AskDefine | Define machete

Dictionary Definition

machete n : a large heavy knife used in Central and South America as a weapon or for cutting vegetation [syn: matchet, panga]

User Contributed Dictionary

see Machete



  • IPA:
    • GenAm: /mə.ˈʃɛ.ti/
    • RP:/mə.ˈʃɛ.te/
  • Schoolbook Phonetics: (mu̇shĕʹtē)
  • Last Resort Phonetics: muh-SHEH-tee


Probably from Spanish macho, meaning "sledgehammer"


  1. A sword-like tool used for cutting large plants with a chopping motion. A machete's blade is usually 50 to 65 centimeters (cm) long, and up to three millimeters (mm) thick.



a sword-like tool

See also


  1. To cut or chop with a machete.
    After some hours of intense work, we had macheted a path through the jungle to the bank of the river.
  2. To hack or chop crudely with a blade other than a machete.
    You can't just machete about with a rapier and expect to succeed; you need to thrust properly.






  1. machete

Extensive Definition

The machete () is a large cleaver-like cutting tool. The blade is typically 50–60 cm (18–24 in) long, usually with a thin blade under 3mm thick. In the English language, an equivalent term is matchet (though the name 'machete' enjoys greater currency).
The machete is normally used to cut through thick vegetation such as sugar cane or jungle undergrowth but it can also be used as an offensive weapon. There are many specialized designs for different regions, tasks, and budgets.


As a Tool

In tropical and subtropical countries, the machete is frequently used to cut through jungle undergrowth and for agricultural purposes (e.g. cutting sugar cane). Besides this, in Central America it is not uncommon to see a machete being used for such household tasks as cutting large foodstuffs into pieces — much as a cleaver is used — or to perform crude cutting tasks such as making simple wooden handles for other tools. Also, in the Dominican Republic it's common to see people using machetes for their odd jobs such as splitting open coconuts, or working the lawns and other related activities.

As a weapon

In many (tropical) countries, a machete is as common and ubiquitous a tool as a breadknife is in other cultures. Consequently, it is often the weapon of choice for uprisings (the poor man's sword). A machete should also be classified as a basic sword, because it can be used like one. Machetes were the primary weapon used by the Interahamwe militias in the Rwandan Genocide, as well as the distinctive tool/weapon of the Haitian Tonton Macoute. The machete was also one of the most common weapons during the Cuban Independence War. Slaves freed by Carlos Manuel de Céspedes agreed to fight against Spain, where their only weapons were the tool they used to cut the sugar cane in the La De Majagua plantation. The Bolo Knife saw plenty of use in the jungles of the Philippines during World War II against the Imperial Japanese Army. As a result, it is a common weapon in the Filipino martial arts known as Kali, Arnis, or Eskrima, as well as the survival knife of the military.
Some tropical countries have a name for the blow of a machete; the Spanish machetazo is sometimes used in English.
In Trinidad and Tobago, to hit someone with the flat of the blade is termed planass. Although the machete is known in Trinidad and Tobago and elsewhere in the West Indies by the term 'cutlass', it is nevertheless a distinctly agricultural tool first, and a weapon of convenience second, and therefore not a true cutlass.
The Brazilian Army's Instruction Center on Jungle Warfare developed a 10-inch blade machete with a very pronounced clip point. In the same scabbard there's a 5-inch blade Bowie knife and a sharpening stone. This called "jungle kit" is made by Indústria de Material Bélico do Brasil (IMBEL).
Most battles for independence in the Dominican Republic were fought by Dominican patriots using the machete as a weapon of choice; this led to the well known battle cry "Machete, carajo!"(Machete, damn it!) which has been credited to General Gregorio Luperón during the Restoration War. This battle cry is still used to date by many military units of the modern day Dominican Republic Armed Forces such as "Los Cazadores" or The Hunters of the Constanza Valley and the use of a machete as a symbol and a field tool within their ranks.
In Hong Kong, the machete is a widely used weapon by the Triads. It is sometimes referred to as a "watermelon knife".
In South Africa. (Refer to Cultural variation below)

Cultural variations

The 'panga' is a variant used in East Africa and southern Africa. This name may be of Swahili etymology; do not confuse this tool with the Panga fish. The panga tool has a broader blade when compared to the machete and usually has either a spear-point or a trailing-point tip. This tool was used as a weapon in South Africa particularly in the 1980s and early 1990s when the former province of Natal was wracked by conflict between the African National Congress and the Zulu-nationalist Inkatha Freedom Party. The panga is more usually employed in the cutting of sugar cane.
In the Philippines, the bolo is a very similar tool, but with the blade swelling just before the tip to make the knife even more tip-heavy for chopping. A longer and a more pointed tip bolo or itak (intended for combat) was also used during the Philippine Revolution against the Spanish, and later a signature weapon of guerillas in the Philippine-American War. Filipinos still use machetes for everyday cutting and chopping of dense vegetation and meats. Machetes are also commonly found in most Filipino kitchens, having sets on the walls for show and other sets for everyday usage.
Other similar tools include the parang and the golok (from Malaysia and Indonesia); however, these tend to have shorter, thicker blades with a primary grind, and are more effective on woody vegetation. The Nepalese kukri is a curved blade which is often used for similar tasks. Some types of Chinese saber (dao) are similar.
In the Southern Brazil (state of Rio Grande do Sul), the machete is largely used by the native inhabitants. It's used to open ways through the jungle, and was used to fight against the Brazilian Empire in the farrapos' war (War of Tatters). There, the machete is called "facão" or "facón" (literally "big knife"). Today, there is a dance called dança dos facões (machetes' dance), that is danced in this region. In this dance, performed only by men, the dancers knock their machetes while dancing, simulating a battle.

Similar Historic Tools/Weapons

The modern machete is very similar to some forms of the medieval falchion (a type of sword distinguished by the blade being wider towards the tip than the hilt), differing mainly in the lack of a guard and a simpler hilt, though some machetes do have a guard for greater protection of hands during work.
The kopis was an ancient Greek tool/weapon comparable to the machete. The makhaira was also similar, but was intended primarily to be a weapon rather than a tool.
The seax was a Germanic tool/weapon that was also similar in function, although different in shape.


In manufacturing both the materials used and the shape of the machete itself is important to make a good machete. In the past, the best and most famous manufacturer of machetes was Collins Company of Collinsville, Connecticut. Indeed, it was so famous that all good machetes were called "un Collins."
Since the 1950s however, manufacturing shortcuts have resulted in a quality decline of machetes. Today, most modern factory-made machetes are of very simple construction, consisting of a blade and full-length tang punched from a single piece of flat steel plate of uniform thickness (and thus lack a primary grind), and a simple grip of two plates of wood or plastic bolted or riveted together around the tang. Finally, one side is ground down to an edge — although some are made so that the purchaser is expected to finish the sharpening. These machetes are occasionally provided with a simple cord loop as a sort of lanyard, and a canvas scabbard — although in some regions where machetes are valuable, commonly used tools, the users may make decorative leather scabbards for them.
Toughness is important because of the twisting and impact forces that the relatively thin blade may encounter, while edge retention is secondary. Medium to high carbon spring steels such as 1050 to 1095 are well suited to this application (with better machetes using the latter), and are relatively easy to sharpen. Most stainless steel machetes should be avoided, as a lot of high carbon stainless cannot stand up to repeated impacts, and will easily break if abused.
After hardening, many blades are tempered to maximum toughness, often nearly spring tempered. This also makes the blade relatively easier to sharpen.
A properly constructed machete will have a convex or flat primary bevel from the spine to the edge, which is formed by a secondary bevel. Better machetes will also have a slight distal taper.

In popular culture

  • The machete is also a performance weapon used in variations of the Brazilian martial dance called maculele, often practiced by exponents of capoeira.
  • In some Central American regions, the machete is believed to be the best weapon to kill the mythical cadejo.
  • In Predator 2 the Elder Predator is holding a machete.
  • In Rambo, Rambo uses a machete to kill soldiers.

See also


machete in Asturian: Machete
machete in Bulgarian: Мачете
machete in Czech: Mačeta
machete in German: Machete
machete in Spanish: Machete
machete in Esperanto: Maĉeto
machete in French: Machette
machete in Croatian: Mačeta
machete in Indonesian: Golok
machete in Italian: Machete
machete in Lithuanian: Mačetė
machete in Dutch: Kapmes
machete in Japanese: マチェテ
machete in Norwegian: Machete
machete in Polish: Maczeta
machete in Portuguese: Catana
machete in Russian: Мачете
machete in Finnish: Viidakkoveitsi
machete in Swedish: Machete
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