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.

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


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

    • ‘‘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.’
    • ‘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.’

Phrasal Verbs

  • knuckle down

    • 1Apply oneself seriously to a task.

      • ‘Everyone knuckled down and we got the two points we needed.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Dundee were threatening to score in the second half but we knuckled down and scrambled well in defence.’
      • ‘However, when there is work to be done he insists that you knuckle down and we know the time to be serious.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I have to give him credit for really knuckling down to his training and he cannot wait to get back into the ring.’
      • ‘Universities are now insisting - on behalf of the culture - that the writer knuckle down to the task Poe outlined.’
      • ‘Concluding he said that he was now looking forward ‘to knuckling down again in November’.’
      • ‘I at least had the satisfaction of startling the idiot out of his numb trance before I knuckled down to the task at hand.’
      • ‘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
      View synonyms
    • 2Give in; submit.

      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.