knave

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From Middle English knave, from Old English cnafa (child, boy, youth; servant), from Proto-Germanic *knabô (boy, youth), from Proto-Indo-European *gnebʰ- (to press, tighten), from Proto-Indo-European *gen- (to pinch, squeeze, bend, press together, ball). Cognate with German Knabe (lad) and Dutch knaap (lad). Related also to knape.

Pronunciation[edit]

Noun[edit]

knave (plural knaves)

  1. (archaic) A boy; especially, a boy servant.
  2. (archaic) Any male servant; a menial.
  3. A tricky, deceitful fellow; a dishonest person; a rogue; a villain.
    • 1977, Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, Penguin Classics, p. 204:
      God's bones! Whenever I go to beat those knaves / my tapsters, out she [my wife] comes with clubs and staves, / "Go on!" she screams — and its a caterwaul — / "You kill those dogs! Break back and bones and all!"
  4. (card games) A playing card marked with the figure of a servant or soldier; a jack.

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