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 confusedknave naval nave (see synonym study at the current entry)

Synonyms for knave

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.

Antonyms for knave Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for knave

Historical Examples of knave

  • He threw the helmet with a clatter on to the table as if it had been the knave's canting head.


    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

British Dictionary definitions for knave



archaic a dishonest man; rogue
another word for jack 1 (def. 6)
obsolete a male servant
Derived Formsknavish, adjectiveknavishly, adverbknavishness, noun

Word Origin for knave

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

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