Definitions

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

  • n. Either of two timbers rising from the keel of a sailing ship and supporting the inner end of the bowsprit.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A mitred backing timber which extends the after line of the rabbet in the stem to give extra support to the ends of the planks and the bowsprit.
  • n. A bollard or bitt.
  • n. Either of two timbers rising from the keel of a sailing ship and supporting the inner end of the bowsprit.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A bollard timber. See under bollard.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Nautical, a bollardtimber; one of two pieces of timber rising just within the stem, one on each side of the bow sprit, to secure its inner end; also, one of two strong frames of timber which inclose and support the ends of the windlass.

Etymologies

From the fact that it was sometimes decorated with a carving of a man's head.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From knight + head; sometimes decorated with a carving of a man's head. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Her 180 tons measurement indicates, by the general rule of the nautical construction of that period, a length of from 90 to 100 feet, "from taffrail to knighthead," with about 24 feet beam, and with such a hull as this, three masts would be far more likely than two.

    The Mayflower and Her Log; July 15, 1620-May 6, 1621 — Complete

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Comments

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  • "Knight-heads, or bollard-timbers, are those timbers on each side of the ship nearest to the stem, and continued high enough to secure the bowsprit.

    Knight-heads, also denote in a merchant-ship, two strong frames of timber, fixed on the opposite sides of the main-deck, a little behind the foremast, which support and inclose (sic) the ends of the windlass, that is turned therein as upon an axis..."
    Falconer's New Universal Dictionary of the Marine (1816), 211

    Another usage on dousing-chock.

    October 12, 2008

  • "...but it was upon her worthless, profitable hull that the dockyard spent all its slow creeping care, while the Surprise lay in limbo for want of a few midship knees, the starboard knighthead and bumkin, and twenty square yards of copper sheathing..."
    —Patrick O'Brian, Treason's Harbour, 9

    February 15, 2008