A simple penknife.

A penknife, or pen knife, is a British English term for a small folding knife.[1] Originally, penknives were used for thinning and pointing quills to prepare them for use as dip pens and, later, for repairing or re-pointing the nib.[1] They did not necessarily have folding blades, but resembled a scalpel or wood knife by having a short, fixed blade at the end of a long handle.

Today the word penknife is the common British English term for both a pocketknife, which can have single or multiple blades, and for multi-tools, with additional tools incorporated into the design.[2]

Over the last hundred years there has been a proliferation of multi-function knives with multifarious blades and gadgets, including; awls, reamers, scissors, nail files, corkscrews, tweezers, toothpicks, and so on. The tradition continues with the incorporation of modern devices such as ballpoint pens, LED torches, and USB flash drives.[3]

The most famous example of a multi-function penknife is the Swiss Army knife, some versions of which number dozens of functions and are really more of a folding multi-tool, incorporating a blade or two, than a penknife with extras.[3]

A larger folding knife, especially one in which the blade locks into place, is often called a claspknife.[3]

See also


  1. 1 2 A Society of Gentlemen in Scotland (1773). Volume 3. Oxford University: John Donaldson 195 The Strand. p. 524. Retrieved 18 December 2014. upon your knee with the back of a penknife,
  2. Moore, Simon (1988). Penknives and Other Folding Knives. Osprey Publishing. pp. 25–26. ISBN 978-0-85263-966-5.
  3. 1 2 3 Shackleford, Steve (5 January 2010). Blade's Guide to Knives & Their Values. Iola, Wisconsin: Krause Publications. pp. 219–222. ISBN 1-4402-1505-7.

External links

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