What Does Katana Mean?


What Does Katana Mean?

Katana means Japanese sword, The word Katana is synonymous with swords in Japan. When the natives say Katana, they just mean sword. Specifically, the word Katana means the traditional curved Japanese sword with a cutting edge on one side. here is the breakdown of how to pronounce Katana correctly:

Kah: The first syllable is like the "ca" in "cat," but with a more open 'a' sound.
Tah: This syllable is similar to the "ta" in "taco."
Nah: The final syllable is like the "na" in "nacho," again with a more open 'a' sound.

It's important to maintain a smooth and somewhat quick transition between each syllable. Remember, the emphasis is typically on the first syllable, so it's "KAH-tah-nah."

Let’s break the word down. It has two syllables. The first syllable, ‘Kata,’ means one or single. And the second syllable, ‘Na,’ means blade. Both are Kanji, which refers to the Katana sword we know today. Even interestingly, the word Katana does not refer to any specific sword. It can be used to refer to all Japanese swords. 

To be more precise, Katana, refers to the blade  (blade and tang) only. All other fittings (tsuka, saya, tsuba etch) are called Koshirae, and they are not part of a katana. Image Katana is a smartphone, Koshirae is the phone case. 

Names of Different Types of Katanas

Types of katana swords

As I’ve already mentioned, katana is an umbrella term for all sorts of Japanese swords. There are different types of katanas with their own unique names. Let’s get to know about them a bit more.

Uchigatana (打刀)

Uchigatana literally means "strike sword" in English. It's the katana we know today, it's mean for on foot battles, compare with tachi it's more easy to draw and control. 

Tachi (太刀)

Tachi is slightly more curved and longer sword, it's mainly used for mounted battles.
The size and shape make it easier for samurais to charge foot soldiers during battle. This sword was also the predecessor of the Katana. This is why you will notice that there are some similarities between them.

Wakizashi (脇差)

The Wakizashi sword is smaller than a traditional Katana, so it was often dual-wielded alongside a Katana. A set of Wakizashi and Katana is known as Daisho.

Wakizashi literally means "side inserted"in English, as you can tell from name, it's made for close combat.

Tanto (短刀)

The Tanto is even smaller than the Wakizashi, so much so that it should be classified as dagger instead of a sword. Tanto literally means "short sword"

Tanto was used primarily for stabbing. However, in recent times, it has become more of a decorative piece.
The Tanto dagger can be both double-edged and single-edged. Even though it was primarily used for stabbing, the edge was very sharp.

Gunto (軍刀)

The Gunto is a military sword (as it literally meaning is "military sword) that appeared during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Where the Katana was mainly used by Samurais, the Gunto sword was used by the Japanese Navy and Army.
Japanese Gunto swords were also machine-made. This sword focused more on the utility aspect of the blade. The blade was also comparatively straighter.

Naginata (薙刀)

The Naginata is a unique sword, the name Naginata translated to English means "weeding sword", you can image the use of this sword just by the name. Some might even call it a spear with a sword attached to the end. It is a type of Japanese polearm weapon.

Nagamaki (長巻)

The Nagamaki is another polearm weapon, the name Nagamaki means "long rol", Nagamaki was quite popular in the 12th Century. Their popularity remained till the 14th Century. Nagamaki swords are less popular compared to other Japanese swords, though.

Chokuto (直刀)

The Chokuto means "Straight swords" in English. Chukuto was used before the the Heian period, it's heavily influenced by the Chinese sword "Tang Dao"

Ninjato (忍者刀)

The Ninjato is another popular sword that the Shinobis of Japan used. They are also known as the Ninjas. This sword had a straight blade and was widely used during the Edo period.

Interestingly, this sword is called by many names. Shinobigatana or Ninjaken all refer to the Ninjato sword. The exact appearance of the sword during the Edo period is still debated. However, today’s depiction of this sword always has a straight blade.

Daisho (大小)

As mentioned before, the Daisho does not refer to a particular sword. Rather it is pairing up a longer sword with a shorter one as a secondary. The term ‘Daito’ is a class of swords that have a long blade.

And the term Shoto means short sword. Therefore, Daisho is simply a combination of these terms. Common Daisho pairs are a Wakizashi as a shoto sword with a Katana.

Wrapping Up

By now, you should have a clear idea of what does katana mean. Katana is the umbrella term used to refer to all sorts of Japanese swords. Hopefully, this article was able to shed some light on the katana and its different types. Thanks for tuning in.

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