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. coulelas, or coutelace, a form of coutel, modern couleau, a knife, from Lat. cullellus, diminutive of culler, a ploughshare, or cutting instrument. Two variations appear in English: " curtelace," where the r represents probably the / 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.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)