What is a Weed Eater? And What’s a Weed Wacker?

what is a weed whacker

Depending on where you live, you’ve likely heard the following terms:

Weed Eater. Weed Whacker. Weed Whip. String Trimmer. Whipper Snipper. Weed Whipper.

You know the power tools these words describe are used to trim weeds, but are they all talking about the same thing? Read on and we’ll dive into the topic!

What’s The Difference Among A Weed Eater, Weed Wacker and a String Trimmer

To start, what are the differences among a weed eater, weed trimmer, string trimmer, weed whacker, line trimmer and a weed whacker? The terms are typically interchangeable. All of these phrases including “weed eater” or “weed wacker” can refer to the power tool used for trimming weeds, grass and small plants. It’s a generic term at this point.

In this article, we will use the terms interchangeably – or sometimes just call them “line trimmers” or simply trimmers. Don’t get confused when looking at battery powered weed eater reviews – they cover cordless string trimmers as well.

A string trimmer is a name for what’s commonly called a weed wacker or a weed eater. They’re all devices that use a cutting system to trim higher-growing weeds, while leaving the grass in between untouched. In a pinch, they can be used for trimming grass as well.

Trimmers have been around for over fifty years and have changed very little over time. A string trimmer is an essential tool for anyone who has landscaping in their yard, whether it be trees, shrubs, flowers, or just fences and rocks and gravel.

The basic parts of any weed eater are what make it what it is: there’s always some kind of motor with “string” or blades on either side. The string pushes out and rotates, cutting what it touches. The “string” that gives the weed eater its name is what’s unique about this tool: there’s a line that comes out of the power head and spins rapidly so it can slice through overgrown grass and weeds quickly and easily.

The string head is where the nylon cutting string is kept. You can get spools of string in different materials and different diameters – it depends on the string trimmer and the type of weed you’ll be tackling.

There are variations between different types of a weed eater…eh, I mean trimmers – though the name has nothing to do with it.

Gas Powered Weed Whacker – Trimmer

Gasoline powered weed eaters are usually curved shafted devices with an open reel of monofilament line. They are powered by a gasoline engine, so there is no extension cord or battery charging necessary. You will need a spark plug, oil and gas to power this type of weed eater.

These string trimmers are usually heavier and more powerful than corded electric weed eaters. The gap in performance between a gasoline powered weed eater and a battery electric one has closed significantly in the past few years however.

cranking a gas weed eater

Electric Powered Weed Eater

Some weed whacker models are gas free. They are powered by electricity. This usually makes them quieter, and lighter. An electric weed eater can be powered by either a battery or an AC outlet through an extension cord.

Battery Powered String Trimmers

A battery powered weed eater is powered by a rechargeable battery pack – what you’ll often hear referred to as a cordless electric weed eater. These string trimmers are usually lighter and quieter than gas models, but don’t offer quite the same power. They also have a limited runtime before needing to be recharged or replaced with another battery.

As a counterpoint, most homeowners don’t need much power from their string trimmer. Yes, you get weeds but you don’t live next to the jungle. You just need to kill small weeds like dandilions or clover – not hack your way through the forest.

trimming grass with a string trimmer

Electric-Corded Weed Eaters

An electric corded string trimmer is another option for homeowners to purchase for regular use around their house. This weed whacker can be plugged into an AC outlet, and needs no battery to run.

The main problem with a corded weed whacker is you can only reach as far as your cord is long. The longer the cord, the heavier and more bulky it is to use your string trimmer around the lawn and garden.

Styles of Weed Eaters/Weed Whackers

There are two major styles of string trimmers: curved shaft and straight shaft.

Curved Shaft Weed Whackers

This weed eater has a curved, single-piece shaft that ends in the head with the motor and string spool. This weed whacker is typically easier to handle than its straight-shaft counterparts, but also tapers at the bottom to make it easier for you to lean over.

Straight Shaft Weed Wackers

Conversely, a straight shaft weed whacker has what would be considered a straight shaft with the head on top of it. It is able to transfer more power to the head – so it can handle more difficult terrain. Many gasoline powered trimmers are straight shaft in design.

Is There A Difference Between A Weed Eater and A Brush Cutter?

Yes, there is a difference between a weed eater and a brush cutter. Generally, a brush cutter is meant for heavier work, while a weed eater is what you should use for everyday trimming. Weed eaters are designed to cut grass and other smaller plants, while brush cutters handle harder tasks like clearing saplings, reeds and brush.

You’ll often find blades on brush cutters – they are better suited for thick weeds and other plants a weed eater can’t cope with.

Can a string trimmer cut you?

Yes! String trimmers are powerful machines, and if used incorrectly they can cut you. Weed trimmer manufacturers have built in safety features such as a kill switch to help protect you from injury, but you also need to use common sense.

Wear sturdy shoes or boots while working – don’t use this lawn care equipment while barefoot! Also be aware that weed eaters can fling rocks and other flying debris – so make sure no one is in your path while out working with a string trimmer in the yard.


Weed eaters, weed whackers, and string trimmers are all similar tools used for cutting grass and weeds. They each have their own unique benefits and drawbacks, depending on what the homeowner is looking for. Battery powered weed eaters are quieter and lighter than gas models, while electric-corded weed eaters are powerful but can only reach so far with the cord.

Curved shaft weed whackers are easier to handle than straight shafts, but less powerful. There is a difference between a brush cutter and a weed eater – brush cutters are meant for heavier work while weed eaters should be used for everyday trimming.

Hopefully this article has been helpful.

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