1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cutlass

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CUTLASS, the naval side-arm, a short cutting sword with a slightly curved blade, and a solid basket-shaped guard (see Sword). The word is derived from the Fr. coutelas, or coutelace, a form of coutel, modern couteau, a knife, from Lat. cultellus, diminutive of culter, a ploughshare, or cutting instrument. Two variations appear in English: “curtelace,” where the r represents probably the l of the original Latin word, or is a further variant of the second variation; and “curtelaxe,” often spelled as two words, “curtal axe,” where the prefix curtal is confused with various English words such as “curtan,” “curtal” and “curtail,” which all mean “shortened,” and are derived from the Lat. curtus; the word thus wrongly derived has been supposed to refer to some non-existent form of battle-axe. In every case the weapon to which these various forms apply is a broad cutting or slashing sword.