Reference > Brewer’s Dictionary > Knuckle Under (To).

E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Knuckle Under (To).
To kneel for pardon. Knuckle here means the knee, and we still say a “knuckle of veal or mutton,” meaning the thin end of the leg near the joint. Dr. Ogilvie tells us there was an old custom of striking the under side of a table with the knuckles when defeated in an argument; and Dr. Johnson, following Bailey, says the same thing.   1



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