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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from knife


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

Synonyms for knife

Synonyms: Noun

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Witnesses told authorities that the man had argued with another man before the second man pulled out a knife and stabbed him, police said. Los Angeles Times, "Suspect sought in fatal stabbing at downtown L.A. restaurant," 2 Jan. 2020 Christian pulled a knife and stabbed all three men, police said. oregonlive, "A decade in review: the biggest Oregon news of the last 10 years," 31 Dec. 2019 At some point during the argument, Johnston pulled a pocket knife and began stabbing his 92-year-old great grandmother and 76-year-old great grandfather in the head and neck, police said. Jay R. Jordan, Houston Chronicle, "12-year-old stops back-seat knife attack of great grandparents near Katy, sheriff says," 30 Dec. 2019 One assailant pulled out a knife and demanded his phone and anything else on him, according to a police report, and the teen handed over his phone and some money. Nyssa Kruse, Arkansas Online, "Teen robbed at knifepoint outside Little Rock apartment, police say," 4 Dec. 2019 Linghan, a snow leopard believed to be over 11 years old, went under the knife on November 26 in the city of Xining, in the northwestern province of Qinghai. Maisy Mok, CNN, "Wild snow leopard's vision restored after world-first cataract surgery," 29 Nov. 2019 From January 2014 to August 2018, investigators found that Perwaiz performed surgery on 510 patients who receive Medicaid benefits, which meant 40 percent of all his Medicaid patients went under the knife. Katie Mettler, Washington Post, "Hundreds overwhelm FBI after OB/GYN is accused of needlessly removing womens’ uteruses," 21 Nov. 2019 The 37-year-old pulled a knife as a fight erupted outside a MainStrasse bar on July 1, 2018, said Kenton County Commonwealth Attorney Office prosecutors. Chris Mayhew,, "Man charged in Covington murder wants to withdraw guilty plea to lesser charge," 20 Nov. 2019 Brady was getting the better of Adams, Fahey told the judge, and Adams pulled a knife and began to stab Brady. David Owens,, "Enfield man pleads guilty to charges related to stabbing death of Enfield High junior Justin Brady," 21 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Six plays later, on third-and-2, David Blough threw quickly to receiver Kenny Golladay, who knifed his way through traffic for a three-yard touchdown with 3:51 left in the third for a 17-13 Lions lead. Ryan O’halloran, The Denver Post, "Broncos overcome slow start to beat Detroit for third win in four games," 22 Dec. 2019 Hagans knifed through the lane all evening long, drawing an extra defender and deftly finding shooters and dunkers alike. Hayes Gardner, The Courier-Journal, "John Calipari thinks Ashton Hagans might be the best point guard in the country," 2 Dec. 2019 Safety Jordan Poyer and linebacker Matt Milano knifed inside to bring him down after the short gain. Jonas Shaffer,, "Ravens film study: After a limited ground game vs. Bills, linemen have good reason to be upset with officiating," 11 Dec. 2019 Then the Browns knifed that lead to 10-9 with Kelly's first touchdown. Rich Exner, cleveland, "This is what happened when Paul Brown’s Bengals played Cleveland for the first time: Browns Flashback," 3 Dec. 2019 Watson knifed into the end zone with his first NFL pass reception. Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY, "Texans stun Tom Brady, Patriots to knock New England from top AFC seed," 2 Dec. 2019 Prosecutors said Elder confessed to knifing the officer during a scuffle, while Natale-Hjorth allegedly assaulted the officer's partner at the end of a chain of events sparked by a drug deal gone awry. Washington Post, "World Digest: Nov. 21, 2019," 22 Nov. 2019 The biggest came with 30.7 seconds left, when Lillard knifed past Dennis Schroder toward the hoop and whipped the ball in the corner to Hood, who coolly swished a three to give the Blazers a 100-95 lead. Joe Freeman, oregonlive, "Portland Trail Blazers emboldened by early-season ‘fight’ and ‘character’," 31 Oct. 2019 Italian prosecutors say Elder confessed knifing the officer during a scuffle. NBC News, "Family of U.S. teen held in Italian officer's killing says facts 'unfairly misrepresented'," 7 Sep. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about knife

Time Traveler for knife

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Statistics for knife

Last Updated

5 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Knife.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 17 January 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Comments on knife

What made you want to look up knife? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a plan in which a last survivor takes all

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

The Eponym Quiz

  • rubens painting
  • Which is the best synonym of bowdlerize?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!