A stiletto is a short knife or dagger, with a long slender blade of various designs. This dagger is primarily a stabbing weapon, its narrow shape ending in a rigid pointed end allows it to penetrate deeply. It is not suited for cutting, even with edged examples. A typical early stiletto was a one piece cast metal handle and blade, that was then hammer forged in a "V" groove anvil producing a triangular blade cross section without any sharpened edges. Other examples have round, square and diamond cross sections. The word stiletto may sometimes be used in American English to refer to a switchblade or to a type of high-heeled shoe. Stiletto may also be used specifically for a knife exhibiting the same triangular cross-section and hollow grind as a small sword.


The word stiletto comes from the Latin word stilus meaning: "a stake; a pointed instrument". The stiletto began to gain fame during the Renaissance when it was popular as a tool against heavily armoured knights. The thin blade could easily pass through most chainmail, or find its way through tiny gaps in a knight's armour. Later the Gunners Stilettoes became a tool for clearing cannon fuse touch holes. Used like an automotive oil dip stick, they were often scribed with marks indicating levels of powder charges for ranging distance.

The stiletto was also favoured amongst assassins because it was an easily concealed weapon. This tactic occurred repeatedly, from the Zealots of 1st century Judaea, to the Venetians and the Assassins of Alamut.

World War I

World War I created the need for stilettos, several versions were made by all countries often grouped together in one class nicknamed the trench knife.

World War II

World War II saw a resurgence of the stiletto style in the form of several variants including the, U.S. Marine Raider Stiletto, Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife and V-42 combat knife. However it should be noted that since these weapons can hold a cutting edge they are not true stilettos.

1950s folding knives

Collectors often refer to the handle and cross guard style found on Italian 1950's folding picklock switchblades as a Stiletto. The blade options included dagger blades, clip points, bayonet points and wavy Indonesian style kriss blades. Early 1950s stilettos had thick blades in proportion to the height and length, resembling the renaissance knife, making them desirable. Modern production Italian knives of this style tend to have conventional thin flat blades, and are rarely hollow ground.

Colloquial Use

A stiletto may also refer to a switchblade having a blade which telescopes out the front of the handle. A popular folding Switchblade with a tang stamped "Rizzuto Estiletto Milano" is believed to be the culprit. The word Stiletto was trademarked in the early 20th century for woodworking tools.

See also


Search another word or see Stilettoon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature