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[neyv] /neɪv/
an unprincipled, untrustworthy, or dishonest person.
Cards. jack1 (def 2).
  1. a male servant.
  2. a man of humble position.
Origin of knave
before 1000; Middle English; Old English cnafa; cognate with German Knabe boy; akin to Old Norse knapi page, boy
Can be confused
knave, naval, nave (see synonym study at the current entry)
1. blackguard, villain, scamp, scapegrace. Knave, rascal, rogue, scoundrel are disparaging terms applied to persons considered base, dishonest, or worthless. Knave, which formerly meant merely a boy or servant, in modern use emphasizes baseness of nature and intention: a dishonest and swindling knave. Rascal suggests shrewdness and trickery in dishonesty: a plausible rascal. A rogue is a worthless fellow who sometimes preys extensively upon the community by fraud: photographs of criminals in a rogues' gallery. A scoundrel is a blackguard and rogue of the worst sort: a thorough scoundrel. Rascal and rogue are often used affectionately or humorously (an entertaining rascal; a saucy rogue ), but knave and scoundrel are not.
hero. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for knave
Historical Examples
  • He threw the helmet with a clatter on to the table as if it had been the knave's canting head.

    Viviette William J. Locke
  • He has gone; and, knave as he is, I can hardly help exclaiming, "Luck go with him!"

    Yankee Gypsies John Greenleaf Whittier
  • Here is a knave of a friar calleth me a mad priest, and yet I smite him not.

  • Is it true that you are persecuted by this knave's addresses?'

  • But I always have a little distrust for the foolishness of a person who has once been a knave.

    Roden's Corner Henry Seton Merriman
  • The persecution of which they complained was the persecution of the honest man by the knave.


    James Anthony Froude
  • Come, knave, find me a way, or I'll have you broken on the wheel.

    The Shame of Motley Raphael Sabatini
  • "Take this knave and lock him in his chamber," he bade a couple of his bravi.

    The Shame of Motley Raphael Sabatini
  • "It is my wish that counts, you knave," I thundered and advanced upon him.

    The Strolling Saint Raphael Sabatini
  • It was not necessary, you knave, to bring me hither to tell me so much.

    The Sea-Hawk Raphael Sabatini
British Dictionary definitions for knave


(archaic) a dishonest man; rogue
another word for jack1 (sense 6)
(obsolete) a male servant
Derived Forms
knavish, adjective
knavishly, adverb
knavishness, noun
Word Origin
Old English cnafa; related to Old High German knabo boy
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for knave

Old English cnafa "boy, male servant," common Germanic (cf. Old High German knabo "boy, youth, servant," German knabe "boy, lad," also probably related to Old English cnapa "boy, youth, servant," Old Norse knapi "servant boy," Dutch knaap "a youth, servant," Middle High German knappe "a young squire," German Knappe "squire, shield-bearer"). The original meaning might have been "stick, piece of wood" [Klein]. Sense of "rogue, rascal" first recorded c.1200. In playing cards, "the jack," 1560s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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