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From Middle English knave, knafe, from Old English cnafa (child, boy, youth; servant), from Proto-Germanic *knabô (boy, youth), from Proto-Indo-European *gnebʰ- (to press, tighten), from Proto-Indo-European *gen- (to pinch, squeeze, bend, press together, ball). Cognate with German Knabe (lad), Dutch knaap (lad), Danish knabe, Icelandic knapi. Related also to knape.



knave (plural knaves)

  1. (archaic) A boy; especially, a boy servant.
  2. (archaic) Any male servant; a menial.
  3. A tricky, deceitful fellow; a dishonest person.
    Synonyms: rogue, villain
    • 1908, W[illiam] B[lair] M[orton] Ferguson, chapter II, in Zollenstein, New York, N.Y.: D. Appleton & Company, OCLC 731476803:
      I had never defrauded a man of a farthing, nor called him knave behind his back. But now the last rag that covered my nakedness had been torn from me. I was branded a blackleg, card-sharper, and murderer.
    • 1977, Geoffrey Chaucer (in Modern English translation), The Canterbury Tales, Penguin Classics, p. 204:
      God's bones! Whenever I go to beat those knaves / my tapsters, out she [my wife] comes with clubs and staves, / "Go on!" she screams — and it's a caterwaul — / "You kill those dogs! Break back and bones and all!"
  4. (card games) A playing card marked with the figure of a servant or soldier; a jack.


Derived termsEdit



Middle EnglishEdit

Alternative formsEdit


From Old English cnafa, from Proto-Germanic *knabô. Compare knape.



knave (plural knaves or knaven)

  1. son, male child (offspring)
  2. boy, lad, male child or baby
  3. guy, bloke, man
  4. servant, hireling, menial
  5. peasant, lowly individual
  6. infantryman, soldier
  7. knave, caitiff, despicable individual

Related termsEdit