noun, often attributive
\ ˈnīf How to pronounce knife (audio) \
plural knives\ ˈnīvz How to pronounce knives (audio) \

Definition of knife

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a cutting instrument consisting of a sharp blade fastened to a handle
b : a weapon or tool resembling a knife
2 : a sharp cutting blade or tool in a machine
3 : surgery sense 4 usually used in the phrase under the knife


knifed; knifing

Definition of knife (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to use a knife on specifically : to stab, slash, or wound with a knife
2 : to cut, mark, or spread with a knife
3 : to try to defeat by underhanded means
4 : to move like a knife in birds knifing the autumn sky

intransitive verb

: to cut a way with or as if with a knife blade the cruiser knifed through the heavy seas

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Other Words from knife


knifelike \ ˈnīf-​ˌlīk How to pronounce knifelike (audio) \ adjective

Synonyms for knife

Synonyms: Noun

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Examples of knife in a Sentence

Noun Each dinner guest gets two forks, a knife, and a spoon. He pulled a knife on me and threatened to stab me with it. Verb He died after being knifed in the chest. ships knifing through the waves
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The Good Samaritan was killed with his own knife, taken from him during a struggle with the assailant, who had boarded the train shoeless and tried to take the shoes off of a passenger who had been sleeping, police and sources said. Taylor Kate Brown,, "Bay Briefing: From the Judgment of Paris to the Smithsonian," 20 Nov. 2019 When Westborough police came to the scene, Sergeant Jonathan Kalagher ordered the man several times to drop his knife, the district attorney’s office said., "The Westborough man who was shot to death by police on Friday had stabbed his wife multiple times, then refused to drop his knife when police came to intervene, according to prosecutors.," 19 Nov. 2019 With a bench scraper or knife, cut crosswise into 12 strips. Carrie Knauer,, "Carrie’s Kitchen: Three new spins on traditional Turkey Day side dishes," 18 Nov. 2019 Forks go up so the tines get clean, and knives should be placed with the blade down for safety. Carolyn Forte, Good Housekeeping, "How to Use and Load a Dishwasher the Right Way," 13 Nov. 2019 When you're finished, place your knife and fork at the four o’clock position. Jill Gleeson, Country Living, "Here's Why Proper Dining Etiquette Is Still Important, and What to Know," 6 Nov. 2019 This time around, Pete Buttigieg and Mr Biden—as well as Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris and Tulsi Gabbard, all trailing candidates searching for a spark—had their knives out, and Ms Warren fought back well. J.f., The Economist, "Democratic candidates get the knives out for Elizabeth Warren," 16 Oct. 2019 Officers also backed Van Dyke's claim that the teenager attempted to get up while pointing his knife at the officer. Ray Sanchez And Omar Jimenez, CNN, "16 police officers participated in an elaborate cover-up after Laquan McDonald's death, report alleges," 10 Oct. 2019 Swimming in the bay of St.-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, the water like a velvet blanket scythed apart by my hands; seeking sea urchins, anticipating their sweet-briny softness, wearing my metal gloves, carrying my knife. Melinda Stevens, Condé Nast Traveler, "Condé Nast Traveler Editor's Letter: How Travel Gets Us Out of Our Head," 8 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Tyrann Mathieu knifed past Jones to hit Johnson in the backfield. Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press, "I still hate Detroit Lions' final call vs. Raiders. But here's why I understand it," 6 Nov. 2019 Eight minutes later, Wagner went on another run, knifing through the Spartans’ defense to get herself in front of the goal with only Gagne to beat. Jace Frederick, Twin Cities, "Class A girls soccer: Mahtomedi rallies to win third straight state title," 31 Oct. 2019 The versatile veteran with the long blond dreadlocks knifed through the Giants’ protection and blocked Riley Dixon’s punt at the 19-yard line late in the first quarter., "FOXBOROUGH — The Boogeymen were back getting their groove on again Thursday night.," 11 Oct. 2019 These days, just knifing through the clutter is surely worth something. Brian Lowry, CNN, "'The Brady Bunch' and 'BH90210' test the limits of nostalgia," 9 Sep. 2019 Jordan Glasgow, who started at weakside linebacker after a move from the hybrid Viper position, knifed into the backfield for two sacks. Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan football's new offense shines, despite sloppiness, in 40-21 win over MTSU," 31 Aug. 2019 Defensive end Arden Key had a good sequence on consecutive snaps in the latter, coming into the backfield clean to stop a handoff to Jalen Richard and then knifing in from what appeared to be an interior position. Matt Kawahara,, "Raiders practice report: ‘A good competition’ at punter," 1 Aug. 2019 On Saturday against the Rams, Purcell knifed through the interior to tackle running back Justin Davis for a 2-yard loss in the fourth quarter. Kyle Fredrickson, The Denver Post, "Broncos’ DeShawn Williams, Mike Purcell pushing through roster bubble," 26 Aug. 2019 The sharp peal of a bell knifes through loud gunfire. Gieson Cacho, The Mercury News, "Review: Logitech G Pro X is a complete package for gamers," 22 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'knife.' 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 knife


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1865, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for knife


Middle English knif, from Old English cnīf, perhaps from Old Norse knīfr; akin to Middle Low German knīf knife

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Time Traveler for knife

Time Traveler

The first known use of knife was before the 12th century

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Statistics for knife

Last Updated

23 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Knife.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 5 December 2019.

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More Definitions for knife


How to pronounce knife (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of knife

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a usually sharp blade attached to a handle that is used for cutting or as a weapon



English Language Learners Definition of knife (Entry 2 of 2)

: to injure (someone) with a knife
: to move easily and quickly like a knife cutting through something


\ ˈnīf How to pronounce knife (audio) \
plural knives\ ˈnīvz \

Kids Definition of knife

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a cutting instrument consisting of a sharp blade fastened to a handle
2 : a cutting blade in a machine


knifes; knifed; knifing

Kids Definition of knife (Entry 2 of 2)

: to stab, slash, or wound with a knife


\ ˈnīf How to pronounce knife (audio) \
plural knives\ ˈnīvz How to pronounce knives (audio) \

Medical Definition of knife

1 : any of various instruments used in surgery primarily to sever tissues: as
a : a cutting instrument consisting of a sharp blade attached to a handle
b : an instrument that cuts by means of an electric current
2 : surgery sense 3 usually used in the phrase under the knife went under the knife yesterday was afraid of the knife

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More from Merriam-Webster on knife

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for knife

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with knife

Spanish Central: Translation of knife

Nglish: Translation of knife for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of knife for Arabic Speakers

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