Printable Version
Pronunciation: nayv Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A dishonest man, a cunning unscrupulous rogue. 2. In a deck of cards, the jack.

Notes: Here is a word that renews alphaDictionary's long war on profanity. We know it's jousting with windmills, but the alternatives are more interesting words. The abstract noun for this word is knavery, which rhymes with bravery, but the similarity ends there. The adjective is knavish "like a knave". Back in the 17th century some wag tried knavigation, but it didn't fly.

In Play: We find frequently today's Good Word in the company of fool: "Whoever put the frog in the water cooler is a fool and a knave." It does keep company elsewhere: "US politics is sprinkled with knights and knaves in approximately equal number."

Word History: In Old English this word was cnafa "boy, male child; male servant" from Proto-Germanic knabon- "boy", source also of Modern German knabe "boy, lad" and Knappe "squire, shield-bearer", and Dutch knaap "a youth, servant". It is also a distant relation to Swedish dialectal knabbe and Old Norse knapi "servant boy". We find no trace of a similar word in other Indo-European languages, so it must have entered Proto-Germanic from a non-Indo-European source.

Dr. Goodword,

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