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From Middle English knokel (finger joint), from Old English cnucel (the juncture of two bones; knuckle; joint), from Proto-West Germanic *knukil, from Proto-Germanic *knukilaz (knuckle, knot, bump), as *knukô (bone, joint) +‎ *-ilaz (diminutive suffix). Cognate with Dutch knokkel (knuckle), Low German Knökel (knuckle), German Knöchel (ankle, knuckle), Old Norse knykill.

Knuckles (def. 1) of a human hand, circled in red
Roast knuckle (def. 3) from Schweizerhaus, Vienna


  • IPA(key): /ˈnʌkəl/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ʌkəl


knuckle (plural knuckles)

  1. Any of the joints between the phalanges of the fingers.
  2. (by extension) A mechanical joint.
  3. A cut of meat.
  4. (sports, billiards, snooker, pool) The curved part of the cushion at the entrance to the pockets on a cue sports table.
  5. The kneejoint of a quadruped, especially of a calf; formerly used of the kneejoint of a human being.
  6. (obsolete) The joint of a plant.
    • 1623, Francis Bacon, The History of Dense and Rare
      In the West Indies there are found, even in sandy deserts and very dry places, large canes, which at every joint or knuckle yield a good supply of fresh water
  7. (shipbuilding) A convex portion of a vessel's figure where a sudden change of shape occurs, as in a canal boat, where a nearly vertical side joins a nearly flat bottom.
  8. A contrivance, usually of brass or iron, and furnished with points, worn to protect the hand, to add force to a blow, and to disfigure the person struck; a knuckle duster.
    brass knuckles
  9. (skiing, snowboarding) The rounded point where a flat changes to a slope on a piste.

Derived terms[edit]



knuckle (third-person singular simple present knuckles, present participle knuckling, simple past and past participle knuckled)

  1. (transitive) To apply pressure, or rub or massage with one's knuckles.
    He knuckled the sleep from his eyes.
  2. (transitive, slang) To strike or punch.
    • 2013, Lenny McLean, The Guv'nor
      I could feel my big toe snap, but as he's gone down on his good knee and half swung round I knuckled him in the kidney as hard as I could hit. He's gone all the way down, so I dropped my 19 stone into the middle of his back.
    • 2014, W. Smyth, Mama OM (page 415)
      Only then I knuckled him. He had to be taught a hard lesson.
  3. (intransitive) To bend the fingers.
  4. (intransitive) To touch one's forehead as a mark of respect.
  5. (intransitive, figuratively) To yield.
    Synonym: knuckle under
  6. (snowboarding, skiing) To land on the knuckle of a curve of a slope, after a jump off a ramp that precedes the slope.