knuck·​le | \ˈnə-kəl \

Definition of knuckle 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a : the rounded prominence formed by the ends of the two adjacent bones at a joint used especially of those at the joints of the fingers

b : the joint of a knuckle

2 : a cut of meat consisting of the tarsal or carpal joint with the adjoining flesh

3 : something resembling a knuckle: such as

a(1) : one of the joining parts of a hinge through which a pin or rivet passes

(2) : knuckle joint

b : the meeting of two surfaces at a sharp angle (as in a roof)

c : a pivotal point

4 knuckles plural : a set of metal finger rings or guards attached to a transverse piece and worn over the front of the doubled fist for use as a weapon

called also brass knuckles


knuckled; knuckling\ ˈnə-​k(ə-​)liŋ \

Definition of knuckle (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

: to place the knuckles on the ground in shooting a marble

transitive verb

: to press or rub with the knuckles

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from knuckle


knuckled \ ˈnə-​kəld \ adjective

Examples of knuckle in a Sentence


She rapped her knuckles on the table.

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Some liberal activists are pushing for an increasingly confrontational, bare-knuckle (metaphorically) approach to combating Trumpism. Aaron Blake, Washington Post, "Are Democrats too consumed with taking down Trump? Many Democrats worry they are.," 26 June 2018 The two men, who were meeting for the first time, locked hands with grips so intense their knuckles started turning white. Washington Post, "Friend or foe at NATO? Who knows when Trump comes to dinner," 10 July 2018 The two men, who were meeting for the first time, locked hands with grips so intense their knuckles started turning white. Raf Casert, Fox News, "Friend or foe at NATO? Who knows when Trump comes to dinner," 10 July 2018 Remove the lid and continue baking for 10 minutes more, or until the top is well browned and the dough sounds hollow when tapped with your knuckles on the bottom. Sheryl Julian,, "Recipe: Irish cooks came to this country knowing how to make brown bread with their eyes closed," 28 June 2018 The United States insists that China abandon the brass-knuckles tactics it’s used to try to supplant America’s technological dominance. Washington Post, "Stuck in trade war, US and China face uncertain path to deal," 10 July 2018 If this were any other race, Monday night's debate between the three Republicans running for U.S. Senate would have been considered a knock-down drag-out event, a political bare-knuckle boxing match. Leigh Hedger, Indianapolis Star, "Profiles from the nation's nastiest primary, more Infosys details and a childish attack," 25 Apr. 2018 Hogan said the woman scratched him, threw his GPS device, broke his sunglasses and bit his knuckles, according to court records obtained by the News-Leader. Kaitlyn Schwers, kansascity, "Missouri police chief arrested for assault. Wife says he tried to remove her jewelry, reports say," 19 June 2018 Subsequent pathology examinations found wounds on her neck, scalp and left eye along with abrasions to her nose, chin, abdomen, knees, arms and knuckles, and the death was reclassified as a homicide, prosecutors said. George Houde,, "Comments that suburban woman had made about husband who now is accused of killing her can be used at trial: judge," 31 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Griezmann's shot from about 25 yards away knuckled away from Muslera at the last moment and the ball went off his hands and into the goal in the 61st minute. Pete Grathoff, kansascity, "Uruguay goalie's blunder gifts a goal to France at World Cup," 6 July 2018 State after state punted on the opportunity to become the first to regulate before Wyoming, well, knuckled up. Josh Peter, USA TODAY, "Fight club: Legalized bare-knuckle boxing may be next big show in ring," 4 June 2018 As if love’s knuckled fist had slipped into a white glove, for five months hardly a cross word passed between us. Hartford Courant,, "A Time To Die And Be Reborn: Poems By Priscilla Wear Ellsworth," 19 Apr. 2018 Their relationship began last May with a white-knuckled, jaw-clenching, six-Mississippi handshake in Brussels. Ashley Parker,, "'Playful dominance': The touchy-feely relationship between Trump and Macron," 25 Apr. 2018 Also, despite what your grandmother says, there isn't any conclusive evidence on risk of arthritis tied to knuckle cracking. Ashley May, USA TODAY, "Why do knuckles crack? The answer might be in a mathematical equation," 30 Mar. 2018 So far, Green has said nothing so bare-knuckled, at least in public. George Russell, Fox News, "Trump Administration moves to get tougher on sexual abuse by humanitarian workers," 9 Mar. 2018 Outside his window, the azure waters of the Pacific knuckled on the white sands of Malibu. Jeff Stein, Newsweek, "Did 'The Post' Get It Wrong? How the Cover-Up of a Green Beret Murder Led to the Pentagon Papers," 31 Jan. 2018 The prosecutors tore up the language and the law trying to prove that the senator was knuckling the guy who was eagerly purchasing his influence with both hands. Charles P. Pierce, Esquire, "Where Is the Integrity?," 13 Sep. 2017

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


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1740, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

History and Etymology for knuckle


Middle English knokel; akin to Middle High German knöchel knuckle

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about knuckle

Dictionary Entries near knuckle







knuckle down

Statistics for knuckle

Last Updated

11 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for knuckle

The first known use of knuckle was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for knuckle



English Language Learners Definition of knuckle

: any one of the thick, bony parts (called joints) in your fingers

: a piece of meat that includes a joint from the leg of an animal


knuck·​le | \ˈnə-kəl \

Kids Definition of knuckle

: the rounded lump formed by the ends of two bones (as of a finger) where they come together in a joint


knuck·​le | \ˈnək-əl \

Medical Definition of knuckle 

1a : the rounded prominence formed by the ends of the two adjacent bones at a joint used especially of those at the joints of the fingers

b : the joint of a knuckle

2 : a sharply flexed loop of intestines incarcerated in a hernia

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on knuckle

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


noxious or harmful

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A Thanksgiving Word Quiz

  • a-traditional-thanksgiving-dinner
  • November comes from a word for which of the following numbers?
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!