Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun An unprincipled, crafty fellow.
  • noun A male servant.
  • noun A man of humble birth.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A boy; a boy as a servant; a servant; a fellow.
  • noun A friend; a crony: used as a term of endearment.
  • noun A false, deceitful fellow; a dishonest person; one given to fraudulent tricks or practices; a rogue or scoundrel.
  • noun 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.
  • To prove or make a knave.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

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

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

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

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

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

Etymologies

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

[Middle English, from Old English cnafa, boy, male servant.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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.

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

  • "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

  • "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

Comments

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

    Sheridan, School for Scandal

    January 5, 2008

  • "Silence, knave!"

    August 14, 2008