Etymology
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kn- 
Middle English spelling of a common Germanic consonant-cluster (in Old English it was graphed as cn-; see K). The sound it represented persists in most of the sister languages, but in English it was reduced to "n-" in standard pronunciation by 1750, after about a century of weakening and fading. It was fully voiced in Old and Middle English.
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knap (v.)
"to strike with a sharp sound," late 15c., echoic. Earlier (c. 1400) as a noun meaning "abrupt stroke." Especially "to chip or break by a sharp blow" (1530s), the sense shifting from the sound to the act that makes it. Especially of the method of sharpening flints from 1862. Related: Knapped; knapper; knapping. For pronunciation, see kn-.
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cn- 

initial consonant combination used in Old English (the Clark Hall dictionary has 82 entries under cn-), but not now admitted in speech, the n- only being sounded. In Middle English spelling all were lost or turned to kn-. It also is retained in the spelling of some Latinized words from Greek, where initial kn- was common.

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knuckle (n.)
mid-14c., knokel "finger joint; any joint of the body, especially a knobby one; morbid lump or swelling." Perhaps in Old English, but not attested there. Common Germanic (compare Middle Low German knökel, Middle Dutch cnockel, German knöchel), literally "little bone," a diminutive of Proto-Germanic root *knuk- "bone," which is not represented in English in its simple form (but compare German Knochen "bone). For pronunciation, see kn-.
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knob (n.)
late 14c., knobe, probably from a Scandinavian or German source (compare Middle Low German knobbe "knob," Middle Dutch cnoppe, Dutch knop, Old Frisian knopp, knapp, Old High German knopf, German Knopf "button," Old Norse knyfill "short horn"). Meaning "knoll, isolated round hill" is first recorded 1640s, especially in U.S. For pronunciation, see kn-.
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knell (n.)
Old English cnyll "sound made by a bell when struck or rung slowly," from knell (v.). Compare Dutch knal, German knall, Danish knald, Swedish knall. The Welsh cnull "death-bell" appears to be a borrowing from English. For vowel evolution, see bury. For pronunciation, see kn-.
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knack (n.)
mid-14c., "a deception, trick, device," a word of uncertain origin. Perhaps from or related to a Low German word meaning "a sharp sounding blow" (compare Middle English knak, late 14c.; German knacken "to crack;" also knap) and of imitative origin. Sense of "special skill" (in some specified activity) is first recorded 1580s, if this is in fact the same word. In old slang (mid-18c. to mid-19c.) nacky meant "full of knacks; ingenious, dexterous." For pronunciation, see kn-.
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gn- 
consonant cluster at the head of some words; the -g- formerly was pronounced. Found in words from Old English (gnat, gnaw), in Low German, and Scandinavian as a variant of kn- (gneiss), in Latin and Greek (gnomon, gnostic) and representing sounds in non-Indo-European languages (gnu).
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knead (v.)
Old English cnedan "to knead, manipulate by squeezing or pressing," from Proto-Germanic *knedan (source also of Old Saxon knedan, Middle Dutch cneden, Dutch kneden, Old High German knetan, German kneten, Old Norse knoða "to knead"). Originally a strong verb (past tense cnæd, past participle cneden). For pronunciation, see kn-. The evolution of the vowel is unusual. Related: Kneaded; kneading.
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knit (v.)
Old English cnyttan "to tie with a knot, bind together, fasten by tying," related to Old Norse knytja "bind together, form into a knot," Middle Low German knütten "to tie, knot," Old English cnotta "a knot," from Proto-Germanic *knuttjan, from stem *knutt-. Of brows, late 14c. Intransitive meaning "do knitting, weave by looping or knotting a continuous thread" (especially in reference to plain stitch) is from 1520s. Intransitive meaning "become compact or consolidated" is from c. 1600. Related: Knitted; knitting. For pronunciation, see kn-.
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