from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition
- n. A small knife with a short blade and firm handle, used in paring fruit and vegetables.
from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License
- n. A thin-bladed knife intended for coring and paring (peeling) fruit such as apples.
from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.
- n. a small sharp knife used in paring fruits or vegetables
pare +ing, knife (Wiktionary)
Because the blade angles forward, the edge is always shearing whatever it cuts, whereas a straight-bladed knife will strike head-on, like trying to push a paring knife through a tomato instead of slicing through.