Is a Knife Gift a Sign of Bad Luck?

By: Laurie L. Dove  | 
A paring knife with a red handle and a bow on it.
Gah! That knife doesn't have a penny taped to it. Is the recipient doomed?
© D. Fagan/HowStuffWorks

Sometimes it's difficult to find the perfect gift for a friend. You wrack your brain, trying to come up with a thoughtful gift that will be appreciated. Like all the best gifts, you're looking for something that will defy the cookie-cutter mold. Better yet? The gift will be affordable, too.

Enter the knife gift. Whether you're looking at folding knives, pocket knives, or survival knives, a blade can be a timeless and useful gift — especially if that special someone enjoys cooking food, hunting, or going camping. Beyond being a handy gift, knives can also be symbolic. A kitchen knife can help celebrate a new home, while a survival knife shows that you care about a person's safety. So what's wrong with this gift?


The Problem with Knives as Gifts

Before you box one up, however, there's something you need to know: giving a blade as a gift is considered bad luck in many cultures. According to one superstition, offering a knife as a present will sever the friendship between the gift giver and recipient.

The only way around this unfortunate matter is for the gift giver to tape a coin to the knife. The coin must then be promptly removed and returned to the giver as a form of symbolic payment. This transaction prevents the relationship from being cut and, because the knife was "purchased," releases the giver from any injuries that might result from its use.


Knife Superstitions From Around the World

Knife-giving superstitions are prevalent the world over. For example, it's bad luck to give a knife as a wedding gift because, according to folklore, it could cut the marriage ties. For similar reasons, a pocket knife should be handed to someone only if it's closed; otherwise, it'll cause an argument.

If there's been a death in the family, superstition insists that knives should be carefully handled. This way, family members can avoid stabbing the soul of the dead. Speaking of handling knives carefully, take note of this superstition: it's bad luck to close a pocket knife when another person has left it open.


Does the Style of Knife Matter?

In some cases, yes. Pay attention to the specific features of your knife gift, as they can reveal paranormal self-defense qualities. Carrying a steel blade can allegedly protect you from evil spirits and curses, although the blade length won't give you more or less protection.

Meanwhile, in Greece, it's believed that putting a knife with a black grip under the pillow will prevent nightmares. You won't get any rest with a wood handle, apparently! These are things to consider before surprising a family member, friend, or special someone with their first knife this holiday season.


A Perfect Knife can Still Make the Perfect Gift

At this point, you're probably tempted to ditch the knife-giving idea and purchase a set of multi tools instead. But it's important to keep in mind that many of these superstitions come from murky tradition. From a modern perspective, knives are great gifts that offer beauty, utility, and stand to function as cool conversation pieces.

The key is to know your gift receiver. If you have family members who are first responders, a seat belt cutter or survival knife can be a thoughtful gift. Any person who cooks food should enjoy a set of kitchen knives. Plus, a pocket knife gift can be sentimental in the right context.


Even a superstitious person can appreciate a well-thought-out knife gift. If the blade's style helps them ward off evil spirits or protect their home, it will still be cherished. So maybe the gift of a knife isn't so bad after all.


Knife Superstition FAQs

Is it bad luck to give knives as a wedding gift?
According to folklore, the symbolic meaning of a knife is a broken relationship and, therefore, it is considered bad luck to give a knife as a wedding gift.
Is it bad luck to close a knife you didn't open?
Yes. According to folklore, doing so will inevitably lead to a broken life.
What is the meaning of dropping a knife?
Some people believe that if you drop a knife accidentally, a man is about to visit. Similarly, dropping a fork means a woman is going to visit. And if you drop a spoon, a child will visit.
What does it mean when someone gives you a knife?
If you receive a knife as a gift, especially from a family member or close friend, it is considered extremely bad luck. Attaching a coin can prevent the knife from "cutting" the relationship.
What does seeing a knife in a dream mean?
Seeing a knife in a dream could mean there are things you need to cut out of your life. However, it could also mean that you need to put an end to a relationship, or are facing some kind of struggle.