Open main menu

Wiktionary β




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, Zollenstein, New York, N.Y.: D. Appleton & Company, OCLC 29686887 , chapter II:
      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