AskDefine | Define know

Dictionary Definition



1 be cognizant or aware of a fact or a specific piece of information; possess knowledge or information about; "I know that the President lied to the people"; "I want to know who is winning the game!"; "I know it's time" [syn: cognize, cognise] [ant: ignore]
2 know how to do or perform something; "She knows how to knit"; "Does your husband know how to cook?"
3 be aware of the truth of something; have a belief or faith in something; regard as true beyond any doubt; "I know that I left the key on the table"; "Galileo knew that the earth moves around the sun"
4 be familiar or acquainted with a person or an object; "She doesn't know this composer"; "Do you know my sister?"; "We know this movie"; "I know him under a different name"; "This flower is known as a Peruvian Lily"
5 have firsthand knowledge of states, situations, emotions, or sensations; "I know the feeling!"; "have you ever known hunger?"; "I have lived a kind of hell when I was a drug addict"; "The holocaust survivors have lived a nightmare"; "I lived through two divorces" [syn: experience, live]
6 accept (someone) to be what is claimed or accept his power and authority; "The Crown Prince was acknowledged as the true heir to the throne"; "We do not recognize your gods" [syn: acknowledge, recognize, recognise]
7 have fixed in the mind; "I know Latin"; "This student knows her irregular verbs"; "Do you know the poem well enough to recite it?"
8 have sexual intercourse with; "This student sleeps with everyone in her dorm"; "Adam knew Eve"; "Were you ever intimate with this man?" [syn: roll in the hay, love, make out, make love, sleep with, get laid, have sex, do it, be intimate, have intercourse, have it away, have it off, screw, fuck, jazz, eff, hump, lie with, bed, have a go at it, bang, get it on, bonk]
9 know the nature or character of; "we all knew her as a big show-off"
10 be able to distinguish, recognize as being different; "The child knows right from wrong"
11 perceive as familiar; "I know this voice!" [also: known, knew]

User Contributed Dictionary



, from cnāwan. Cognate with Spanish conocer, French connaître, Latin cognoscere, Greek γνωρίζω ('I know') and ('knowledge'), German kennen, and Persian (šenāxtæn, 'to know').


  • a UK /nəʊ/, /n@U/
  • a US /noʊ/, /noU/
  • Rhymes with: -əʊ


  • no
  • noh
  • now (in some dialects or accents, but not in standard English)


  1. To be certain or sure about.
    I know that I’m right and you’re wrong.
    He knew something terrible was going to happen.
  2. To be acquainted or familiar with; to have encountered.
    I know your mother, but I’ve never met your father.
  3. To have knowledge of; to have memorised information, data, or facts about.
    He knows more about 19th century politics than one would expect.
    She knows where I live.
    Let me do it. I know how it works.
  4. To understand (a subject).
    She knows chemistry better than anybody else.
  5. In the context of "transitive|archaic|biblical": To have sexual relations with.
  6. To be informed about.
    Do you know that Michelle and Jack are getting divorced? — Yes, I know.
  7. To be aware of (a person's) intentions.
    I won’t lend you any money. You would never pay me back; I know you.
  8. To experience.
    Their relationship knew ups and downs.


* , Genesis 4:1
  • And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.


  1. In the context of "dialect": To know

Usage notes

The dialect verb form is inflected in a non-standard way. In addition the different simple past and past, the form knows is used for both the singular and plural of all persons of the present tense: "I knows", "you knows", "he knows", "we knows", "you knows", and "they knows".

Related terms


be certain or sure about (something)
  • Albanian: di
  • Catalan: saber
  • Cebuano: kahibalo
  • Cornish:
    Kernewek Kemmyn: godhvos
  • Czech: vědět
  • Danish: vide
  • Dutch: weten
  • Esperanto: scii
  • Estonian: teadma
  • Finnish: tietää
  • French: savoir
  • German: wissen
  • Greek: ξέρω (xéro)
  • Hebrew: לדעת (l'dāʿāt)
  • Hungarian: tud
  • Icelandic: vita
  • Ido: savar
  • Italian: sapere
  • Japanese: 確信している (かくしんしている, kakushinshiteiru)
  • Korean: 알다 (alda)
  • Kurdish: zanîn, زانین
  • Latin: scire
  • Latvian: zināt
  • Malayalam: അറിയുക (aRiyuka)
  • Norwegian: vite
  • Old English: witan
  • Persian: دانستن
  • Polish: wiedzieć
  • Portuguese: saber
  • Russian: знать (znat’)
  • Slovak: vedieť
  • Slovene: vedeti
  • Spanish: saber
  • Swedish: veta
  • Thai: (rú)
  • Turkish: bilmek
  • Welsh: medru
  • West Frisian: witte
be acquainted or familiar with
  • Albanian: njoh
  • Catalan: coneixer
  • Cebuano: katultol (a place), kaila (a person)
  • Cornish:
    Kernewek Kemmyn: aswonn
  • Czech: znát
  • Danish: kende
  • Dutch: kennen
  • Esperanto: koni
  • Estonian: tundma, teadma
  • Finnish: tuntea
  • French: connaître
  • German: kennen
  • Greek: γνωρίζω (gnorízo)
  • Hebrew: להכיר (l'hākir)
  • Hungarian: ismer
  • Icelandic: þekkja
  • Ido: konocar
  • Italian: conoscere
  • Japanese: 知っている (しっている, shitteiru)
  • Korean: ...와 친한 사이다 (...-wa chinhan saida)
  • Kurdish: nasîn, ناسین
  • Latin: cognoscere
  • Latvian: pazīt
  • Malayalam: അറിയുക (aRiyuka)
  • Norwegian: kjenne
  • Old English: witan, cunnan
  • Persian: (šenāxtæn)
  • Polish: znać
  • Portuguese: conhecer
  • Russian: знать (znat’)
  • Slovak: poznať
  • Slovene: znati
  • Spanish: conocer
  • Swedish: känna
  • Thai: (rújàk)
  • Turkish: tanmak
  • West Frisian: kinne
have knowledge of
understand (a subject)
have sexual relations with
be informed about
  • Cornish:
    Kernewek Kemmyn: godhvos
  • Czech: vědět
  • Danish: vide
  • Finnish: tietää
  • Hebrew: לדעת (l'dāʿāt)
  • Latvian: zināt
  • Norwegian: vite
  • Old English: cunnan
  • Portuguese: saber
  • Russian: знать (znat’)
  • Slovene: spoznati
be aware of (a person's) intentions
  • Cornish:
    Kernewek Kemmyn: aswonn
  • Danish: kende
  • Finnish: tuntea
  • Latvian: pazīt
  • Hebrew: לקלוט
  • Norwegian: vite
  • Portuguese: conhecer
  • Russian: знать (znat’)


Extensive Definition

Knowledge is defined (Oxford English Dictionary) variously as (i) expertise, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject, (ii) what is known in a particular field or in total; facts and information or (iii) awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation. Philosophical debates in general start with Plato's formulation of knowledge as "justified true belief". There is however no single agreed definition of knowledge presently, nor any prospect of one, and there remain numerous competing theories.
Knowledge acquisition involves complex cognitive processes: perception, learning, communication, association and reasoning. The term knowledge is also used to mean the confident understanding of a subject with the ability to use it for a specific purpose if appropriate.

Defining knowledge (philosophy)

seealso epistemology The definition of knowledge is a matter of on-going debate among philosophers in the field of epistemology. The classical definition, described but not ultimately endorsed by, Plato, has it that in order for there to be knowledge at least three criteria must be fulfilled; that in order to count as knowledge, a statement must be justified, true, and believed. Some claim that these conditions are not sufficient, as Gettier case examples allegedly demonstrate. There are a number of alternatives proposed, including Robert Nozick's arguments for a requirement that knowledge 'tracks the truth' and Simon Blackburn's additional requirement that we do not want to say that those who meet any of these conditions 'through a defect, flaw, or failure' have knowledge. Richard Kirkham suggests that our definition of knowledge requires that the believer's evidence is such that it logically necessitates the truth of the belief.
In contrast to this approach, Wittgenstein observed, following Moore's paradox, that one can say "He believes it, but it isn't so", but not "He knows it, but it isn't so". He goes on to argue that these do not correspond to distinct mental states, but rather to distinct ways of talking about conviction. What is different here is not the mental state of the speaker, but the activity in which they are engaged. For example, on this account, to know that the kettle is boiling is not to be in a particular state of mind, but to perform a particular task with the statement that the kettle is boiling. Wittgenstein sought to bypass the difficulty of definition by looking to the way "knowledge" is used in natural languages. He saw knowledge as a case of a family resemblance.

Reliable Knowledge

In An Introduction to Logic and Scientific Method (1934), Morris R. Cohen and Ernest Nagel reviewed the pursuit of truth as determined by logical considerations. They reviewed ways of eliminating doubt and arriving at stable beliefs or reliable knowledge, such as
  • The method of authority
  • The method of intuition
  • The methods of experimental inquiry:
    • Types of invariant relations
    • The experimental method in general
    • The method of agreement
    • The method of difference
    • The joint method of agreement and difference
    • The method of concomitant variation
    • The doctrine of the uniformity of nature
    • The plurality of causes
Their final conclusion was, "Scientific method we declare as the most assured technique man has yet devised for controlling the flux of things and establishing stable beliefs."
In an essay entitled "Inductive Method and Scientific Discovery," Marcello Pera said, "In the first place, the scientific method is a procedure, a general strategy that indicates an ordered sequence of moves (or steps) which the scientist has to make (or go through) in order to reach the goal of his research." (In On Scientific Discovery, edited by Grmek, Cohen, and Cimino [1977], published in the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science Series.) The scientific method is not a method directly applied, but rather a guide to the mental activity stages of originating, refining, extending, and applying knowledge. It is subject neutral and flexible in use; it is thus suitable for all domains.
Statements about truth must be viewed skeptically. Rather than state something as "true," the following phrase should be used: "On the evidence available today the balance of probability favors the view that..." (V. Gordon Childe, Man Makes Himself, 1936)
The literature contains hundreds of formulas for the scientific method. They are basically the same but differ in length and terminology. In an article "Suggestions for Teaching the Scientific Method" published in the March 1961 issue of American Biology Teacher, Dr. Kenneth B.M. Crooks suggested this one:
  1. Curiosity
  2. Is there a problem?
  3. Get the evidence
  4. Attributes needed
  5. Weigh all evidence
  6. Make the educated guess (hypothesis)
  7. Challenge the hypothesis
  8. Get a conclusion
  9. Suspend judgment
  10. Deductive reasoning

Communicating knowledge

Symbolic representations can be used to indicate meaning and can be thought of as a dynamic process. Hence the transfer of the symbolic representation can be viewed as one ascription process whereby knowledge can be transferred. Other forms of communication include imitation, narrative exchange along with a range of other methods. There is no complete theory of knowledge transfer or communication.
While many would agree that one of the most universal and significant tools for the transfer of knowledge would be the different systems of writing, argument over the usefulness of the written word exists however, with some scholars skeptical of its impact on societies. In his novel Technopoly Neil Postman demonstrates the argument against the use of writing through an excerpt from Plato's work Phaedrus (Postman, Neil (1992) Technopoly, Vintage, New York, pp 73). In this excerpt the scholar Socrates recounts the story of Thamus, the Egyptian king and Theuth the inventor of the written word. In this story, Theuth presents his new invention "writing" to King Thamus, telling Thamus that his new invention "will improve both the wisdom and memory of the Egyptians" (Postman, Neil (1992) Technopoly, Vintage, New York, pp 74). King Thamus is skeptical of this new invention and rejects it as a tool of recollection rather than retained knowledge. He argues that the written word will infect the Egyptian people with fake knowledge as they will be able to attain facts and stories from an external source and will no longer be forced to mentally retain large quantities of knowledge themselves (Postman, Neil (1992) Technopoly, Vintage, New York ,pp 74).
Andrew Robinson also highlights, in his work The Origins of Writing, the possibility for writing to be used to spread false information and there for the ability of the written word to decrease social knowledge (Robinson, Andrew (2003) The Origins of Writing in Crowley and Heyer (eds) Communication in History: Technology, Culture, Society, Boston pp 34). People are often internalizing new information which they perceive to be knowledge but are in reality fill their minds with false knowledge.

Situated knowledge

Situated knowledge is knowledge specific to a particular situation. Imagine two very similar breeds of mushroom, which grow on either side of a mountain, one nutritious, one poisonous. Relying on knowledge from one side of an ecological boundary, after crossing to the other, may lead to starving rather than eating perfectly healthy food near at hand, or to poisoning oneself by mistake.
Some methods of generating knowledge, such as trial and error, or learning from experience, tend to create highly situational knowledge. One of the main benefits of the scientific method is that the theories it generates are much less situational than knowledge gained by other methods. Situational knowledge is often embedded in language, culture, or traditions.
Knowledge generated through experience is called knowledge "a posteriori", meaning afterwards. The pure existence of a term like "a posteriori" means this also has a counterpart. In this case that is knowledge "a priori", meaning before. The knowledge prior to any experience means that there are certain "assumptions" that one takes for granted. For example if one is being told about a chair it is clear to him that the chair is in space, that it is 3D. This knowledge is not knowledge that one can "forget", even someone suffering from amnesia experiences the world in 3D. See also: A priori and a posteriori.

Partial knowledge

One discipline of epistemology focuses on partial knowledge. In most realistic cases, it is not possible to have an exhaustive understanding of an information domain, so then we have to live with the fact that our knowledge is always not complete, that is, partial. Most real problems have to be solved by taking advantage of a partial understanding of the problem context and problem data. That is very different from the typical simple math problems that we solve at school, where all data are given and we have a perfect understanding of formulas necessary to solve them.

Knowledge management

Knowledge management is a management theory which emerged in the 1990s. It seeks to understand the way in which knowledge is created, used and shared within organizations. A significant part of Knowledge Management theory and practice aligns two models: (i) the DIKW model, which places data, information, knowledge and wisdom into an increasingly useful pyramid. (ii) Nonaka's reformulation of Polanyi's distinction between tacit and explicit knowledge. Both of these models are increasingly under challenge with different schools of thought emerging which are more fully described and referenced in the main article.
An objective of mainstream knowledge management is to ensure that the right information is delivered to the right person just in time, in order to take the most appropriate decision. In that sense, knowledge management is not interested in managing knowledge per se, but to relate knowledge and its usage. This leads to Organizational Memory Systems. More recent developments have focused on managing networks (the flow of knowledge rather than knowledge itself) and narrative forms of knowledge exchange.

Philosophers versus Biologists: — "Knowledge" of two types

This article deals chiefly with "knowledge" in its traditional form as viewed by philosophers, but it may be helpful to be aware of a broader usage which has been developing within biology/psychology—discussed elsewhere as meta-epistemology, or genetic epistemology, and to some extent related to "theory of cognitive development".     [Note that "Epistemology" is the study of knowledge and how it is acquired.]
Until recent times, at least in the Western tradition, it was simply taken for granted that knowledge was something possessed by humans—or God alone—and probably adult humans at that. Sometimes the notion might stretch to (ii) Society-as-such, as in (e.g.) "the knowledge possessed by the Coptic culture" (as opposed to its individual members), but that was not assured either. Nor was it usual to consider unconscious knowledge in any systematic way until this approach was popularized by Freud.
Other biological domains where "knowledge" might be said to reside, include: (iii) the immune system, and (iv) in the DNA of the genetic code. See the list of four "epistemological domains":   Popper, (1975); and Traill (2008 Table S, page 31)—also references by both to Niels Jerne.
Such considerations seem to call for a separate definition of "knowledge" to cover these more-general systems:

Defining knowledge (biology)

Knowledge is not just information. It must be usefully available to the system, though that system need not be conscious. Thus the criteria seem to be:
  • The system should apparently be dynamic and self-organizing (unlike a mere book on its own).
  • The knowledge must constitute some sort of representation of "the outside world", or ways of dealing with it (directly or indirectly).
  • There must be some way for the system to access this information quickly enough for it to be useful.

Religious meaning of knowledge

In many expressions of Christianity, such as Catholicism and Anglicanism, knowledge is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.
In Islam, the prophet Muhammad has described himself and his vicergeant Ali as the sources of knowledge: "I am the City of Knowledge and Ali is its Gate".
Hindu Scriptures present two kinds of knowledge, Paroksha Gnyana and Aporoksha Gnyana. Paroksha Gnyana is secondhand knowledge: knowledge obtained from books, hearsay, etc. Aporoksha Gnyana is the knowledge borne of direct experience, i.e., knowledge that one discovers for oneself. The Old Testament's Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil contained the knowledge that separated Man from God: "And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil…" (Bible verse |Genesis|3:22|KJV)
In Gnosticism divine knowledge or gnosis is hoped to be attained and escape from the demiurge's physical world. And in Thelema knowledge and conversation with one's Holy Guardian Angel is the purpose of life, which is similar to Gnosis or enlightenment in other mystery religions.


External links

sisterlinks Knowledge
know in Arabic: معرفة
know in Azerbaijani: Bilik
know in Bengali: জ্ঞান
know in Min Nan: Tì-sek
know in Belarusian (Tarashkevitsa): Веды
know in Bosnian: Znanje
know in Catalan: Coneixement
know in Danish: Viden
know in German: Wissen
know in Estonian: Teadmine
know in Modern Greek (1453-): Γνώση
know in Spanish: Conocimiento
know in Esperanto: Scio
know in Persian: دانش
know in French: Connaissance
know in French: Savoir
know in Galician: Coñecemento
know in Korean: 지식
know in Hindi: ज्ञान
know in Croatian: Znanje
know in Indonesian: Pengetahuan
know in Icelandic: Þekking
know in Italian: Conoscenza
know in Hebrew: ידע
know in Kurdish: Zanîn
know in Latin: Scientia
know in Latvian: Zināšanas
know in Lithuanian: Žinios
know in Hungarian: Ismeret
know in Macedonian: Знаење
know in Dutch: Kennis
know in Newari: ज्ञान
know in Japanese: 知識
know in Norwegian: Kunnskap
know in Norwegian Nynorsk: Kunnskap
know in Polish: Wiedza
know in Portuguese: Conhecimento
know in Russian: Знание
know in Albanian: Dituria
know in Sicilian: Canuscenza
know in Simple English: Knowledge
know in Slovak: Vedenie (filozofia)
know in Slovenian: Znanje
know in Serbian: Знање
know in Serbo-Croatian: Znanje
know in Sundanese: Pangaweruh
know in Finnish: Tieto
know in Swedish: Kunskap
know in Tamil: அறிவு
know in Thai: ความรู้
know in Vietnamese: Tri thức
know in Turkish: Bilgi
know in Ukrainian: Знання
know in Yiddish: וויסן
know in Contenese: 知識
know in Chinese: 知识

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

absorb, account, acquaintance, aller sans dire, announcement, appreciate, apprehend, assimilate, associate with, be acquainted with, be apprised of, be aware of, be axiomatic, be certain, be cognizant of, be confident, be conscious of, be conversant with, be exposed to, be friends, be informed, be inseparable, be subjected to, be told, be with one, bet on, blue book, briefing, bulletin, catch, catch on, cognize, communication, communique, comprehend, conceive, conceptualize, cotton to, data, datum, difference, differentiate, dig, digest, directory, discern, discriminate, dispatch, distinguish, doubt not, encounter, endure, enlightenment, evidence, experience, extricate, facts, factual information, familiarization, fathom, feel, feel sure, follow, fraternize with, gamble on, gen, general information, get, get hold of, get the drift, get the idea, get the picture, get wind of, go through, go without saying, grasp, guidebook, handout, hard information, have, have information about, have it taped, have knowledge of, have no doubt, have the facts, hear, hear tell of, hearsay, hit it off, hobnob with, identify, incidental information, info, information, instruction, intelligence, just know, ken, know again, know for certain, know well, knowledge, labor under, learn, light, make out, master, meet, meet up with, meet with, mention, message, nail, notice, notification, overhear, pass through, pay, peg, perceive, place, possess, prehend, presentation, promotional material, proof, publication, publicity, read, realize, recall, recall knowledge of, recognize, recollect, reidentify, release, remember, report, rest assured, run up against, savor, savvy, see, see through, seize, seize the meaning, sense, separate, sever, severalize, sidelight, spend, spot, stand under, statement, suffer, sustain, take, take in, taste, tell, the dope, the goods, the know, the scoop, transmission, undergo, understand, white book, white paper, word, wot, wot of
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