Definition of knife in English:



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

    • ‘He received a number of stitches for knife wounds to his chest and arm.’
    • ‘The fear of sharp instruments continued when I got to the restaurant - all knifes and forks are made from wood or plastic.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Transfer the pizza to a firm surface and cut into slices, using a pizza cutter or very sharp knife.’
    • ‘Research by restaurant chain Brewsters claims that a quarter of children under 11 eat with their fingers instead of using a knife or fork.’
    • ‘My guts still feel like the surgeon's knife is still in them.’
    • ‘Peel the grapefruit and, using a serrated knife, cut out individual sections so that no white pith remains.’
    • ‘He had slit his wrist with a boy scout knife he had kept since childhood.’
    • ‘Solomon put his knife and fork neatly by the side of his plate and sipped a glass of Chablis.’
    • ‘The club has also introduced hand-held metal detectors for knives and other weapons.’
    • ‘As well as the heroin they found cannabis, cash and a number of weapons, including firearms, a sword and knives.’
    • ‘Almost every day evidence emerges in the courts of the lethal culture of knives and other sharp weapons that is infecting Britain.’
    • ‘When he returned, he did indeed have a butcher's knife in his hand.’
    • ‘However, other weapons, including knives and meat cleavers, were discovered at the scene.’
    • ‘Using a sharp knife, peel, core and slice the apples into thin wedges.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Toy or replica guns, cutlery, razor blades and knives of any length are forbidden.’
    • ‘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 murder weapon, a knife, was discovered on the passenger seat of his car earlier this afternoon.’
    cutting tool, blade, cutter, carver
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    1. 1.1A 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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  • 1 Stab (someone) with a knife.

    • ‘He had been knifed in the back and across his forehead.’
    • ‘A telecommunications worker admitted knifing his partner, her son and the dog to death at the family home.’
    • ‘Last year he was jailed for knifing a man to death during a row.’
    • ‘The 52-year-old builder, originally from Beaufort, was viciously knifed to death while waiting for a train in London.’
    • ‘A gang chased him into a dingy block of flats and knifed him to death.’
    • ‘Paramedics at the scene said a woman - the flight attendant - was knifed to death and two men were killed by gunfire.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In January 1907, he got involved in a scrap in pub which ended with a man being knifed 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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Fourteen people have been knifed in a Chinese internet cafe after two men ran amok in a terrifying 20 minute attack.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘She was allegedly knifed by her ex-partner after which he tried to cut his throat and stabbed himself in the chest, police said.’
    • ‘As well as knifing his fiancée, he punched and kicked her and stamped on her chest in a row over the wedding.’
    • ‘Daniels had been discharged on conduct unbecoming an officer when he knifed someone in a bar in Saigon in 1972.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘A few days later a senior RSS functionary was knifed to death by unknown assailants in the district.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘A taxi driver was jailed for life yesterday for knifing his wife to death after developing a grudge against her family.’
    stab, hack, gash, run through, slash, lacerate, cut, tear, gouge, pierce, spike, impale, transfix, bayonet, spear, skewer, wound
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    1. 1.1[no object]Cut like a knife.
      ‘a shard of steel knifed through the mainsail’
      • ‘She could still feel his eyes on her, knifing through her body, and gazing intently at her thoughts, her soul, her heart.’
      • ‘He has played 36 minutes and grabbed 21 rebounds despite cramps knifing through his calves.’
      • ‘I feel as if this highway knifes straight on through the world.’
      • ‘The project's opponents concede the project is tastefully designed, with no Nassau-type high-rises knifing into the sky.’
      • ‘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.’


  • 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.’
      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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  • (so thick that) you could cut (it) with a knife

    • (of an accent, atmosphere, or sentiment) very obvious.

      ‘the patriotism was so thick that you could cut it with a knife’
      ‘a southern accent you could cut with a knife’
  • go (or be) under the knife

    • informal Have surgery.

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He felt then that the best solution was to go under the knife.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘So here's my advice: If a doctor says you need back surgery, get several other opinions before going 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 knives are out (for someone)

    • informal There is open hostility (toward someone)

      • ‘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 admitted the knives are out for Eriksson and England if they fail to produce results.’
      • ‘In some quarters the knives are out for Alan Greenspan, the US Federal Reserve chairman.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘There is already a sense in some quarters that the knives are out.’
      • ‘To lose Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Strangford and East Londonderry is an incredible defeat and the knives are out.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Within military/intelligence circles, the knives are out.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He is a non-executive director of a kitchen installation company, who feels that the knives are out for him.’
  • like a (hot) knife through butter

    • Very easily; without any resistance or difficulty.

      ‘antiaircraft fire would slice through the car like a hot 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.’
      • ‘‘Conventional forces would cut through them like a knife through butter,’ said Major Heyman.’
      • ‘It would slice through most buildings 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.’
      • ‘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.’’
      • ‘It cuts through metal like a knife through butter.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Saracens kicked deep after winning the kick off but the New Zealander carved through their defence like a knife through butter.’
      • ‘The shrill sound of my alarm clock cut through my brain like a knife through butter and I winced.’
      • ‘The Knights also scored the first try of the second half when Mark Cain went through the Lions' defence like a knife through butter.’
  • stick (or get) the knife into (or in) someone

    • informal Do something hostile or aggressive to someone.

  • twist (or turn) the knife (in the wound)

    • Deliberately make someone's sufferings worse.

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘‘Con Gallagher is the father,’ she went on, brutally, turning the knife in the wound, watching the pain intensify.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘In Sri Lanka, which lost some 30,000 citizens, nature twisted the knife as torrential rains flooded refugee camps.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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 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.’


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