Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. An unprincipled, crafty fellow.
  • n. A male servant.
  • n. A man of humble birth.
  • n. Games See jack.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A boy; especially, a boy servant.
  • n. Any male servant; a menial.
  • n. A tricky, deceitful fellow; a dishonest person; a rogue; a villain.
  • n. A playing card marked with the figure of a servant or soldier; a jack.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A boy; especially, a boy servant.
  • n. Any male servant; a menial.
  • n. A tricky, deceitful fellow; a dishonest person; a rogue; a villain.
  • n. A playing card marked with the figure of a servant or soldier; a jack.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To prove or make a knave.
  • n. A boy; a boy as a servant; a servant; a fellow.
  • n. A friend; a crony: used as a term of endearment.
  • n. A false, deceitful fellow; a dishonest person; one given to fraudulent tricks or practices; a rogue or scoundrel.
  • n. A playing-card with a servant (usually, in English and American cards, in a conventionalized costume of the sixteenth century) figured on it; a jack.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. one of four face cards in a deck bearing a picture of a young prince
  • n. a deceitful and unreliable scoundrel

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old English cnafa, boy, male servant.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English knave, from Old English cnafa ("child, boy, youth; servant"), from Proto-Germanic *knabô (“boy, youth”), from Proto-Indo-European *gnebʰ- (“to press, tighten”), from Proto-Indo-European *gen- (“to pinch, squeeze, bend, press together, ball”). Cognate with German Knabe ("lad"). Related also to knape. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • I am but a fool, look you; and yet I have the wit to think my master is a kind of a knave: but that's all one, if he be but one knave] [W: but one kind] This alteration is acute and specious, yet I know not whether, in Shakespeare's language, _one knave_ may not signify a _knave on only one occasion_,

    Notes to Shakespeare — Volume 01: Comedies

  • "Romeo and Juliet," the chorus narrates, "His name was Geoffrey Lebowski called yet/Not called, excepting by his kin/That which we call a knave by any other name/Might bowl just as sweet."

    Washington Square News

  • A tattered knave arrived at this dressing-room, deposited his thirty sous and selected, according to the part which he wished to play, the costume which suited him, and on descending the stairs once more, the knave was a somebody.

    Les Miserables

  • St. Honore, at Paris, sat a man ALONE — a man who has been maligned, a man who has been called a knave and charlatan, a man who has been persecuted even to the death, it is said, in Roman

    Roundabout Papers

  • That was somewhat away from the most precious part of the church, the knave, which is built over the grotto where Jesus is said to have been born.

    CNN Transcript May 2, 2002

  • For the king is unwise, so are his knights, and a knave is his brother, the one as the other; therefore may Britons be much the un-bolder, when the head (leader) is bad, the heap

    Roman de Brut. English

  • Turning to the bewildered old man, he continues: "to be called a knave, and upbraided in this manner by your daughter, when I have befriended you all these days!"

    An Outcast or, Virtue and Faith

  • For any man to profess to be governed by the fixed principles of justice, of honor, of truth, or of generosity, is sufficient to stamp him a hypocrite and a designing knave, that is lying in wait under these characters for the happiness of others.

    History of the University of North Carolina. Volume I: From its Beginning to the Death of President Swain, 1789-1868

  • The knave is the highest card, then the ace, king, etc.

    The Laws of Euchre As adopted by the Somerset Club of Boston, March 1, 1888

  • After all, as no doubt your friends have told you, you played what, as a minister of the Crown, I must call a knave's part in attempting to save this popish traitor, although by God's Providence, you were frustrated.

    By What Authority?

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Comments

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  • "Silence, knave!"

    August 14, 2008

  • I know him to be artful, selfish, and malicious—in short, a sentimental knave
    Sheridan, School for Scandal

    January 5, 2008