From Middle English knave, knafe, from Old English cnafa (child, boy, youth; servant), from Proto-West Germanic *knabō.



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
    • 1848 November – 1850 December, William Makepeace Thackeray, chapter 44, in The History of Pendennis. [], volume (please specify |volume=I or II), London: Bradbury and Evans, [], published 1849–1850, OCLC 2057953:
      He was a man whom scarcely any amount of fortune could have benefited permanently, and who was made to be ruined, to cheat small tradesmen, to be the victim of astuter sharpers: to be niggardly and reckless, and as destitute of honesty as the people who cheated him, and a dupe, chiefly because he was too mean to be a successful knave.
    • 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.
    • 1951, Geoffrey Chaucer; Nevill Coghill, transl., The Canterbury Tales: Translated into Modern English (Penguin Classics), Penguin Books, published 1977, page 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


  • English: knave
  • Scots: knave, knafe, knaif