Knuckle Down

What does it mean to knuckle down?

The knuckle is part of the back of the hands – the lumps at the base of the fingers. 

All apes, such as the chimpanzee, gorilla and orangutan, walk on their knuckles. An ape is a primate mammal without a tail. 

Bornean Orangutan

To knuckle down means to work extremely hard on a specific task. For example, a teacher might say to a student, ‘you need to knuckle down and finish the assignment.’

It originated from the game of marbles, when players put their knuckles on the ground when they are ready to shoot a marble towards an opponent’s marble to knock it out of the circle area. Therefore, when someone puts their knuckles down, they are ready to start – such as ready to start work.

Apes always have their ‘knuckles down’ – so, perhaps they are always ready to start work or play!

Bornean Orangutan
Bornean Orangutan

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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