1. Anatomy. the joint of the leg that allows for movement between the femur and tibia and is protected by the patella; the central area of the leg between the thigh and the lower leg.
  2. Zoology. the corresponding joint or region in the hind leg of a quadruped; stifle.
  3. a joint or region likened to this but not anatomically homologous with it, as the tarsal joint of a bird, the carpal joint in the forelimb of the horse or cow, etc.
  4. the part of a garment covering the knee.
  5. something resembling a bent knee, especially a rigid or braced angle between two framing members.
  6. Also called hip, shoulder. Furniture. the inward curve toward the top of a cabriole leg.
  7. Building Trades.
    1. the junction of the top and either of the uprights of a bent.
    2. a curved member for reinforcing the junction of two pieces meeting at an angle.
  8. Also called kneeler. a stone cut to follow a sharp return angle.
verb (used with object), kneed, knee·ing.
  1. to strike or touch with the knee.
  2. to secure (a structure, as a bent) with a knee.
verb (used without object), kneed, knee·ing.
  1. Obsolete. to go down on the knees; kneel.
  1. bring someone to his/her knees, to force someone into submission or compliance.
  2. cut (someone) off at the knees, to squelch or humiliate (a person) suddenly and thoroughly: The speaker cut the heckler off at the knees.
  3. 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. 2018

Related Words for knees

patella, popliteal

Examples from the Web for knees

Contemporary Examples of knees

Historical Examples of knees

  • He sat with his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands, staring at the grass.


    William J. Locke

  • Andrew had dropped to his knees and turned the body upon its back.

  • His knees pressed the long holster of an old-fashioned rifle.

  • Still on my knees, I had thrown my face across the chair she had sat in.

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • Hester threw herself on her knees, and buried her face in her mother's lap.

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

British Dictionary definitions for knees


  1. 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
  2. a corresponding or similar part in other vertebrates
  3. the part of a garment that covers the knee
  4. the upper surface of a seated person's thighthe child sat on her mother's knee
  5. anything resembling a knee in action, such as a device pivoted to allow one member angular movement in relation to another
  6. anything resembling a knee in shape, such as an angular bend in a pipe
  7. any of the hollow rounded protuberances that project upwards from the roots of the swamp cypress: thought to aid respiration in waterlogged soil
  8. bend the knee or bow the knee to kneel or submit
  9. bring someone to his knees to force someone into submission
  10. bring something to its knees to cause something to be in a weakened or impoverished state
verb knees, kneeing or kneed
  1. (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 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

knees in Medicine


  1. 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.
  2. 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 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.