machete (/məˈʃɛti/; Spanish pronunciation: [maˈtʃete]) is a large cleaver-like knife, similar to a kukri. The blade is typically 32.5 to 45 centimetres (12.8 to 17.7 in) long and usually under 3 millimetres (0.12 in) thick. In the Spanish language, the word is a diminutive form of the word macho, which means male or strong and was used to refer to sledgehammers.[1] In the English language, an equivalent term is matchet,[2] though it is less commonly known. In the English-speaking Caribbean, such as Jamaica,[3] Barbados, Guyana, Grenada and in Trinidad and Tobago, the term "cutlass" is used for these agricultural tools.[4]


In agriculture

In various tropical and subtropical countries, the machete is frequently used to cut through rain forest undergrowth and for agricultural purposes (e.g. cutting sugar cane).[5] Besides this, in Latin America a common use is 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.[5] It is common to see people using machetes for other jobs, such as splitting open coconuts, yard work, and clearing brush.[5]

As a weapon

Because the machete is common in many tropical countries, it is often the weapon of choice for uprisings. For example, the Boricua Popular Army are unofficially called macheteros because of the machete-wielding laborers of sugar cane fields of past Puerto Rico.[6]

Many of the killings in the Rwandan Genocide were performed with machetes,[7] and they were the primary weapon used by theInterahamwe militias there.[8] Machetes were also a distinctive tool and weapon of the Haitian Tonton Macoute.[9]

In 1762, the Kingdom of Great Britain invaded Cuba in the Battle of Havana, and peasant guerrillas led by Pepe Antonio, a Guanabacoacouncilman, used machetes in the defense of the city.[10] The machete was also the most iconic weapon during the independence wars in that country (1868–1898), although it saw limited battlefield use.[11] Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, owner of the sugar refinery La Demajagua near Manzanillo, freed his slaves on 10 October 1868. He proceeded to lead them, armed with machetes, in revolt against the Spanish government.[12] The first cavalry charge using machetes as the primary weapon was carried out on 4 November 1868 by Máximo Gómez, a sergeant born in the Dominican Republic, who later became the general in chief of the Cuban Army.[13]

The machete was (and still is) a common side arm and tool for many ethnic groups in West Africa. Machetes in this role are referenced in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart.[14]

Some countries have a name for the blow of a machete; the Spanish machetazo is sometimes used in English.[15] In the British Virgin Islands, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Barbados, Saint Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago, the word planass means to hit someone with the flat of the blade of a machete or cutlass.[16] To strike with the sharpened edge is to "chop". Throughout the Caribbean, the term 'cutlass' refers to a laborers' cutting tool.[16]

The Brazilian Army's Instruction Center on Jungle Warfare developed a machete with a blade 10 inches (25 cm) in length and a very pronounced clip point. This machete is issued with a 5-inch Bowie knife and a sharpening stone in the scabbard; collectively called a "jungle kit" (Conjunto de Selva in Portuguese); it is manufactured by Indústria de Material Bélico do Brasil (IMBEL).[17]

Cultural references

The Flag of Angola

  • The Flag of Angola features a machete, along with a cog-wheel.
  • The machete is also a performance weapon used in variations of the Brazilian martial dance called maculelê, often practiced by practitioners of capoeira.
  • In the Mexican state of Durango, the folkloric dance called Danza de los Machetes consists of blind-folded dancers juggling machetes and pitching them at increasing speeds between one another.
  • In some Central American regions, the machete is believed to be the best weapon to kill the mythical cadejo.[citation needed]
  • In Colombia and other countries in South America, "machete" is a term often used to describe a kludge.
  • The Mexican news journal Machetearte adopts the name in a game of words, where it can mean "machete art" as well as "striking you with a machete". Its distribution is mainly throughout central and northern Mexico, as well as online.[35]
  • Jason Voorhees, the fictional mass murderer from the Friday the 13th film series, uses a machete as his weapon of choice in killing his victims.
  • Machete is a 2010 film by Robert Rodriguez, named for the character played by Danny Trejo, it also stars Steven Seagal and Robert De Niro. It is a follow-up to Grindhouseand based on the character developed in Spy Kids.
  • Machetes are a common item for tribes on the television series Survivor.