Graham Pearson, of Wybourn House Road, Sheffield, headbutted his petrified wife and then twice struck her on the head with the large blade while telling her: "I'll kill ya, I've got a life sentence in me."
The 64-year-old has been jailed for 15 years after leaving the victim bleeding heavily from two deep cuts to her head and further injuries to her hands which required stitches.
PC Rachel Waddington from South Yorkshire Police said: "This was an utterly horrific attack and left the victim believing she was going to die.
"This horrendous ordeal came about because the defendant was in a bad mood after someone had made a joke at his expense during a family visit earlier in the day. After returning home, Pearson's wife tried to engage with him and rather than talking about what happened he went straight to the kitchen drawer for the meat cleaver."
The victim was eventually able to escape outside and dial 999. On officers' attendance, Pearson was immediately detained. In interview, when asked why he attacked his wife, he said: "To shut her up."
On September 13 he was convicted by a jury of section 18 wounding with intent and threats to kill. Last Friday he was sentenced at Sheffield Crown Court to 15 years in prison, and has been told he will serve a minimum of 10 years behind bars.
Detective Inspector Stephanie Phoenix from the Domestic Abuse Unit added: "I am satisfied that this violent domestic abuser is now behind bars and would like to commend the victim for her courage and dignity following the dreadful and escalating abuse she suffered over many traumatising years.
"This case is also a sobering reminder of the abuse that some people may be suffering at the hands of their partners behind closed doors.
"To anyone in South Yorkshire who is living in fear of a partner or spouse, we can help you. Report it to us - we will take immediate action, keep you safe and ensure you get the support you need."