Stilettos and daggers with stabbing blades

A stiletto is a short knife or dagger with a long slender blade of various designs primarily used as a stabbing weapon. Its narrow shape, ending in a rigid pointed end, allows it to penetrate deeply. Most stilettos are not suited for cutting, even with edged examples. A typical early stiletto had a one-piece cast-metal handle. The blade was hammer-forged in a triangular blade cross section without any sharpened edges. Other examples have round, square, and diamond cross sections.

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Stilettos and daggers with stabbing blades

The Italian word "stiletto" comes from the Latin stilus meaning: "a stake; a pointed instrument". The stiletto, also called a misericorde ("mercy"), began to gain fame during the High Middle Ages, when it was the secondary weapon of knights. It was used to finish off a fallen or severely wounded heavily armored opponent. The pointed, stout blade could easily pass through most mail or find its way through gaps in a knight's plate armor. A severely wounded opponent, who was not expected to survive, would be given a "mercy strike" (French coup de grâce), hence the name miséricorde. Later the Gunner's Stiletto became a tool for clearing cannon-fuse touch holes; used in the manner of an automotive oil dipstick, they were often scribed with marks indicating levels of powder charges for ranging distance.

If you are interested in the modern successors of the historical Stilettos, visit the category Stiletto knives.