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From Middle English knowleche, knaweleche, cnawlece (knowledge), from knowen (to know, recognise) + -leche. Related to Middle English knowlechen (to find out, acknowledge). For more on the Middle English suffix -leche, compare freelage. Compare also Old English cnāwelǣċ, cnāwelǣċing (acknowledging, acknowledgement).



knowledge (usually uncountable, plural knowledges)

  1. The fact of knowing about something; general understanding or familiarity with a subject, place, situation etc. [from 14th c.]
    His knowledge of Iceland was limited to what he'd seen on the Travel Channel.
    • 1604, Jeremy Corderoy, A Short Dialogve, wherein is Proved, that No Man can be Saved without Good VVorkes, 2nd edition, Oxford: Printed by Ioseph Barnes, and are to be sold in Paules Church-yard at the signe of the Crowne, by Simon Waterson, →OCLC, page 40:
      [N]ow ſuch a liue vngodly, vvithout a care of doing the wil of the Lord (though they profeſſe him in their mouths, yea though they beleeue and acknowledge all the Articles of the Creed, yea haue knowledge of the Scripturs) yet if they liue vngodly, they deny God, and therefore ſhal be denied, []
    • 2013 August 3, “The machine of a new soul”, in The Economist, volume 408, number 8847:
      The yawning gap in neuroscientists’ understanding of their topic is in the intermediate scale of the brain’s anatomy. Science has a passable knowledge of how individual nerve cells, known as neurons, work. It also knows which visible lobes and ganglia of the brain do what. But how the neurons are organised in these lobes and ganglia remains obscure.
  2. Awareness of a particular fact or situation; a state of having been informed or made aware of something. [from 14th c.]
    • 1813 January 27, [Jane Austen], Pride and Prejudice: [], volumes (please specify |volume=I to III), London: [] [George Sidney] for T[homas] Egerton, [], →OCLC:
      He had always intended to visit him, though to the last always assuring his wife that he should not go; and till the evening after the visit was paid she had no knowledge of it.
  3. Intellectual understanding; the state of appreciating truth or information. [from 14th c.]
    Knowledge consists in recognizing the difference between good and bad decisions.
  4. Familiarity or understanding of a particular skill, branch of learning etc. [from 14th c.]
    Does your friend have any knowledge of hieroglyphs, perchance?
    A secretary should have a good knowledge of shorthand.
  5. (philosophical) Justified true belief
  6. (archaic or law) Sexual intimacy or intercourse (now usually in phrase carnal knowledge). [from 15th c.]
    • 1573, George Gascoigne, An Anthology of Elizabethan Prose Fiction, The Adventures of Master F.J.:
      Every time that he had knowledge of her he would leave, either in the bed, or in her cushion-cloth, or by her looking-glass, or in some place where she must needs find it, a piece of money [].
  7. (obsolete) Information or intelligence about something; notice. [15th–18th c.]
    • 1580, Edward Hayes, “Sir Humphrey Gilbert's Voyage to Newfoundland”, in Charles W Eliot, editor, Voyages and Travels Ancient and Modern, Cosimo, published 2005, page 280:
      Item, if any ship be in danger [], every man to bear towards her, answering her with one light for a short time, and so to put it out again; thereby to give knowledge that they have seen her token.
  8. The total of what is known; all information and products of learning. [from 16th c.]
    His library contained the accumulated knowledge of the Greeks and Romans.
  9. (countable) Something that can be known; a branch of learning; a piece of information; a science. [from 16th c.]
  10. (obsolete) Acknowledgement. [14th–16th c.]
  11. (obsolete) Notice, awareness. [17th c.]
  12. (UK, informal) The deep familiarity with certain routes and places of interest required by taxicab drivers working in London, England.
    • 2002, Malcolm Bobbitt, Taxi! - The Story of the London Cab:
      There is only one sure way to memorise the runs and that is to follow them, either on foot, cycle or motor cycle; hence, the familiar sight of would-be cabbies learning the knowledge during evenings and weekends.


  • 1996, Jan Jindy Pettman, Worlding Women: A feminist international politics, page ix-x:
    There are by now many feminisms (Tong, 1989; Humm, 1992). [] They are in shifting alliance or contest with postmodern critiques, which at times seem to threaten the very category 'women' and its possibilities for a feminist politics. These debates inform this attempt at worlding women—moving beyond white western power centres and their dominant knowledges [].




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knowledge (third-person singular simple present knowledges, present participle knowledging, simple past and past participle knowledged)

  1. (obsolete) To confess as true; to acknowledge. [13th–17th c.]

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