Dinner Knife Vs Butter Knife – What’s The Difference?

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To be perfectly honest, there are way too many different types of cutlery out there! Often when looking at fancy table settings, all the different types of knives and forks make us feel like Ariel from The Little Mermaid!

Knives are especially complicated. You would think that they all work in the same way, right? Unfortunately, they don’t. And no, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all option out there. 

So, what is the difference between a dinner knife and a butter knife? Their design is what differs most and what makes them able to only perform specific functions. Dinner knives are large and semi-serrated with tiny teeth. They can slice through soft food, pick up items, and spread some items. 

Butter knives have a blunt edge and are much smaller. They can also spread soft items like jams, jellies, dips, and pastes, for example. However, these two knives are not interchangeable!

Today, we will explore the many similarities and differences between these seemingly similar knives. Now, you never have to grab the wrong utensil ever again!

What Is A Dinner Knife?

A dinner knife is a very specific type of knife, despite looking extremely average and common. This knife looks very similar to a butter knife, which is why so many people confuse the two.

The entire knife measures roughly between 9 and 10-inches in length. The width is between three-quarters of an inch to an inch.

What makes a dinner knife stand out from others is that its blade is partially serrated. Now, before you get too excited, this is the type of knife that doesn’t want to cut through your meat.

While the partially serrated edge is meant to serve a multi-functional purpose, because it isn’t sharp or has very deep teeth, it is still quite limited.

Nevertheless, it still has a relatively wide range of functions, as compared to a steak knife, for example.

Only about half of the blades’ length is serrated. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you can find options that have roughly three-quarters of the blade serrated. This allows you to make bigger sawing motions when cutting through food.

When it comes to materials this knife is made of, the list is pretty broad. It is always some type of metal, but some can have a wooden handle. The most durable option will always be stainless steel.

Specific Characteristics

Now, while you have a general idea of what a dinner knife looks like, there are a variety of options out there. 

First, as we have mentioned, dinner knives have a serrated edge. The teeth on the blade are often very tiny and not too sharp. It is not a knife that requires sharpening at any time in its life.

These teeth aren’t large enough to cut through meat or loaves of bread (like a steak or butter knife can).

However, they are still effective enough to slice through cooked vegetables, slices of bread, and soft meats, like sausages.

You also get varying lengths of these knives. A place-sized knife (American) measures around 9 1/4-inches. A continental-sized knife (European) measures at 9 3/4-inches

And, the length of the serrated edge also varies, making them either more or less versatile.

Some dinner knives have sharp pointed tips, while others have rounded tips. This also affects how the knife can be used. Sharp pointed tips make slicing easier, whereas rounded tips make it easier to spread sauces and dips.

And finally, naturally, the design of the entire knife can vary a ton. You get sleek features, modern designs, old-fashioned country elements, and everyday looks. The materials also vary greatly, but the blade itself is always made from metal.


Dinner knives have been designed in such a way to be more versatile than a plain knife.

Its serrated edge allows it to slice through soft foods like vegetables, fruit, slices of bread, meats, eggs, and casseroles or bakes. The list of examples is endless, but you get the idea.

However, because the entire blade isn’t serrated and relatively thick, it can also perform other functions.

A dinner knife can function as a butter knife. Its large blade makes it easy to smear spreads and jams over items. And, it can also help get food onto your fork.

Overall, it is the perfect multi-functional knife to have in your kitchen. Once you start looking ta options, you will see that all sets include dinner knives. So you know they will be extremely functional.

What Is A Butter Knife?

Moving on to the butter knife, its functions are fairly limited in comparison. A butter knife has one function, and that is to spread items over bread or crackers.

It can also be used to spread dips and pastes over items. But the function remains the same, regardless of what is being smeared.

Naturally, this means the design is also different from a dinner knife. This knife is much smaller than a dinner knife, but the exact size varies greatly! You can get a butter knife measuring anywhere between 5 and 8-inches.

Furthermore, their blades are often smooth and they don’t have any teeth. This is because you want to evenly spread the butter onto your bread.

When using a serrated knife to do this, it often leads to uneven spreading that simply isn’t as nice.

The tips can be pointed or rounded too. Usually, the pointed tips will help more easily slice through the butter. But in our opinion, the rounded edge also does the trick, especially if the blade is relatively thin.

Butter knives are shared amongst the table and you usually only need one, maybe two. So, there are a wide variety of designs available. Possibly even more than dinner knives! They can also be made from ceramic, wood, marble, or glass. 

The design of a butter knife does differ a lot. At the end of the day, the option that you choose depends on your personal preference.

Specific Characteristics

Butter knives have a very wide size range, anywhere from 5 to 8-inches in length. Their blades are often thicker to slice through the butter and perfectly spread it onto the bread. 

The edge of the blade is not serrated and is also not sharp. Butter knives should be blunt and don’t ever need to be sharpened.

You do get much thinner knives and these do tend to slice through items more easily. But, they shouldn’t bend when used.

Butter knives also have sharp pointed tips, but rounded tips are also available. Both work equally well.

And finally, these knives can be made from virtually any material using any design. As long as it is functional and durable, it will be just fine.


These knives have a very limited amount of uses. It is mainly used to spread soft items onto harder items.

This can simply be butter being spread onto bread or crackers, or dips onto slices of chips or crudites. You can also use it to smear soft cheeses onto other food items.

But, this knife doesn’t work well as a regular eating knife. And, it can also not slice through anything that isn’t pliable in consistency.

Dinner Knife Vs Butter Knife – What’s The Difference?

So, as you have probably already deduced, there are a lot of differences between a dinner knife and a butter knife. But, let’s compare them side by side to get a better comparison of exactly what the differences are.

First of all, dinner knives are much larger than butter knives. This helps them perform more functions. A shorter butter knife allows you to better control how you spread the soft item.

A dinner knife also has partially serrated teeth, which makes it versatile in use. While it won’t effectively cut through meat, it will cut through soft-cooked and raw items.

A butter knife doesn’t have a serrated edge and is completely blunt. This makes it perfect for evenly spreading soft items.

Both a butter knife and dinner knife can have rounded or pointed tips on the blade. However, a good working butter knife usually has a rounded tip. While a properly functioning dinner knife has a pointed tip.

The materials these knives can be made from are virtually the same. However, butter knives can be made from a much wider range of options, like wood or ceramic.

Naturally, the entire design difference between the knives affects how they function.

A dinner knife has a much wider range of functions and can essentially spread items, assist in picking them up, and slice through them. Butter knives can only spread foods ad cut through soft ones.

Type Of KnifeDinner KnifeButter Knife
Length9 1/4 to 9 3/4-inches5 to 8-inches
Blade EdgeSemi-serrated with tiny teeth.Very rarely serrated. Usually thin and blunt.
Blade TipThe best option is pointed but can be rounded.Rounded tips are the best for spreading, but can be found pointed.
MaterialsAlways made from metals and can have different handles.The entire knife can be made from virtually any food-safe material, including wood, ceramic, porcelain, and marble.
Amount NeededEvery guest receives a dinner knife.Usually, only one or two butter knives are on the table.
UsesCan be used for slicing, spreading, and picking up food.Only used for spreading soft items.

Can You Use A Dinner Knife Interchangeabaly With A Butter Knife?

Unfortunately, these two aren’t interchangeable. While they do look very similar, you will have a very hard time using the one as the other.

At most, we would say that you will have a better chance of making a dinner knife work as a butter knife than vice versa.

Luckily, butter knives aren’t too expensive. And, if you invest in a quality one made from durable materials, you won’t need to ever replace it.

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