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From Middle English knowen, from Old English cnāwan (to know, perceive, recognise), from Proto-West Germanic *knāan, from Proto-Germanic *knēaną (to know), from Proto-Indo-European *ǵneh₃- (to know).



know (third-person singular simple present knows, present participle knowing, simple past knew, past participle known or (colloquial and nonstandard) knew)

  1. (transitive) To perceive the truth or factuality of; to be certain of or that.
    • 1991, Stephen Fry, The Liar, p. 35:
      ‘I know whether a boy is telling me the truth or not.’
      ‘Thank you, sir.’
      Did he hell. They never bloody did.
    I know that I’m right and you’re wrong.
    He knew something terrible was going to happen.
  2. (transitive) To be aware of; to be cognizant of.
    Did you know Michelle and Jack were getting divorced? ― Yes, I knew.
    She knows where I live.
    I knew he was upset, but I didn't understand why.
    • 1913, Joseph C. Lincoln, chapter 1, in Mr. Pratt's Patients:
      I stumbled along through the young pines and huckleberry bushes. Pretty soon I struck into a sort of path that, I cal'lated, might lead to the road I was hunting for. It twisted and turned, and, the first thing I knew, made a sudden bend around a bunch of bayberry scrub and opened out into a big clear space like a lawn.
  3. (transitive) To be acquainted or familiar with; to have encountered.
    I know your mother, but I’ve never met your father.
  4. (transitive) To experience.
    Their relationship knew ups and downs.
    • 1991, Irvin Haas, Historic Homes of the American Presidents, p.155:
      The Truman family knew good times and bad, [].
  5. (transitive) To be able to distinguish, to discern, particularly by contrast or comparison; to recognize the nature of.
    to know a person's face or figure
    to know right from wrong
    I wouldn't know one from the other.
  6. (transitive) To recognize as the same (as someone or something previously encountered) after an absence or change.
  7. To understand or have a grasp of through experience or study.
    Let me do it. I know how it works.
    She knows how to swim.
    His mother tongue is Italian, but he also knows French and English.
    She knows chemistry better than anybody else.
    Know your enemy and know yourself.
    • 2013 August 3, “The machine of a new soul”, in The Economist, volume 408, number 8847:
      The yawning gap in neuroscientists’ understanding of their topic is in the intermediate scale of the brain’s anatomy. Science has a passable knowledge of how individual nerve cells, known as neurons, work. It also knows which visible lobes and ganglia of the brain do what. But how the neurons are organised in these lobes and ganglia remains obscure.
  8. (transitive, archaic, biblical) To have sexual relations with. This meaning normally specified in modern English as e.g. to ’know someone in the biblical sense’ or to ‘know Biblically.’
  9. (intransitive) To have knowledge; to have information, be informed.
    It is vital that he not know.
    She knew of our plan.
    He knows about 19th century politics.
    • 1908, W[illiam] B[lair] M[orton] Ferguson, chapter IV, in Zollenstein, New York, N.Y.: D. Appleton & Company, OCLC 731476803:
      “My Continental prominence is improving,” I commented dryly. ¶ Von Lindowe cut at a furze bush with his silver-mounted rattan. ¶ “Quite so,” he said as dryly, his hand at his mustache. “I may say if your intentions were known your life would not be worth a curse.”
    • 2014 April 21, “Subtle effects”, in The Economist, volume 411, number 8884:
      Manganism has been known about since the 19th century, when miners exposed to ores containing manganese, a silvery metal, began to totter, slur their speech and behave like someone inebriated.
    • 2016, VOA Learning English (public domain)
      Marsha knows.
  10. (intransitive) To be or become aware or cognizant.
    Did you know Michelle and Jack were getting divorced? ― Yes, I knew.
    • 1749, Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling
      “A gentleman!” quoth the squire, “who the devil can he be? Do, doctor, go down and see who ‘tis. Mr Blifil can hardly be come to town yet.—Go down, do, and know what his business is.”
  11. (intransitive, obsolete) To be acquainted (with another person).
  12. (transitive) To be able to play or perform (a song or other piece of music).
    Do you know "Blueberry Hill"?

Usage notesEdit

  • “Knowen” is found in some old texts as the past participle.
  • In some old texts, the form “know to [verb]” rather than “know how to [verb]” is found, e.g. Milton wrote: “he knew himself to sing, and build the lofty rhymes”.



  • 1599, William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, scene 1:
    O, that a man might know / The end of this day's business ere it come! / But it sufficeth that the day will end, / And then the end is known.
  • 1839, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Light of Stars, Voices of the Night:
    O fear not in a world like this, / And thou shalt know erelong, / Know how sublime a thing it is, / To suffer and be strong.
  • 2013 September-October, Henry Petroski, “The Evolution of Eyeglasses”, in American Scientist:
    The ability of a segment of a glass sphere to magnify whatever is placed before it was known around the year 1000, when the spherical segment was called a reading stone, essentially what today we might term a frameless magnifying glass or plain glass paperweight.



Derived termsEdit

Terms derived from know (verb)

Related termsEdit


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


know (plural knows)

  1. (rare) Knowledge; the state of knowing.
    • 1623, William Shakespeare, Hamlet (1623 first folio edition), act 5, scene 2:
      That on the view and know of these Contents, [] He should the bearers put to [] death,

Derived termsEdit





From Proto-Brythonic *know, from Proto-Celtic *knūs.



know pl (singulative knowen or knofen)

  1. nuts


Derived termsEdit

Middle EnglishEdit



  1. Alternative form of kne