Take a knee

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The idiom take a knee has been in use since at least the 1960s, but the meaning of the phrase has changed drastically over the years. We will examine the definition of the phrase take a knee, where it came from and some of its use in sentences.

To take a knee is an idiom that has become fraught with political implications, but the term has been in use benignly for decades. The oldest known use of the phrase to take a knee occurred in the 1960s, though the phrase is probably older. Originally, an invitation to take a knee was an invitation to pray during a sports practice or sports game, either as a group or silently. We know that to take a knee is also used in the military. Soldiers may be asked to take a knee while they are instructed or praised on the job, or as a method of taking a watchful rest. While the participants literally take a knee, the phrase may be considered an idiom as it implies that more is taking place than simply kneeling on one knee. In American football, a receiver of a kickoff may take a knee in order to officially end a play. This way, the opposing team may not tackle him. Most recently, NFL players have been taking a knee during the playing of the American national anthem in order to highlight racial problems. While many support this action and others are vociferously opposed,  the history of taking a knee shows that it is usually interpreted as a respectful pause, whether to pray, listen to a commanding officer or coach, stop the action, or to rest. Related terms are takes a knee, took a knee, taking a knee, taken a knee.


This time it was Ole Miss basketball players, eight of them, who took a knee during the playing of the National Anthem at a home basketball game. (The Arkansas Times)

Gatewood probably would have scored his first career touchdown had Auburn not told him to take a knee from the 1-yard line to run out the clock on a 63-14 victory. (The Times Daily)

Perry previously had to take a knee from the concert circuit, canceling his Sweetzerland Manifesto tour this winter so he could spend the rest of 2018 recuperating from a medical emergency. (The Boston Herald)