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From Middle English knokel (finger joint), not attested in Old English, likely from Proto-Germanic *knukilaz (knuckle, knot, bump), as *knukô (bone, joint) +‎ *-ilaz (diminutive suffix). Cognate with Dutch knokkel (knuckle), Low German Knökel (knuckle), German Knöchel (ankle, knuckle), Old Norse knykill.

Knuckles (def. 1) of a human hand, circled in red
Roast knuckle (def. 3) from Schweizerhaus, Vienna



knuckle (plural knuckles)

  1. Any of the joints between the phalanges of the fingers.
  2. (by extension) A mechanical joint.
  3. A cut of meat.
  4. (sports, billiards, snooker, pool) The curved part of the cushion at the entrance to the pockets on a cue sports table.
  5. The kneejoint of a quadruped, especially of a calf; formerly used of the kneejoint of a human being.
    • Golding
      With weary knuckles on thy brim she kneeled sadly down.
  6. (obsolete) The joint of a plant.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Francis Bacon to this entry?)
  7. (shipbuilding) A convex portion of a vessel's figure where a sudden change of shape occurs, as in a canal boat, where a nearly vertical side joins a nearly flat bottom.
  8. A contrivance, usually of brass or iron, and furnished with points, worn to protect the hand, to add force to a blow, and to disfigure the person struck; a knuckle duster.
    brass knuckles

Derived termsEdit



knuckle (third-person singular simple present knuckles, present participle knuckling, simple past and past participle knuckled)

  1. To apply pressure, or rub or massage with one's knuckles.
    He knuckled the sleep from his eyes.