Take this scenario:

a tool has a specific feature that could be regarded as an invaluable benefit for. However, this feature, if used in opposite direction may be counterproductive. In other words, the strength point may be the weakness point.

For example, feature X of a security mechanism could be leveraged to break that if used maliciously. So, what's the word/phrase to describe this feature? I think it should be something other than Achilles heel.


6 Answers 6


You could call this a double-edged sword. It can be used both for good and bad.

  • The whole point of a double-edged sword, is that it's simultaneously good and bad, not either at once.
    – Mazura
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 0:59

You can call such a thing a mixed blessing.

Definition from google:

mixed bless·ing


a situation or thing that has disadvantages as well as advantages.

"having children so early in their marriage was a mixed blessing"

  • The definition I got was found by googling "mixed blessing" and copy/pasting what showed up in the search results. Is there an english.se approved way of citing this type of source? Google doesn't seem to provide a hard link to its dictionary. Commented Jul 30, 2015 at 19:43

You could describe this as an ambiguous feature.


  • "could be both good and bad" sounds pretty ambiguous to me.
    – Mazura
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 1:05

I would go with "double-edged sword" as my #1 answer. It's possibly the only good answer. @Matt is on that already.

But if you're looking for other options consider:

sword of damocles, catch 22, cuts both ways

  • 1
    Sword of Damocles doesn't really fit.
    – j.i.h.
    Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 13:29
  • @j.i.h., agreed. At the time I felt it was a long shot option. But after thinking about it some more, it wasn't even that. Commented Jul 31, 2015 at 14:20

I believe there's a word for either a good or bad trait, changed opposite when taken too far (Something like chiatura or chiasuro). I realize an artist uses dark and light, but I mean personality traits. For example, I know a person with good ability to organize and get things done. However, that trait ended up negative, stifling others because she'd rip away jobs shed assigned to others, assuming they wouldn't follow through. Sometimes, those assignments were completed, but she'd never know and they'd never tell. Consequently, it didn't help anyone; it hurt their ability to organize and they "learned" to fear being in charge of anything without her prior approval.

  • As it’s currently written, your answer is unclear. Please edit to add additional details that will help others understand how this addresses the question asked. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Aug 20, 2022 at 16:50

insidious : that means something that is both helpful and harmful

  • Do you mean insidious? Please provide a source for the definition and your explanation of how this answers the question. I encourage you to see the help center and take the tour.
    – livresque
    Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 2:16
  • For example, Collins gives: "(of something unpleasant or dangerous) gradually and secretly causing harm." I cleaned up your typos but where did you get "helpful?"
    – livresque
    Commented Aug 11, 2023 at 2:31

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