Definition of knuckle in English:



  • 1A part of a finger at a joint where the bone is near the surface, especially where the finger joins the hand.

    • ‘He cracked his knuckles and his fingers became blurs over the keyboard.’
    • ‘It may appear any place on your body, but it is most common on the face, eyelids, neck, chest, knuckles, knees and elbows.’
    • ‘Raising his right hand, he laid the knuckle of his index finger against his chin.’
    • ‘If you had a sore on a joint or a knuckle, you would know that constant bending would break the sore open and prevent its healing quickly.’
    • ‘The first two knuckles of the middle finger bend and straighten.’
    • ‘Warmth spread over his fingers while his knuckles throbbed.’
    • ‘The knuckle of his index finger poked my bare hip, which I hadn't realized was bare until that point.’
    • ‘Today there's only a miniscule red patch next to the knuckle of my ring finger which isn't even sore.’
    • ‘These darkening and tiny bumps are also seen on the knuckles of the fingers.’
    • ‘She stretched out her left hand and bent the fingers at the second knuckle.’
    • ‘The captain nodded, rubbing the knuckle of his index finger over his lower lip in a thoughtful manner.’
    • ‘It ended near her knuckles, where the snake's head was.’
    • ‘I smiled at him sweetly, rubbing my fingers over his knuckles.’
    • ‘He held my hands tightly, digging his fingers into my knuckles.’
    • ‘The knuckle of his middle finger on his right hand was larger than the one on his left.’
    • ‘Her hand was soft and I ran my finger along her pale knuckles.’
    • ‘Pinch the webbing between your thumb and index finger and push toward the bottom knuckle of your index finger.’
    • ‘Brian rubbed his thumb back and forth over my index finger knuckle, tickling me a little bit.’
    • ‘The wood splintered against his knuckles as his fingers crushed through the door, his fury and anger taking hold of him.’
    • ‘Joe screamed out his frustration and hit the pillar profusely with his knuckles until traces of blood appeared on the surface of his knuckles.’
    1. 1.1A projection of the carpal or tarsal joint of a quadruped.
    2. 1.2A joint of meat consisting of the knuckle of an animal together with the adjoining parts.
      ‘a knuckle of pork’
      • ‘Dishes such as the pork knuckle and pumpkin rice are only prepared in limited quantities each day and are best preordered.’
      • ‘Clams, mussels, and lobster knuckles arrived in a purée of cauliflower with drops of beet and parsley juice and light curry.’
      • ‘There are also culinary records indicating its use for pickled pigs feet, breaded veal knuckles, and sweet breads.’
      • ‘Her recipe for an olio required ‘a fowl, a couple of partridges, a piece of a leg of mutton, a knuckle of veal, and a few rump steaks; also a piece of good streaked bacon or ham’.’
      • ‘I'm still not sure what ‘capilutes of lamb’ are, but can vouch for the pork knuckle which one of my companions ordered.’


  • [with object] Rub or press (something, especially the eyes) with the knuckles.

    • ‘Cora followed suit, knuckling the small of her back and grateful to be off her feet.’
    • ‘She rose from the chair, knuckling her lower back, and that activity segued into a long stretch-and-yawn.’
    • ‘I knuckle my eyes and peer at Christian from behind my fingers.’
    • ‘‘Aye, aye, sir,’ they said knuckling their foreheads.’
    • ‘A small boy laughed at me on the street and shouted something about girls and tongues so I pinned him down and knuckled his head.’


  • near the knuckle

    • informal Verging on the indecent or offensive.

      • ‘Like Faber, Sugar is writing a novel about her life and career but the excerpts are surely too near the knuckle to make it publishable.’
      • ‘When I watched it on TV, I sweated all the way through it because it was so near the knuckle.’
      • ‘Comedian John McBlain is convinced he will never get a mainstream television show because his mimicry of the province's politicians is too near the knuckle.’
      • ‘Life Stinks, a 1991 departure from parody about a tycoon living in the gutter, was too near the knuckle for many American audiences whereas Dracula: Dead and Loving It was just another retread.’
      • ‘It's the sort of humour where you know you shouldn't really be laughing as the characters are very near the knuckle.’
      • ‘Although its gross, flatulent Scotsman was pretty near the knuckle, most of us forgave Mike Myers that particular piece of stereotyping and laughed anyway.’
      • ‘We knew the movements were quite near the knuckle.’
      • ‘Grease Monkeys is no-holds-barred tv, a bit surreal and often near the knuckle.’
      risqué, racy, sexy, naughty, spicy, juicy, suggestive, ribald, indelicate, indecorous, indecent, immodest, off colour, dirty, rude, smutty, crude, bawdy, vulgar, salacious, coarse
      raunchy, blue, close to the bone, near the bone
      fruity, saucy
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Phrasal Verbs

  • knuckle down

    • Apply oneself seriously to a task.

      • ‘I at least had the satisfaction of startling the idiot out of his numb trance before I knuckled down to the task at hand.’
      • ‘Dundee were threatening to score in the second half but we knuckled down and scrambled well in defence.’
      • ‘It was a bit of relaxation for the players and a rare chance to let off some steam and freshen up before knuckling down and preparing for Saturday.’
      • ‘Everyone knuckled down and we got the two points we needed.’
      • ‘Concluding he said that he was now looking forward ‘to knuckling down again in November’.’
      • ‘However, when there is work to be done he insists that you knuckle down and we know the time to be serious.’
      • ‘With legalities out of the way, the EU is knuckling down to the serious process of its fifth enlargement, bringing the Union to a total of 25 countries.’
      • ‘Universities are now insisting - on behalf of the culture - that the writer knuckle down to the task Poe outlined.’
      • ‘I have to give him credit for really knuckling down to his training and he cannot wait to get back into the ring.’
      • ‘More than 20 unpaid workers have been knuckling down to pave the way for another stretch of Route 45, the national cycle network.’
      be diligent, be industrious, be assiduous, show commitment, show dedication
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  • knuckle under

    • Submit to someone else's authority.

      • ‘I am sorry to say that our employer knuckled under, and so did we, and we replaced that version of the paper with another, without the offending citation.’
      • ‘Yet you've also seen some evidence of politicians knuckling under to the will of illegal alien advocacy groups.’
      • ‘We might use the churches which did not knuckle under to Hitler, although it is questionable in the minds of some people whether churches should get into politics.’
      • ‘If she doesn't knuckle under soon, she's going to fail her exams.’
      • ‘I thank them for their courage to stand up to what must be tremendous pressure to knuckle under.’
      • ‘He laughed when I told him about Pavlov's later turn and about the accusation that he had knuckled under to the nomenklatura.’
      • ‘Will Senate Democrats knuckle under or fight for minimal principles?’
      • ‘In agreeing to the truce, union leaders knuckled under to company threats to close its operations.’
      • ‘Will I knuckle under and write nothing about the Treasurer that isn't positive, or will a threatening call to my boss's boss be needed to bring me to heel?’
      • ‘But his minister was adamant and rather than knuckle under, Spinetta quit.’
      • ‘In the one she will renounce it, in the other she will knuckle under to it.’
      • ‘He is reform-minded, and believes that what is best for his people is not knuckling under to the United States.’
      • ‘Their alternatives were to knuckle under or die.’
      • ‘With my final unemployment check looming, I finally knuckled under, swallowed my pride, and rejoined the TrustiTemps agency.’
      • ‘The movie was a nasty, dark piece of work about needy characters knuckling under to their worst impulses.’
      • ‘Eventually, the House Republican Caucus had to knuckle under on the DeLay Rule because of all the constituent outrage.’
      • ‘Every state in Europe with commercial interests in the Mediterranean had knuckled under to the extortion.’
      • ‘If the Administration knuckles under now, its support will bleed away.’
      • ‘If California does not knuckle under, the US Treasury may have to fork out $976 million in compensation to the Canadians.’
      • ‘Hardly surprisingly, Frederick knuckled under to his father's wishes, meanwhile biding his time and devoutly wishing for the old man's death.’
      surrender, submit, capitulate, give in, give up, yield, give way, succumb, climb down, back down, quit, admit defeat, lay down one's arms, be defeated, be overcome, acquiesce, accede, accept, defer
      throw in the towel, raise the white flag, throw in the sponge
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Middle English knokel (originally denoting the rounded shape when a joint such as the elbow or knee is bent), from Middle Low German, Middle Dutch knökel, diminutive of knoke bone. In the mid 18th century the verb knuckle (down) expressed setting the knuckles down to shoot the taw in a game of marbles, hence the notion of applying oneself with concentration.