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Historically, katana were one of the traditionally made Japanese swords that were used by the samurai of ancient and feudal Japan. The katana is characterized by its distinctive appearance: a curved, single-edged blade with a circular or squared guard and long grip to accommodate two hands.

"Katana" is the term now used to describe the family of swords known as nihont that are 2 shaku (606 mm / 23.9 in) in-length or longer.

Katana can also be known as dai or dait? among Western sword enthusiasts although dait? is a generic name for any Japanese long sword.

As Japanese does not have separate plural and singular forms, both katanas and katana are considered acceptable forms in English.

Pronounced [katana], the kun'yomi (Japanese reading) of the kanji, originally meaning dao or knife/saber in Chinese, the word has been adopted as a loanword by the Portuguese language. In Portuguese the designation (spelled catana) means "large knife" or machete.

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