Difference Between Shiv and Shank

Shiv vs Shank

Shiv and shank are words that are commonly considered as synonymous by most people. Despite similarities, there are differences that are worth learning, to use the right word in a particular context. This article takes a closer look at Shiv and shank to find out their meanings and usage so as to enable readers to use them correctly.


Shiv is a word that can be both a noun, as well as a verb. As a noun, it refers to a knife or, still better, a slang term for a knife. As a verb, it refers to the act of stabbing someone with a sharp object. The word has origins in the gypsy tribes of Romania and Moldova that used such objects. If you are derisive or taunting someone, you can say that he used a Shiv to cut the rope. Of course, you said it as he did not make use of a proper knife to cut the rope.


Shank is a term that is used for anything that looks or works like a knife. It is of course a slang term for this kind of a homemade knife. It may not even be metallic to be labeled a shank. You can call a shard of glass with a cloth tied at one end as a shank.

What is the difference between Shiv and Shank?

• Both Shiv and shank are slang terms for objects that look or work like knives.

• Shiv is often used to refer to sharp weapon like objects made by prisoners.

• The word Shiv comes from the gypsies of Romania who used them for a knife like object.

• Shiv is both a noun as well as a verb while shank is just a noun.

  • Russell

    __ Sorry Admin, but I disagree with your definitions of the words.

    A SHIV is a NOUN; meaning an object that is used like a knife, (a homemade knife).

    SHANK is a verb describing the action of using a SHIV. Example: When someone uses a shiv to stab someone else they are said to have SHANKed the other person. “I will SHANK you if you try to steal my SHIV.”

    You would never use a shank to shiv someone anymore than you would knife someone with a stab.

  • http://www.flahute.com/ Flahute

    Yep … this article is wrong. SHANK can be used as both a noun and a verb, but SHIV is only a noun.

  • Janine O’Flaherty

    You shiv someone with a shiv and you shank someone with a shank. Both mean the same thing. The use of shiv vs shank is regional and they are completely synonymous in actual usage, despite what definitions wannabe wordologists (lol) want to assign to them. No one would say “I shanked him with a shiv” or “I shivved her with a shank”. Pick one.

    Source: the embarrassingly large number of people I know who have spent time in prison.