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 The reporter alleged Salcido had made death threats against Janiak and Aiden, pointed a gun at Janiak, fired a gun near Aiden and brandished a knife during an attempted home break-in. oregonlive, "Missing Medford toddler was deemed safe by DHS weeks after he vanished, report says," 4 Dec. 2019 Let soften slightly and then cut into slices using a thin knife or cheese cutting wire. Nancy Stohs, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Chocolate Bratwurst," 3 Dec. 2019 As the caretaker begged our clinic’s nurse to track down Betty’s doctor and tell him that Betty was having a psychotic episode, Betty stood between her and the apartment’s front door with a kitchen knife. The Economist, "Gender identity is hard but jumping to medical solutions is worse," 3 Dec. 2019 Among pathogens, group A strep is something of a Swiss Army knife. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian, "Harmful Bacteria Masquerade as Red Blood Cells to Evade the Immune System," 3 Dec. 2019 Then there's the President's obligatory dig at Sadiq Khan, the popular Mayor of London, over the city's knife crime epidemic. Luke Mcgee, CNN, "Donald Trump is the man no one in Britain wants to dance with," 2 Dec. 2019 In comparison, Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon are bringing knives to a lightsaber fight. Fortune Staff, Fortune, "2020 Crystal Ball: Predictions for the Economy, Politics, Technology, and More," 2 Dec. 2019 On fourth-and-inches from the Ravens’ 44-yard line, with less than five minutes left in a tie game, victory sitting on a knife’s edge, the decision was made. Jonas Shaffer,, "With Ravens’ last-second win vs. 49ers, Lamar Jackson shows they can still win ugly, too," 1 Dec. 2019 Another depicted a man in suit and overcoat holding a long knife that apparently had been taken from the attacker. Anchorage Daily News, "2 killed in London stabbings; police fatally shoot suspect, had been jailed for terrorism crimes," 30 Nov. 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.

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

7 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Knife.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 8 December 2019.

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).


to constrict the range or activity of

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Semantic Drift Quiz

  • a twisty river
  • Which of the following was once a synonym for fun?
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!