Definition of knife in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /nīf/

noun (plural knives /nīvz/)

1An instrument composed of a blade fixed into a handle, used for cutting or as a weapon.
Example sentences
  • He studied the padded envelope for a moment, before pulling out a pocket knife and cutting into one of the ends.
  • Take your sharpest serrated bread knife and cut the stick in half across the middle.
  • Jake was carrying a sharp kitchen knife from his grandmother's house.
1.1A cutting blade forming part of a machine.
Example sentences
  • The machine has a knife which cuts open the fabric lengthwise as fast as it knits and is self acting.


[with object]
1Stab (someone) with a knife.
Example sentences
  • A gang chased him into a dingy block of flats and knifed him to death.
  • The victim, a 17-year-old boy, was taken to Mayday Hospital after he was knifed while sitting at a bus stop in Beulah Hill last Friday.
  • The 45-year-old man was walking in the Hythe area of the town when four men got out of a car, knocked him to the ground and knifed him in the ribs.
stab, hack, gash, run through, slash, lacerate, cut, pierce, jab, stick, spike, impale, transfix, bayonet, spear
1.1 [no object] Cut like a knife: a shard of steel knifed through the mainsail
More example sentences
  • The project's opponents concede the project is tastefully designed, with no Nassau-type high-rises knifing into the sky.
  • I feel as if this highway knifes straight on through the world.
  • The water came right up to the walkway, and a few Ring-billed Gulls knifed into the wind, sailing over dozens of ducks and coots.



before you can say knife

informal Very quickly; almost instantaneously.
Example sentences
  • The days rolled by in the camp - they were over before you could say knife.

(so thick that) you could cut (it) with a knife

(Of an accent, atmosphere, or sentiment) very obvious: the patriotism was so thick that you could cut it with a knife a southern accent you could cut with a knife

go (or be) under the knife

informal Have surgery.
Example sentences
  • While women still account for nearly 90 per cent of all plastic surgery patients in the United States, men are increasingly going under the knife.
  • So here's my advice: If a doctor says you need back surgery, get several other opinions before going under the knife.
  • I couldn't contemplate going under the knife to erase my wrinkles, it would be like wiping out a part of my past.

the knives are out (for someone)

informal There is open hostility (toward someone).
Example sentences
  • He is a non-executive director of a kitchen installation company, who feels that the knives are out for him.
  • In some quarters the knives are out for Alan Greenspan, the US Federal Reserve chairman.
  • He admitted the knives are out for Eriksson and England if they fail to produce results.

like a (hot) knife through butter

Very easily; without any resistance or difficulty: antiaircraft fire would slice through the car like a hot knife through butter
More example sentences
  • Consultant in communicable disease control Dr Mike Painter said: ‘This virus is very, very, very infectious and will go through a place like a knife through butter.’
  • Ripon's batsmen but up a dismal show as Chris Hudson sliced through the line-up like a knife through butter, his 8-25 having the home side all out for only 57.
  • ‘Conventional forces would cut through them like a knife through butter,’ said Major Heyman.

stick (or get) the knife into (or in) someone

informal Do something hostile or aggressive to someone.

twist (or turn) the knife (in the wound)

Deliberately make someone’s sufferings worse.
Example sentences
  • However the mother of the murdered 15-year-old said the confession merely twisted the knife as Campbell still refused to say what he had done with her daughter's body.
  • If the illegality of their actions damaged Taylor's reputation, Levein twisted the knife by claiming that the chief executive acted ‘like a headmaster’ when the two met.
  • In Sri Lanka, which lost some 30,000 citizens, nature twisted the knife as torrential rains flooded refugee camps.



Pronunciation: /-ˌlīk/
Example sentences
  • Knives or knife-like objects of any length cannot be carried on to a plane but they can be stored in checked baggage.
  • She held her long knife-like weapon in her hand.
  • The following day, he developed worsening, knife-like chest pain.


Example sentences
  • Others have suggested she let the knifer get too close before she fired.


Late Old English cnīf, from Old Norse knífr, of Germanic origin.

Words that rhyme with knife

fife, Fyfe, life, pro-life, rife, still-life, strife, wife

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: knife

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.