knowledge (n.)

early 12c., cnawlece "acknowledgment of a superior, honor, worship;" for the first element see know (v.). The second element is obscure, perhaps from Scandinavian and cognate with the -lock "action, process," found in wedlock.

From late 14c. as "capacity for knowing, understanding; familiarity;" also "fact or condition of knowing, awareness of a fact;" also "news, notice, information; learning; organized body of facts or teachings." The sense of "sexual intercourse" is from c. 1400. Middle English also had a verb form, knoulechen "acknowledge" (c. 1200), later "find out about; recognize," and "to have sexual intercourse with" (c. 1300); compare acknowledge.

Since Knowledge is but sorrow's Spy,
   It is not safe to know.
[Davenant, song from "The Just Italian," 1630]

updated on December 07, 2022