• synonyms


[nuhk-uh l]
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  1. a joint of a finger, especially one of the articulations of a metacarpal with a phalanx.
  2. the rounded prominence of such a joint when the finger is bent.
  3. a joint of meat, consisting of the parts about the carpal or tarsal joint of a quadruped.
  4. an angle or protrusion at the intersection of two members or surfaces, as in the timbers of a ship or in a roof.
  5. brass knuckles.
  6. a cylindrical projecting part on a hinge, through which an axis or pin passes; the joint of a hinge.
  7. (in a wire mesh) a bend in a wire crossing another wire.
  8. (on a chair arm) one of the ridges left at the front end by longitudinal flutes carved to accommodate the fingers.
  9. Nautical. a pronounced edge formed by a change in the form of the shell of a hull.
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verb (used with object), knuck·led, knuck·ling.
  1. to rub or press with the knuckles.
  2. Marbles. to shoot (a marble) from the thumb and forefinger.
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Verb Phrases
  1. knuckle down,
    1. to apply oneself vigorously and earnestly; become serious: Just knuckle down for an hour or so and finish the work.
    2. Also knuckle under.to submit; yield.
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Origin of knuckle

1325–75; Middle English knokel (akin to Dutch kneukel, German Knöchel), diminutive of a word represented by Dutch knok, German Knochen bone; see -le
Related formsknuck·ly, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for knuckle

defer, surrender, agree, acknowledge, quit, perish, wilt, buckle, yield, bow, cease, capitulate, relinquish, cede, renounce, waive, leave, concede, submit, abandon

Examples from the Web for knuckle

Contemporary Examples of knuckle

Historical Examples of knuckle

British Dictionary definitions for knuckle


  1. a joint of a finger, esp that connecting a finger to the hand
  2. a joint of veal, pork, etc, consisting of the part of the leg below the knee joint, often used in making stews or stock
  3. the cylindrical portion of a hinge through which the pin passes
  4. an angle joint between two members of a structure
  5. near the knuckle informal approaching indecency
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  1. (tr) to rub or press with the knuckles
  2. (intr) to keep the knuckles on the ground while shooting a marble
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Derived Formsknuckly, adjective

Word Origin for knuckle

C14: related to Middle High German knöchel, Middle Low German knoke bone, Dutch knok
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 knuckle


mid-14c., knokel "finger joint; any joint of the body, especially a knobby one; morbid lump or swelling;" common Germanic (cf. Middle Low German knökel, Middle Dutch cnockel, German knöchel), literally "little bone," a diminutive of Proto-Germanic root *knuck- "bone" (cf. German Knochen "bone).

As a verb from 1740, originally in the game of marbles. To knuckle down "apply oneself earnestly" is 1864 in American English, extended from marbles (putting a knuckle on the ground in assuming the hand position preliminary to shooting); to knuckle under "submit, give in" is first recorded 1740, supposedly from the former more general sense of "knuckle" and here meaning "knee," hence "to kneel." The face-busting knuckle-duster is from 1858 (a duster was a type of protective coat worn by workmen).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

knuckle in Medicine


  1. The prominence of the dorsal aspect of a joint of a finger, especially of one of the joints that connect the fingers to the hand.
  2. A rounded protuberance formed by the bones in a joint.
  3. A kink or loop of intestine, as in a hernia.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Idioms and Phrases with knuckle


In addition to the idioms beginning with knuckle

  • knuckle down
  • knuckle under

also see:

  • rap someone's knuckles
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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.