute.
This was a middle-aged dagger common in England in the 14th century. It was worn on the girdle as a gentleman’s accessory. The anelace had a wide blade that narrowed towards the sharp point. It was sharp on both sides. They were mostly used by civilians for beautification purposes. Anelaces have been widely mentioned in English art and literature.
Cinquedea was a long dagger first made in Northern Italy during the Renaissance age in the 15th and 16th centuries. It had a heavy blade and a curved guard. The wider side of the blade was fixed with numerous fullers to lighten it. The wide part of this weapon was majorly for attacking, unlike other weapons that used the sharp point. The whole dagger had a variety of sizes ranging between 10 and 28 inches.
Acinaces were among the first weapons to be used in the first millennium BCE in the Mediterranean regions. They were common among the Persians, Caspians, Medes, and Greeks. It is a double-edged weapon about 50 cm long with a lobbed guard and a simple hilt.
Besides their use as a weapon, acinaces was used as a symbolic gift to the Persian god of the sea. The Romans and the Greeks depicted this dagger as a sign of favor if offered by a king.
The stiletto is a type of dagger with a long thin blade and a very sharp end that looks like a needle. Its shape made it a good stabbing weapon as it had less friction when piercing into a victim. However, the blades could not be used for cutting and chopping. Over the years, the word stiletto has been a common term that describes various knives with small cutting surfaces.
The Jile or Gile is a long, curved dagger originally used by Afars and Somalis in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somali, and Djibouti. In ancient times, it was a common weapon in the horn of Africa. It is about 30 to 50 cm long with a curved steel or iron blade and a wooden handle.
A few special Jiles had handles made out of rhino and buffalo horns. This weapon has a unique pomelo that features three silver, bronze, or zinc protrusions. It was mostly used in cultural events and to carve wood or slaughter sheep.
This short dagger was first used in Yemen before gaining popularity in South Asia and the Middle East. It featured a curved blade with a middle ridge and was typically worn as an accessory by both young and older men.
As it became widespread in various regions, the jambiya saw variations in the hilt, blade, and scabbard. It bears heavy cultural significance among the communities who used it. Some communities used it for traditional dances and other events.
12. Pesh Kabz
Pesh-kabz is an Indo-Persian type of dagger used as a weapon in wars. This single-edged dagger made of steel has a curved blade and a T spine that gives it strength. Its design makes it easier to penetrate metallic armors. While it is mainly a thrusting weapon, the pesh-kabz has wide hollow blades that can effectively slash and cut through an enemy. They are usually stored in leather or metallic sheaths.
What are the curved daggers called?
While there were several curved daggers, the Jambiya from Yemen was the most prominent one. It had a curved blade and a ridge in the middle. Curved daggers such as the jambiya and Jile were best used for slashing, ripping, and joint manipulation.
What is the most famous dagger?
The Khopesh, an ancient Egyptian dagger, was the most famous weapon of this kind in history. Its blade had a hook and was only sharpened on the outer edges. It was extremely famous in the Bronze Age, and even as years passed, it still remains an effective weapon.
What is a small dagger called?
The push dagger is the smallest dagger held between two fingers with the sharp end on the outside of the arm. It is an effective self-defense weapon that needs little skills to use. It is very small such that once packed in a sheath, it can be carried in the pocket or concealed in the boot.
What are thin daggers called?
Stilletos are long thin daggers with a needle-like point. They are ideal for stabbing since their nature greatly reduces the friction between the weapon and its target. While they have edges like any other dagger, a stilleto is not used to slash or cut.
What is a double-sided dagger called?
The Kali, a classic Filipino weapon, was a double sided dagger. It had a straight blade with two edges that curved close to the handle. It resembled the Javanese Keri but was much heavier and primarily used for slashing.
What is a dirk knife?
A dirk knife is a type of thrusting dagger with a long blade. It was associated with Scottish highlanders who used it for hand-to-hand tackles. It was also a cultural symbolic tool used by drummers, officers, and pipers in the Scottish cultures as well as Japanese naval officers.
Are knives and daggers the same?
A dagger is typically defined as a knife with two cutting edges and a sharp point. Many people have used the terms ‘dagger’ and ‘knife’ interchangeably to mean the same thing. Knives have simple designs meant to be used at home or for hunting, while daggers are intricately designed for defensive and combat purposes.
Is a karambit a dagger?
Karambit is a type of dagger originating from Indonesia. It was a small curved knife mostly used in Indonesian martial arts training. It was originally used as an agricultural tool before it became weaponized. It is held with the sharp end pointing down or up and is best for hooking and slashing.
A dagger is a detailed knife used for fighting and combat purposes. It was used as a backup besides swords and spears. Apart from fighting, daggers carry a rich history in different cultures as they were used to perform certain rituals and traditional functions. Daggers should, however, not be confused with knives as they have a significant difference.