gen·​u·​flect | \ ˈjen-yə-ˌflekt How to pronounce genuflect (audio) \
genuflected; genuflecting; genuflects

Definition of genuflect

intransitive verb

1a : to bend the knee
b : to touch the knee to the floor or ground especially in worship genuflected before the altar
2 : to be humbly obedient or respectful bureaucrats who genuflect before the governor

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Other Words from genuflect

genuflection \ ˌjen-​yə-​ˈflek-​shən How to pronounce genuflect (audio) \ noun

Did You Know?

Genuflect is derived from Late Latin genuflectere, formed from the noun "genu" ("knee") and the verb "flectere" ("to bend"). "Flectere" is an ancestor of a number of common verbs in English, such as "reflect" ("to throw back light or sound") and "deflect" ("to turn aside"). By comparison "genu" sees little use in English, but it did give us "geniculate," a word often used in scientific contexts to mean "bent abruptly at an angle like a bent knee." Despite the resemblance, words such as "genius" and "genuine" are not related to "genuflect"; instead, they are of a family that includes the Latin verb gignere, meaning "to beget."

Examples of genuflect in a Sentence

They genuflected before the altar in the church.
Recent Examples on the Web Texas is changing, in ways that Cornyn is wise to genuflect toward, and this election has the look of a blue wave. Benjamin Wallace-wells, The New Yorker, "How Republican Senators Account for the Trump Presidency," 21 Oct. 2020 They're used to everybody genuflecting in their presence. Patrick Bedard, Car and Driver, "Tested: 1991 GMC Syclone vs. Ferrari 348ts," 29 May 2020 Patrick Curran hopes customers genuflect over the food, too. Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, "Diners can (mostly) bank on the all-day menu at Cafe Riggs," 21 Feb. 2020 This wasn't a mere victory lap — although John relished the opportunity to stand up from his piano and genuflect gleefully after practically every song. Piet Levy, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Elton John outshines his legend at sensational final Milwaukee concert at Fiserv Forum," 20 Oct. 2019 How many more times will this nation go through this before mostly Republican members of Congress and President Donald Trump stop genuflecting to the National Rifle Association? Daniel Borenstein, The Mercury News, "Editorial: Trump’s post-Gilroy condolences lack any credibility," 30 July 2019 These days, anyone who still genuflects at the altar of cinema amid our putative streaming-service renaissance runs the risk of being labeled hopelessly retrograde. Los Angeles Times, "Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,’ the haunting work of a filmmaker running out of time," 26 July 2019 So far every major Democrat who has declared for the presidency—Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Tulsi Gabbard—has felt obliged at least to genuflect in the direction of Cardinal Bernie. ... Daniel Henninger, WSJ, "The Democrats’ Socialist Gene," 20 Feb. 2019 Tillery fancies himself a kingmaker and promises a get-out-the-vote effort to genuflecting politicos. Jason Williams,, "PX column: Why we should be concerned about former Cincinnati Mayor Dwight Tillery's text messages to City Council," 12 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'genuflect.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of genuflect

1630, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for genuflect

Late Latin genuflectere, from Latin genu knee + flectere to bend — more at knee entry 1

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Time Traveler for genuflect

Time Traveler

The first known use of genuflect was in 1630

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Cite this Entry

“Genuflect.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for genuflect


How to pronounce genuflect (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of genuflect

: to kneel on one knee and then rise again as an act of respect
disapproving : to obey someone with power in a way that is seen as weak


gen·​u·​flect | \ ˈjen-yə-ˌflekt How to pronounce genuflect (audio) \
genuflected; genuflecting

Kids Definition of genuflect

: to kneel on one knee and rise again as an act of deep respect (as in a church)

More from Merriam-Webster on genuflect

Nglish: Translation of genuflect for Spanish Speakers

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