noun, plural knives [nahyvz] /naɪvz/.
  1. an instrument for cutting, consisting essentially of a thin, sharp-edged, metal blade fitted with a handle.
  2. a knifelike weapon; dagger or short sword.
  3. any blade for cutting, as in a tool or machine.
verb (used with object), knifed, knif·ing.
  1. to apply a knife to; cut, stab, etc., with a knife.
  2. to attempt to defeat or undermine in a secret or underhanded way.
verb (used without object), knifed, knif·ing.
  1. to move or cleave through something with or as if with a knife: The ship knifed through the heavy seas.
  1. under the knife, in surgery; undergoing a medical operation: The patient was under the knife for four hours.

Origin of knife

before 1100; Middle English knif, Old English cnīf; cognate with Dutch knijf, German Kneif, Old Norse knīfr
Related formsknife·like, adjectiveknif·er, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for knifing

Contemporary Examples of knifing

  • He wanted someone who could communicate with the generals and keep them from knifing him in the back.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Obama's War With the Pentagon

    Peter Beinart

    October 10, 2010

Historical Examples of knifing

  • He held his breath, awaiting the knifing pain it seemed natural to expect.


    Horace Brown Fyfe

  • The man she had killed was in the act of knifing Raft in the back.

    The Beach of Dreams

    H. De Vere Stacpoole

  • If the knifing business were to occur before the finding, it would help some!

    In Her Own Right

    John Reed Scott

  • He arrived only just in time, the men were in the act of knifing him.

  • Men were clasping hands, buying and selling, knifing and shooting.

    The Road Builders

    Samuel Merwin

British Dictionary definitions for knifing


noun plural knives (naɪvz)
  1. a cutting instrument consisting of a sharp-edged often pointed blade of metal fitted into a handle or onto a machine
  2. a similar instrument used as a weapon
  3. have one's knife in someone to have a grudge against or victimize someone
  4. twist the knife to make a bad situation worse in a deliberately malicious way
  5. the knives are out for someone British people are determined to harm or put a stop to someonethe knives are out for Stevens
  6. under the knife undergoing a surgical operation
verb (tr)
  1. to cut, stab, or kill with a knife
  2. to betray, injure, or depose in an underhand way
Derived Formsknifelike, adjectiveknifer, noun

Word Origin for knife

Old English cnīf; related to Old Norse knīfr, Middle Low German knīf
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 knifing



late Old English cnif, probably from Old Norse knifr, from Proto-Germanic *knibaz (cf. Middle Low German knif, Middle Dutch cnijf, German kneif), of uncertain origin. To further confuse the etymology, there also are forms in -p-, e.g. Dutch knijp, German kneip. French canif "penknife" (mid-15c.) is borrowed from Middle English or Norse.



1865, from knife (n.). Related: Knifed; knifing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with knifing


see at gunpoint (knifepoint); under the knife; you could cut it with a knife.

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