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[pen-nahyf] /ˈpɛnˌnaɪf/
noun, plural penknives.
a small pocketknife, formerly one used for making and sharpening quill pens.
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English; see pen1, knife Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for penknife
  • Also pack bird and animal identification books, binoculars, a penknife and camera equipment.
  • The trousers held a little penknife and some silver, and the side-pocket of his jacket contained an old crocodile-skin cigar-case.
  • Whereas if he had used a razor or a penknife, he had odds against himself of spoiling a whole sheet.
  • Tense and anxious, he always carried a penknife and smoked hashish and pot with great frequency.
  • Take a penknife and make a hole in the plaster on the wall.
  • Arms up, in the scanner, the penknife is pulled up to my armpit.
  • At last lie quietly pulled out his penknife ready too far.
  • At the city hall he was searched and an open penknife and a rock were te ken from his pants pocket.
British Dictionary definitions for penknife


noun (pl) -knives
a small knife with one or more blades that fold into the handle; pocketknife
Word Origin
C15: so called because it was originally used for making and repairing quill pens
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for penknife

early 15c., from pen (n.1) + knife (n.). So called because such small knives were used to sharpen quills.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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