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

intransitive verb

: to bend the knee
: to touch the knee to the floor or ground especially in worship
genuflected before the altar
: to be humbly obedient or respectful
bureaucrats who genuflect before the governor
genuflection noun

Did you know?

Genuflect is derived from the Late Latin genuflectere, formed from the noun genu ("knee") and the verb flectere ("to bend"). Flectere appears in a number of our more common verbs, such as reflect ("to bend or throw back," as light) 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 Many of the people whom director Rob Reiner has throwing bouquets during this documentary—Steven Spielberg, Larry David, Jon Stewart, Conan O’Brien and Sharon Stone among them—are all more famous than Mr. Brooks, but genuflect before his comedic genius. John Anderson, WSJ, 9 Nov. 2023 From embodying chaos theory in the House to genuflecting before the Great God Trump in the presidential race, Republicans can’t get a handle on how to play the game of politics. Walter Shapiro, The New Republic, 25 Sep. 2023 By then, Hoover was the most unassailable figure in American public life, a true untouchable, beyond criticism, genuflected to by Republican and Democratic politicians alike. Thomas Doherty, The Hollywood Reporter, 7 July 2023 Mead suggests that the interminable peace process, in which everyone genuflects to an ever-receding mirage of concord, has been a hard-nosed strategic choice, useful to virtually all parties to the conflict. Walter Russell Mead, Foreign Affairs, 28 Feb. 2023 The Brit media are notorious for genuflecting at the feet of any villain with a fast quote and a snare sample, but Blur bears out the grandiose claims made on its behalf. Jonathan Bernstein, SPIN, 7 June 2023 To pressure educators into genuflecting for even a single parent’s objection to a lesson. Roy S. Johnson |, al, 20 Feb. 2023 Paul, after genuflecting before his libertarian namesake, got some digs in, too. Timothy Noah, The New Republic, 29 Mar. 2023 But the time to just nod your head and genuflect to Belichick has passed. Christopher L. Gasper,, 29 Mar. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'genuflect.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1630, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of genuflect was in 1630


Dictionary Entries Near genuflect

Cite this Entry

“Genuflect.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


gen·​u·​flect ˈjen-yə-ˌflekt How to pronounce genuflect (audio)
: to kneel on one knee and then rise again as an act of deep respect

More from Merriam-Webster on genuflect

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