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knee·​cap ˈnē-ˌkap How to pronounce kneecap (audio)
plural kneecaps
: a thick flat triangular movable bone that forms the anterior point of the knee and protects the front of the joint : patella
… [Richard] Steadman did arthroscopic surgery on both knees, taking out cartilage, and adjusting synovial plica, the bands of thickened tissue that line the joint behind the kneecapsWilliam Oscar Johnson
Many people who play basketball, volleyball, or soccer are all too familiar with patellar tendinitis, an inflammation of the large tendon connecting the kneecap to the upper tibia.Andrew Weil
The stifle joint of a horse corresponds to the human knee. It has a patella, or kneecap, at the front of the joint.Robert M. Miller


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kneecapped; kneecapping; kneecaps

transitive verb

: to shoot or otherwise maim or disable the knee of (someone)
He was shot in both knees, deliberately maimed—"kneecapped," in local parlance.Francis X. Clines
… punishing petty crooks and unruly juveniles by kneecapping them, sometimes with bullets, sometimes with a … power drill. The degree of crippling one receives is supposed to be a reflection of the gravity of one's crime.Bill Barich
often used figuratively
… hearing from people who grasp their brows in dire concern over whether the President is now too damaged to carry on—this from people who have been doing their … best to kneecap the man for years.Molly Ivins
This 66-yard scoring drive Smith engineered late in the first half … basically kneecapped the home team.Austin Murphy
The decision to liquidate $25 million worth of the band's Live Nation stock last year nearly kneecapped the company …Steve Kandell

Examples of kneecap in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
For knee cap pain, Dr. Hummer recommends something with a hole over the knee to promote tracking in the kneecap. Jack Byram, Verywell Health, 15 Sep. 2023 As a result, people who dislocate their kneecaps have a high risk of repeating the injury.19 Fractured Kneecaps Although uncommon, car accidents or falls may result in a fractured kneecap. Yuliya Klochan, Health, 12 Aug. 2023 Lane dislocated his kneecap during practice last week and sat out the Blue Devils’ 42-7 victory at Alexandria on Friday. Ben Thomas |, al, 14 Sep. 2023 The major league strike zone is a three-dimensional prism above the plate that runs from the midpoint between the shoulders and top of the pants to the bottom of the kneecaps. Alex Speier,, 31 Aug. 2023 Williams underwent medial patellofemoral ligament reconstruction, an operation needed to attach the inside part of the kneecap to the femur. Mark Inabinett |, al, 19 Aug. 2023 Old-school draft: The Lions were true to the persona of their coach Dan Campbell, who famously said his team will bite the kneecaps and kick the teeth of opponents. Tom Krasovic, San Diego Union-Tribune, 28 Apr. 2023 Even while sidelined after getting hurt on his first practice as a freshman and dislocating his kneecap in a basketball accident, Payne never missed a practice or workout. Nick Alvarez |, al, 22 July 2023 Medics responded quickly and the woman was transferred to the nearest hospital, though the severity of her injuries led to the amputation of her leg up to the kneecap, Karant said. Kocha Olarn, CNN, 29 June 2023
Yet Huawei’s recent phone may show that China can produce more advanced chips despite U.S. rules designed to kneecap the country’s semiconductor industry. Alan Murray, Fortune, 5 Sep. 2023 But the move to the web is the next step in Meta creating an application just sticky enough to kneecap X and draw attention away from Bluesky, Mastodon, Spoutible, Post, and any other newish social app. Lauren Goode, WIRED, 24 Aug. 2023 In a statement Monday night, Trump’s campaign dismissed the new indictments as a partisan attempt to kneecap his 2024 campaign. Brian Bennett, Time, 15 Aug. 2023 The Russian ruble weakened beyond 100 per U.S. dollar on Monday, extending a slide that threatens to stoke inflation in an economy that has been kneecapped by Western sanctions. WSJ, 14 Aug. 2023 Severing Britain from the European Union also separated its businesses and consumers from their closest trading partners, kneecapping the island country’s economy. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 14 June 2023 Guston’s Klan paintings kneecapped supremacists through humor. Aruna D’souza, New York Times, 19 July 2023 The Biden administration has been trying to restrict China's access to semiconductor components and kneecap the country's tech development. The Week Staff, The Week, 7 July 2023 Union infighting split the group’s allegiances across class, and in the ‘70s, courts ruled that gigging acts were actually independent contractors, with the singer or bandleader as the nominal employer, kneecapping unions’ ability to organize. August Brown, Los Angeles Times, 26 July 2023 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use


1833, in the meaning defined above


1974, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of kneecap was in 1833

Dictionary Entries Near kneecap

Cite this Entry

“Kneecap.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


knee·​cap ˈnē-ˌkap How to pronounce kneecap (audio)
: a thick flat movable bone forming the front part of the knee

called also patella

Medical Definition


knee·​cap ˈnē-ˌkap How to pronounce kneecap (audio)

More from Merriam-Webster on kneecap

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