verb (used with object), kneed, knee·ing.

to strike or touch with the knee.
to secure (a structure, as a bent) with a knee.

verb (used without object), kneed, knee·ing.

Obsolete. to go down on the knees; kneel.


    bring someone to his/her knees, to force someone into submission or compliance.
    cut (someone) off at the knees, to squelch or humiliate (a person) suddenly and thoroughly: The speaker cut the heckler off at the knees.
    on one's/its knees,
    1. in a supplicatory position or manner: I came to him on my knees for the money.
    2. in a desperate or declining condition: The country's economy is on its knees.

Origin of knee

before 900; Middle English cneo, Old English cnēo(w); cognate with German, Dutch knie, Old Norse knē, Gothic kniu, Latin genu, Greek góny, Sanskrit jānu knee Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for cut someone off at the knees



the joint of the human leg connecting the tibia and fibula with the femur and protected in front by the patellaTechnical name: genu Related adjective: genicular
  1. the area surrounding and above this joint
  2. (modifier)reaching or covering the kneeknee breeches; knee socks
a corresponding or similar part in other vertebrates
the part of a garment that covers the knee
the upper surface of a seated person's thighthe child sat on her mother's knee
anything resembling a knee in action, such as a device pivoted to allow one member angular movement in relation to another
anything resembling a knee in shape, such as an angular bend in a pipe
any of the hollow rounded protuberances that project upwards from the roots of the swamp cypress: thought to aid respiration in waterlogged soil
bend the knee or bow the knee to kneel or submit
bring someone to his knees to force someone into submission
bring something to its knees to cause something to be in a weakened or impoverished state

verb knees, kneeing or kneed

(tr) to strike, nudge, or push with the knee

Word Origin for knee

Old English cnēow; compare Old High German kneo, Old Norse knē, Latin genu
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 cut someone off at the knees



Old English cneo, cneow "knee," from Proto-Germanic *knewam (cf. Old Norse kne, Old Saxon kneo, Old Frisian kni, Middle Dutch cnie, Dutch knie, Old High German kniu, German Knie, Gothic kniu), from PIE root *g(e)neu- (cf. Sanskrit janu, Avestan znum, Hittite genu "knee;" Greek gony "knee," gonia "corner, angle;" Latin genu "knee"). Knee-slapper "funny joke" is from 1955.



early 13c., "to bend the knee, kneel," from Old English cneowian, from cneow (see knee (n.)). The meaning "to strike with the knee" is first recorded 1892. Related: Kneed; kneeing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

cut someone off at the knees in Medicine




The joint between the thigh and the lower leg, formed by the articulation of the femur and the tibia and covered anteriorly by the patella.
The region of the leg that encloses and supports this joint.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with cut someone off at the knees


In addition to the idiom beginning with knee

, also see

  • bring to one's knees
  • on bended knee


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.