Anatomy. the joint of the leg that allows for movement between the femur and tibia and is protected by the patella; the central area of the leg between the thigh and the lower leg. See diag. under skeleton.
Zoology. the corresponding joint or region in the hind leg of a quadruped; stifle.
a joint or region likened to this but not anatomically homologous with it, as the tarsal joint of a bird, the carpal joint in the forelimb of the horse or cow, etc.
the part of a garment covering the knee.
something resembling a bent knee, especially a rigid or braced angle between two framing members.
Also called hip, shoulder. Furniture. the inward curve toward the top of a cabriole leg.
Building Trades.
the junction of the top and either of the uprights of a bent.
a curved member for reinforcing the junction of two pieces meeting at an angle.
Also called kneeler. a stone cut to follow a sharp return angle.
verb (used with object), kneed, kneeing.
to strike or touch with the knee.
to secure (a structure, as a bent) with a knee.
verb (used without object), kneed, kneeing.
Obsolete. to go down on the knees; kneel.
bring someone to his/her knees, to force someone into submission or compliance.
cut (someone) off at the knees, to squelch or humiliate (a person) suddenly and thoroughly: The speaker cut the heckler off at the knees.
on one's/its knees,
in a supplicatory position or manner: I came to him on my knees for the money.
in a desperate or declining condition: The country's economy is on its knees.

before 900; Middle English cneo, Old English cnēo(w); cognate with German, Dutch knie, Old Norse knē, Gothic kniu, Latin genu, Greek góny, Sanskrit jānu knee Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
knee (niː)
1.  Technical name: genu the joint of the human leg connecting the tibia and fibula with the femur and protected in front by the patellaRelated: genicular
2.  a.  the area surrounding and above this joint
 b.  (modifier) reaching or covering the knee: knee breeches; knee socks
3.  a corresponding or similar part in other vertebrates
4.  the part of a garment that covers the knee
5.  the upper surface of a seated person's thigh: the child sat on her mother's knee
6.  anything resembling a knee in action, such as a device pivoted to allow one member angular movement in relation to another
7.  anything resembling a knee in shape, such as an angular bend in a pipe
8.  any of the hollow rounded protuberances that project upwards from the roots of the swamp cypress: thought to aid respiration in waterlogged soil
9.  bend the knee, bow the knee to kneel or submit
10.  bring someone to his knees to force someone into submission
11.  bring something to its knees to cause something to be in a weakened or impoverished state
vb , knees, kneeing, kneed
12.  (tr) to strike, nudge, or push with the knee
Related: genicular
[Old English cnēow; compare Old High German kneo, Old Norse knē, Latin genu]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

O.E. cneo, cneow "knee," from P.Gmc. *knewan (cf. O.N. kne, O.Fris. kni, M.Du. cnie, O.H.G. kniu), from PIE base *g(e)neu- (cf. Skt. janu, Avestan znum, Hittite genu "knee;" Gk. gony "knee," gonia "corner, angle;" L. genu "knee"). The verb meaning "to strike with the knee" is first recorded 1896. Phrase
knee-high to a grasshopper first recorded 1851 (earliest form was knee-high to a toad, 1814). Knee-deep is from 1535. Knee-jerk (the patellar reflex) is a neurological phenomenon discovered and named 1876; the figurative use appeared soon after the phrase was coined. Knee-slapper "funny joke" is from 1966.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

knee (nē)

  1. The joint between the thigh and the lower leg, formed by the articulation of the femur and the tibia and covered anteriorly by the patella.

  2. The region of the leg that encloses and supports this joint.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases


In addition to the idiom beginning with knee, also see bring to one's knees; on bended knee.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Encyclopedia Britannica


hinge joint that is formed by the meeting of the thigh bone (femur) and the larger bone (tibia) of the lower leg. The knee is the largest joint in the body and has to sustain the greatest stresses, since it supports the entire weight of the body above it. Consequently, the rounded ends, or condyles, of the femur and tibia that meet at the knee are massive. The rounded ends of the tibia move forward and backward on the corresponding ends of the femur; the kneecap, or patella, rests upon the ends of the femur and serves to prevent the tibia from moving too far forward when the leg is bent. The articulating (meeting) surfaces of the femur and tibia condyles are very smooth and are separated by a slight gap. The femur and the tibia are held together at the joint by a complex system of ligaments that run from the condyles of one bone to the condyles of the other. The two bones' possible contact with each other is cushioned by a synovial membrane and by layers of cartilage on the surface of each condyle. The entire knee joint, including the kneecap, is enveloped in a capsular apparatus that is large enough to allow for the movement of the tibia and also allows the kneecap to swing up and down freely on the front surface of the femur.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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Example sentences
Bring the ankle of one foot to the opposite knee, making sure that your ankle
  is beyond the knee joint.
Slide your right leg back two or three feet and lean forward onto your left
  leg, knee bent.
Her right leg was especially damaged, and doctors amputated it above the knee.
When he finished, he snapped the staff over his knee and fed it to the flames.
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