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.


4 Answers 4


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
    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. 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
    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.
    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. Jul 31, 2015 at 14:20

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