Old English cneowlian "to kneel, fall on the knees," from Proto-Germanic *knewljan (source also of Middle Low German knelen, Middle Dutch cnielen, Dutch knielen Gothic knussjan), from PIE root *genu- (1) "knee; angle." Past tense knelt is a modern formation (19c.) on analogy of feel/felt, etc. Related: Kneeler; kneeling.
updated on May 11, 2017