Definition of knife in English:


nounPlural knives

  • 1An instrument composed of a blade fixed into a handle, used for cutting or as a weapon.

    • ‘Peel the grapefruit and, using a serrated knife, cut out individual sections so that no white pith remains.’
    • ‘The club has also introduced hand-held metal detectors for knives and other weapons.’
    • ‘Take your sharpest serrated bread knife and cut the stick in half across the middle.’
    • ‘The homeowner and one suspect were treated for knife wounds at Lions Gate Hospital.’
    • ‘The fear of sharp instruments continued when I got to the restaurant - all knifes and forks are made from wood or plastic.’
    • ‘However, other weapons, including knives and meat cleavers, were discovered at the scene.’
    • ‘He had slit his wrist with a boy scout knife he had kept since childhood.’
    • ‘Research by restaurant chain Brewsters claims that a quarter of children under 11 eat with their fingers instead of using a knife or fork.’
    • ‘Jake was carrying a sharp kitchen knife from his grandmother's house.’
    • ‘He studied the padded envelope for a moment, before pulling out a pocket knife and cutting into one of the ends.’
    • ‘He received a number of stitches for knife wounds to his chest and arm.’
    • ‘The murder weapon, a knife, was discovered on the passenger seat of his car earlier this afternoon.’
    • ‘Transfer the pizza to a firm surface and cut into slices, using a pizza cutter or very sharp knife.’
    • ‘My guts still feel like the surgeon's knife is still in them.’
    • ‘Both occupants, believed to be armed with a gun and a small knife or machete, escaped on foot and were still at large last night.’
    • ‘When he returned, he did indeed have a butcher's knife in his hand.’
    • ‘Using a sharp knife, peel, core and slice the apples into thin wedges.’
    • ‘Solomon put his knife and fork neatly by the side of his plate and sipped a glass of Chablis.’
    • ‘As well as the heroin they found cannabis, cash and a number of weapons, including firearms, a sword and knives.’
    • ‘Toy or replica guns, cutlery, razor blades and knives of any length are forbidden.’
    • ‘Almost every day evidence emerges in the courts of the lethal culture of knives and other sharp weapons that is infecting Britain.’
    cutting tool, blade, cutter, carver
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    1. 1.1 A cutting blade forming part of a machine.
      • ‘The machine has a knife which cuts open the fabric lengthwise as fast as it knits and is self acting.’
      cutting tool, blade, cutter, carver
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[with object]
  • 1Stab (someone) with a knife.

    ‘he was knifed to death during the argument’
    • ‘A telecommunications worker admitted knifing his partner, her son and the dog to death at the family home.’
    • ‘He had been knifed in the back and across his forehead.’
    • ‘Police launched a murder inquiry yesterday after a man was knifed to death in a ‘vicious and violent attack’ just 50 metres from a police station in Edinburgh.’
    • ‘The teenager, wanting only to be named as Andrew, suffered horrific injuries when he was knifed in the face by a supporter at the football match.’
    • ‘She was allegedly knifed by her ex-partner after which he tried to cut his throat and stabbed himself in the chest, police said.’
    • ‘The 52-year-old builder, originally from Beaufort, was viciously knifed to death while waiting for a train in London.’
    • ‘The 45-year-old man was walking in the Hythe area of the town when four men got out of a car, knocked him to the ground and knifed him in the ribs.’
    • ‘Paramedics at the scene said a woman - the flight attendant - was knifed to death and two men were killed by gunfire.’
    • ‘Daniels had been discharged on conduct unbecoming an officer when he knifed someone in a bar in Saigon in 1972.’
    • ‘One man was left for dead with stab wounds behind a church and another was rushed to hospital by paramedics after he was knifed in the stomach.’
    • ‘The victim, a 17-year-old boy, was taken to Mayday Hospital after he was knifed while sitting at a bus stop in Beulah Hill last Friday.’
    • ‘As well as knifing his fiancée, he punched and kicked her and stamped on her chest in a row over the wedding.’
    • ‘A well-known heroin dealer was being quizzed in a Dublin Garda station some weeks ago about the death of a man who was knifed 30 times and buried in a shallow grave.’
    • ‘Fourteen people have been knifed in a Chinese internet cafe after two men ran amok in a terrifying 20 minute attack.’
    • ‘In January 1907, he got involved in a scrap in pub which ended with a man being knifed to death.’
    • ‘A taxi driver was jailed for life yesterday for knifing his wife to death after developing a grudge against her family.’
    • ‘A gang chased him into a dingy block of flats and knifed him to death.’
    • ‘Dozens of civilians, including an old man who was defending his children, were shot down or, in the case of the old man, were knifed to death.’
    • ‘Last year he was jailed for knifing a man to death during a row.’
    • ‘A few days later a senior RSS functionary was knifed to death by unknown assailants in the district.’
    stab, hack, gash, run through, slash, lacerate, cut, tear, gouge, pierce, spike, impale, transfix, bayonet, spear, skewer, wound
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    1. 1.1no object, with adverbial Cut or move cleanly through something with a knife-like action.
      ‘a shard of steel knifed through the mainsail’
      • ‘I feel as if this highway knifes straight on through the world.’
      • ‘The water came right up to the walkway, and a few Ring-billed Gulls knifed into the wind, sailing over dozens of ducks and coots.’
      • ‘She could still feel his eyes on her, knifing through her body, and gazing intently at her thoughts, her soul, her heart.’
      • ‘The project's opponents concede the project is tastefully designed, with no Nassau-type high-rises knifing into the sky.’
      • ‘He has played 36 minutes and grabbed 21 rebounds despite cramps knifing through his calves.’


  • before you can say knife

    • informal Very quickly; almost instantaneously.

      • ‘The days rolled by in the camp - they were over before you could say knife.’
      soon, very soon, in a second, in a minute, in a moment, in a trice, in a flash, shortly, any second, any minute, any minute now, in a short time, in an instant, in less than no time, in no time at all, in next to no time, before you know it, before long
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  • that one could cut with a knife

    • 1(of an atmosphere) very tense or oppressive.

      • ‘When I had to go back to Littlehampton to debrief the team, you could cut the atmosphere with a knife.’
      • ‘I can say that when I attended my first two or three Labour Party caucus meetings one could cut the air with a knife.’
      • ‘She couldn't bring friends home, if she did, you could cut the atmosphere with a knife.’
      • ‘He could feel the unstated tension between her and his father, so thick he could cut it with a knife.’
      • ‘To say you could cut the atmosphere with a knife in the Thursfield camp would be an understatement.’
      • ‘When I walked in you could cut the atmosphere with a knife and nobody was looking me in the eye and in the end I went up to one of them and said ‘What's going on?’’
      • ‘Last night in the club you could cut the atmosphere with a knife.’
      • ‘One staff member came past and asked what was up - everyone was so on edge that you could cut the air with a knife!’
      • ‘You could cut the atmosphere with a knife.’
      • ‘The silence was so thick you could cut it with a knife.’
    • 2(of an accent) very obvious or strong.

  • get (or stick) the knife into (or in) someone

    • informal Be malicious or vindictive towards someone.

      • ‘She stuck the knife into her ex-lover and twisted it with a ruthlessness that made every other dispute between politicians - whether personal or professional - appear tame by comparison.’
      • ‘And you're prepared to stick the knife into Anderson at any opportunity.’
      • ‘While she will not stick the knife into her former government colleagues - like previous women leaving senior office, that is not her style - she accepts politicians too must change.’
      • ‘When Charley said Zac had asked her out for a drink, it was a deliberate attempt to stick the knife into me.’
      • ‘But if it were intended as a way of subtly sticking the knife into Mr Cameron, it seems to have failed.’
      • ‘I believe if you have an artist come in for an interview it pays to be nice to them and not to stick the knife into them.’
  • go (or be) under the knife

    • informal Have surgery.

      • ‘Some women opt for plastic surgery and liposuction, but other women who don't want to go under the knife are now trying to combat cellulite with another option called mesotherapy.’
      • ‘The 48-year-old says she would never go under the knife and is sickened by the pressure Hollywood actresses are put under to stay looking young’
      • ‘I couldn't contemplate going under the knife to erase my wrinkles, it would be like wiping out a part of my past.’
      • ‘A MAN whose vital heart surgery has been cancelled TEN times due to bed shortages at York Hospital was today due to go under the knife.’
      • ‘He felt then that the best solution was to go under the knife.’
      • ‘For those who don't want to go under the knife there are a host of other options on offer, and many women simply don't mind splashing out to keep their looks.’
      • ‘The talented young back has been struggling with a persistent groin problem and after three months of intensive physio, he could now be set to go under the knife to finally rectify the injury.’
      • ‘While women still account for nearly 90 per cent of all plastic surgery patients in the United States, men are increasingly going under the knife.’
      • ‘So here's my advice: If a doctor says you need back surgery, get several other opinions before going under the knife.’
      • ‘Anyone planning to go under the knife to improve their looks should heed a warning from the nation's leading plastic surgeons: the camera does lie.’
  • the knives are out (for someone)

    • informal There is open hostility (towards someone).

      • ‘To lose Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Strangford and East Londonderry is an incredible defeat and the knives are out.’
      • ‘In some quarters the knives are out for Alan Greenspan, the US Federal Reserve chairman.’
      • ‘And if this did come, as reported, from his inner security circle, then that means the knives are out, the daggers are drawn, and he had better watch his back everywhere.’
      • ‘Less than 24 hours after announcing his retirement, the knives are out as many of Australia's most influential commentators set about trashing his legacy.’
      • ‘One day you could have a bad game and the knives are out, but a couple of good games later, everybody's your friend again.’
      • ‘He is a non-executive director of a kitchen installation company, who feels that the knives are out for him.’
      • ‘Within military/intelligence circles, the knives are out.’
      • ‘There is already a sense in some quarters that the knives are out.’
      • ‘He admitted the knives are out for Eriksson and England if they fail to produce results.’
      • ‘He has not had the best of starts, losing twice to bitter rivals Kaizer Chiefs in two weeks and already the knives are out for the former Rangers coach.’
  • like a (hot) knife through butter

    • Very easily; without any resistance or difficulty.

      ‘anti-aircraft fire would slice through the car like a hot knife through butter’
      • ‘It would slice through most buildings like a knife through butter.’
      • ‘Ripon's batsmen but up a dismal show as Chris Hudson sliced through the line-up like a knife through butter, his 8-25 having the home side all out for only 57.’
      • ‘It cuts through metal like a knife through butter.’
      • ‘First the West Indian spinners cut through the middle order like a knife through butter, and then their batsmen hammered their way to victory with almost half their overs to spare.’
      • ‘Don't even think about unhooking a pike by hand: Even the teeth of a small pike will slice through your fingers like a knife through butter.’
      • ‘Consultant in communicable disease control Dr Mike Painter said: ‘This virus is very, very, very infectious and will go through a place like a knife through butter.’’
      • ‘The shrill sound of my alarm clock cut through my brain like a knife through butter and I winced.’
      • ‘‘Conventional forces would cut through them like a knife through butter,’ said Major Heyman.’
      • ‘The Knights also scored the first try of the second half when Mark Cain went through the Lions' defence like a knife through butter.’
      • ‘Saracens kicked deep after winning the kick off but the New Zealander carved through their defence like a knife through butter.’
  • twist (or turn) the knife (in the wound)

    • Deliberately make someone's sufferings worse.

      • ‘‘Con Gallagher is the father,’ she went on, brutally, turning the knife in the wound, watching the pain intensify.’
      • ‘For nearly four years of my life you managed to be there tormenting me picking up on any weakness or difference and twisting the knife till it really did hurt.’
      • ‘However the mother of the murdered 15-year-old said the confession merely twisted the knife as Campbell still refused to say what he had done with her daughter's body.’
      • ‘He has something to say and knows precisely how he wants to say it, offering a wealth of information of all sorts as he closes in on his prey and gaily twists the knife.’
      • ‘In Sri Lanka, which lost some 30,000 citizens, nature twisted the knife as torrential rains flooded refugee camps.’
      • ‘But Saints Jason Hooper notched a hat-trick of his own, Sean Long scored a try and kicked seven goals and former Bull Lee Gilmour twisted the knife with a fantastic solo try.’
      • ‘He wonders now if he was trying to prolong his pain by allowing Sharon, after the break-up, multiple opportunities to twist the knife.’
      • ‘He had that fabulous Irish humour… when he wanted to turn the knife, baby, he was brutal and brilliant… and very cruel.’
      • ‘If the illegality of their actions damaged Taylor's reputation, Levein twisted the knife by claiming that the chief executive acted ‘like a headmaster’ when the two met.’


Late Old English cnīf, from Old Norse knífr, of Germanic origin.