Definitions

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

  • noun The prominence of the dorsal aspect of a joint of a finger, especially of one of the joints connecting the fingers to the hand.
  • noun A rounded protuberance formed by the bones in a joint.
  • noun A cut of meat centering on the carpal or tarsal joint, as of a pig.
  • noun The part of a hinge through which the pin passes.
  • noun A sharp angle formed by the meeting of two surfaces, especially two ship's timbers.
  • noun Brass knuckles.
  • transitive verb To press, rub, or hit with the knuckles.
  • transitive verb To shoot (a marble) with the thumb over the bent forefinger.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun The joint of a finger, especially that between the metacarpal bone and the first phalanx.
  • noun The knee or knee-joint.
  • noun A joint, especially of veal, consisting of the part of the leg called the knee. It is the part of the animal which corresponds to the hock of a horse, or the human heel, together with more or less of the leg above this joint.
  • noun The joint of a plant; a node.
  • noun A joint of cylindrical form, with a pin as axis, as that by which the straps of a hinge are fastened together.
  • noun In ship-building, an acute angle on some of the timbers.
  • noun plural Pieces of metal, usually brass (hence specifically known as brass knuckles), worn by lawless persons over the knuckles to protect them in striking a blow, and also to make a blow more effective. See knuckle-duster.
  • To apply one's self earnestly.
  • noun A sharply bent loop, as of intestine, especially when imprisoned, as in a hernia.
  • noun In mech., the swinging leaf or hook used for the coupling device in certain automatic car-couplings, particularly in the Janney or M. C. B. (master car-builders') type. A hole is usually provided in the knuckle so that the common link-coupling may be used with it.
  • To touch or strike with the knuckle; pommel.
  • To bend the knuckles; hold the knuckles (that is, the hand) close to the ground, in playing marbles: usually with down.
  • To apply one's self earnestly, as to a task; engage vigorously, as in work.
  • To submit, as in a contest; give up; yield.

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

  • noun The joint of a finger, particularly when made prominent by the closing of the fingers.
  • noun The kneejoint, or middle joint, of either leg of a quadruped, especially of a calf; -- formerly used of the kneejoint of a human being.
  • noun obsolete The joint of a plant.
  • noun (Mech.) The joining parts of a hinge through which the pin or rivet passes; a knuckle joint.
  • noun (Shipbuilding) A convex portion of a vessel's figure where a sudden change of shape occurs, as in a canal boat, where a nearly vertical side joins a nearly flat bottom.
  • noun Slang. A contrivance, usually of brass or iron, and furnished with points, worn to protect the hand, to add force to a blow, and to disfigure the person struck; -- called also knuckle duster, knuckles or brass knuckles.
  • noun (Mach.) a hinge joint, in which a projection with an eye, on one piece, enters a jaw between two corresponding projections with eyes, on another piece, and is retained by a pin which passes through the eyes and forms the pivot.
  • noun (Cookery) the lower part of a leg of veal, from the line of the body to the knuckle.
  • intransitive verb To yield; to submit; -- used with down, to, or under.
  • intransitive verb [Colloq.], [Colloq.] To apply one's self vigorously or earnestly to
  • transitive verb rare To beat with the knuckles; to pummel.

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

  • noun Any of the joints between the phalanges of the fingers.
  • noun by extension A mechanical joint.
  • noun A cut of meat.
  • noun sports, billiards, snooker, pool The curved part of the cushion at the entrance to the pockets on a cue sports table.
  • verb To apply pressure, or rub or massage with one's knuckles.

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

  • noun a joint of a finger when the fist is closed
  • verb press or rub with the knuckles
  • verb shoot a marble while keeping one's knuckles on the ground

Etymologies

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

[Middle English knokel.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From the diminutive of a word for bone, found in German Knochen

Examples

  • Our "humble pie" is their "humble sandwich": people do actually use the expression "knuckle sandwich" to describe a punch here, and Obama's deal to raise the debt ceiling was unanimously panned as "a sugar-coated Satan sandwich".

    Telegraph.co.uk - Telegraph online, Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph

  • Our "humble pie" is their "humble sandwich": people do actually use the expression "knuckle sandwich" to describe a punch here, and Obama's deal to raise the debt ceiling was unanimously panned as "a sugar-coated Satan sandwich".

    Telegraph.co.uk - Telegraph online, Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph

  • Though it was well after midnight, everyone was hustled onto a bus for what she describes as a knuckle-biting three-hour trip to their scheduled destination.

    Tales From The Sardine Run

  • Of course they did not use what we call knuckle-dusters, nor did they even double their fists, except when moving round each other, and as "gloves" were unknown, they struck out with the hands half open, for they had no wish to bleed each other's noses or black each other's eyes for mere amusement.

    The Hot Swamp

  • I rarely write anything out longhand anymore, but the middle finger of my left hand still has a life-long callous alongside the top knuckle from a pen or pencil grinding into it. stennieville fjpoblam

    Loosen Up Your Writing Grip To Banish Pain | Lifehacker Australia

  • By walking upright over four million years ago, the earliest hominids were already on an evolutionary track separate from even chimps and gorillas, our nearest genetic cousins, who locomote with a different kind of gait known as knuckle-walking.

    Deepak Chopra: What We Don't Know Is Thrilling

  • It's so much a caricature of the Ugly American stereotype, has so many gaping holes and plain knuckle-headed bias in it that we assumed it was a joke, but since no Gotcha post from him follows (his post is dated June 12th), we are forced to assume he meant it.

    Archive 2006-06-01

  • Although a knuckle is likely to carry a wound now and then, Jim keeps his hands very clean and the nails neatly trimmed.

    House

  • In the hindquarter if the knuckle is limp, and the part under the kidney smells slightly disagreeable, avoid it.

    Confederate Receipt Book: A Compilation of over One Hundred Receipts, Adapted to the Times

  • (torn tissue in knuckle of left middle finger) is on the 15-day DL

    USATODAY.com

Comments

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  • Sounds like "naco," sort of "redneck" in Spanish. Makes my students laugh.

    July 4, 2007

  • I am not an expert on anatomy or butchery but my sense is that the word knuckle seems to be more associated with human, veal and pig. I am not aware that one talks about beef knuckle, horse knuckle, deer knuckle or the joints of other animals as being knuckles. If this is true, the linguistic geography and specie or food-type associations would be a unique dimentsion to the use and meaning of this word. It is also one of the many kn/gn words that are associated with food, digestion, learning such as knowledgem gnaw, etc.

    September 4, 2009