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knucklehead

[nuhk-uh l-hed]
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noun Informal.
  1. a stupid, bumbling, inept person.
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Origin of knucklehead

First recorded in 1940–45; knuckle + head
Related formsknuck·le·head·ed, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for knucklehead

knucklehead

noun
  1. informal fool; idiot
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Derived Formsknuckleheaded, adjective
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

Word Origin and History for knucklehead

n.

"stupid person," 1890, American English, from knuckle (n.) + head (n.).

"That infernal knuckle-head at the camp ought to have reported before now," he thought to himself, as he smoked. [Charles H. Shinn, "The Quicksands of Toro," in "Belford's Magazine," vol. V, June-November 1890, New York]

From 1869 as the name of a part in a type of mechanical coupling device. Popularized in the "stupid person" sense from 1942, from character R.F. Knucklehead, star of "Don't" posters hung up at U.S. Army Air Force training fields.

Everything Knucklehead does is wrong and ends in disaster. He endures one spectacular crash after another so that the students at the Gulf Coast Air Force Training Center may profit by his mistakes, and it looks now as if there will be no let-up in his agony. ["Life," May 25, 1942]
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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper