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Dagger vs. Shortsword: What's the Difference?

By Aimie Carlson || Updated on May 23, 2024
A dagger is a small, pointed knife designed for close combat or thrusting, while a shortsword is a short, lightweight sword used for both cutting and thrusting in battle.

Key Differences

A dagger is a small, double-edged knife typically used for stabbing or thrusting in close combat situations. Its compact size allows for easy concealment and quick, precise attacks. In contrast, a shortsword is a short, lightweight sword designed for both cutting and thrusting. It is longer than a dagger but shorter than a typical sword, offering greater reach and versatility in battle.
Daggers often serve as secondary weapons or tools for self-defense due to their size and ease of use in confined spaces. They are commonly used in situations where quick, decisive actions are necessary. On the other hand, shortswords were historically used as primary weapons by soldiers, especially in tight formations where longer swords would be impractical. The shortsword's length strikes a balance between reach and maneuverability, making it suitable for various combat scenarios.
While daggers are primarily thrusting weapons, shortswords can be used effectively for both slashing and thrusting. The design of a dagger typically features a straight blade with a sharp point, while shortswords often have broader blades that can deliver powerful cuts. This difference in design reflects their distinct combat roles and methods of use.
Daggers are often associated with stealth and precision, used by assassins and for ceremonial purposes. Shortswords, in contrast, are more versatile battlefield weapons, used by infantry in ancient and medieval armies. The tactical applications of these weapons highlight their specific strengths: daggers for close-quarters engagements and shortswords for broader combat versatility.

Comparison Chart


Small, compact
Short, but longer than a dagger

Primary Use

Stabbing, thrusting
Cutting and thrusting

Typical Length

6 to 12 inches
12 to 24 inches

Combat Role

Close combat, self-defense
Versatile battlefield weapon

Blade Design

Straight, double-edged, sharp point
Broader blade, suitable for cutting and thrusting

Dagger and Shortsword Definitions


A small, double-edged knife designed for stabbing.
He carried a dagger for self-defense.


Often used by infantry in tight formations.
The legionnaires formed a line, each with a shortsword at the ready.


Used for close combat and precise attacks.
The assassin's weapon of choice was a sharp dagger.


Effective in both slashing and thrusting attacks.
The warrior demonstrated skillful cuts with his shortsword.


Easy to conceal due to its size.
She hid the dagger in her boot.


A short, lightweight sword used for cutting and thrusting.
The Roman soldier wielded a shortsword in battle.


Historically used in stealth and ceremonial contexts.
The ancient ritual involved a ceremonial dagger.


Longer than a dagger but shorter than a full-length sword.
She preferred the shortsword for its balance and versatility.


A short pointed weapon with sharp edges.


Versatile weapon for various combat scenarios.
The adventurer's favorite weapon was a finely crafted shortsword.


Something that agonizes, torments, or wounds.


A sword of a class generally shorter than one meter, but longer than a dagger.


See obelisk.


A double dagger.


(weapons) A stabbing weapon, similar to a sword but with a short, double-edged blade.


(typography) The text character †; the obelus.


A point scored near the end of the game (clutch time) to take or increase the scorer's team lead, so that they are likely to win.
Curry's last-minute 3-point dagger silenced the criticism for his so-called failure to come up big in big moments.


A timber placed diagonally in a ship's frame.


To pierce with a dagger; to stab.


A short weapon used for stabbing. This is the general term: cf. Poniard, Stiletto, Bowie knife, Dirk, Misericorde, Anlace.


A mark of reference in the form of a dagger [


A timber placed diagonally in a ship's frame.


To pierce with a dagger; to stab.


A short knife with a pointed blade used for piercing or stabbing


A character used in printing to indicate a cross reference or footnote


Often used as a secondary weapon.
The knight kept a dagger alongside his sword.


What is a dagger?

A small, double-edged knife used for stabbing and close combat.

Can a shortsword be concealed easily?

No, due to its length, it is more challenging to conceal compared to a dagger.

What is the primary use of a dagger?

Primarily for stabbing and thrusting in close combat.

What is a shortsword?

A short, lightweight sword used for cutting and thrusting in battle.

How long is a typical dagger?

A dagger typically ranges from 6 to 12 inches in length.

How does a dagger's blade design differ from a shortsword's?

A dagger has a straight, double-edged blade with a sharp point, while a shortsword has a broader blade for effective cutting and thrusting.

Can a dagger be used for slashing?

While possible, a dagger is primarily designed for stabbing rather than slashing.

How long is a typical shortsword?

A shortsword usually measures between 12 to 24 inches in length.

Who typically used shortswords historically?

Infantry soldiers, especially in tight battle formations.

Can daggers have ornamental designs?

Yes, many daggers are crafted with decorative elements, especially for ceremonial use.

What is the primary use of a shortsword?

Used for both cutting and thrusting, offering versatility in combat.

Are daggers used in modern combat?

They are rarely used in modern combat but may be used for self-defense.

Can shortswords be used in dueling?

Yes, they can be used in dueling due to their balance and versatility.

Is a dagger effective for self-defense?

Yes, due to its small size and ease of use in close quarters.

What materials are shortswords typically made from?

Steel or other metals, similar to daggers.

Do daggers have a historical significance?

Yes, they have been used throughout history for combat, self-defense, and rituals.

Who typically used daggers historically?

Assassins, soldiers, and for ceremonial purposes.

Are shortswords still used today?

They are not used in modern combat but are popular in historical reenactments and martial arts.

What materials are daggers typically made from?

Steel or other durable metals.

Is a shortsword effective in tight spaces?

It can be used effectively in tighter spaces than longer swords but is not as compact as a dagger.
About Author
Written by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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