knock on wood


  1. the hard, fibrous substance composing most of the stem and branches of a tree or shrub, and lying beneath the bark; the xylem.
  2. the trunks or main stems of trees as suitable for architectural and other purposes; timber or lumber.
  3. firewood.
  4. the cask, barrel, or keg, as distinguished from the bottle: aged in the wood.
  5. woodblock(def 1).
  6. Music.
    1. a woodwind instrument.
    2. the section of a band or orchestra composed of woodwinds.
  7. Often woods. (used with a singular or plural verb) a large and thick collection of growing trees; a grove or forest: They picnicked in the woods.
  8. Golf. a club with a wooden head, as a driver, brassie, spoon, or baffy for hitting long shots.Compare iron(def 5).


  1. made of wood; wooden.
  2. used to store, work, or carry wood: a wood chisel.
  3. dwelling or growing in woods: wood bird.

verb (used with object)

  1. to cover or plant with trees.
  2. to supply with wood; get supplies of wood for.

verb (used without object)

  1. to take in or get supplies of wood (often followed by up): to wood up before the approach of winter.
  1. have the wood on, Australian Slang. to have an advantage over or have information that can be used against.
  2. knock on wood, (used when knocking on something wooden to assure continued good luck): The car’s still in good shape, knock on wood.Also especially British, touch wood.
  3. out of the woods,
    1. out of a dangerous, perplexing, or difficult situation; secure; safe.
    2. no longer in precarious health or critical condition; out of danger and recovering.


  1. Mrs Henry, married name of Ellen Price . 1814–87, British novelist, noted esp for the melodramatic novel East Lynne (1861)
  2. Sir Henry (Joseph). 1869–1944, English conductor, who founded the Promenade Concerts in London
  3. John, known as the Elder . 1707–54, British architect and town planner, working mainly in Bath, where he designed the North and South Parades (1728) and the Circus (1754)
  4. his son, John, known as the Younger . 1727–82, British architect: designed the Royal Crescent (1767–71) and the Assembly Rooms (1769–71), Bath
  5. Ralph. 1715–72, British potter, working in Staffordshire, who made the first toby jug (1762)


  1. the hard fibrous substance consisting of xylem tissue that occurs beneath the bark in trees, shrubs, and similar plantsRelated adjectives: ligneous, xyloid
  2. the trunks of trees that have been cut and prepared for use as a building material
  3. a collection of trees, shrubs, herbs, grasses, etc, usually dominated by one or a few species of tree: usually smaller than a forestan oak wood Related adjective: sylvan
  4. fuel; firewood
  5. golf
    1. a long-shafted club with a broad wooden or metal head, used for driving: numbered from 1 to 7 according to size, angle of face, etc
    2. (as modifier)a wood shot
  6. tennis squash badminton the frame of a rackethe hit a winning shot off the wood
  7. one of the biased wooden bowls used in the game of bowls
  8. music short for woodwind See also woods (def. 3)
    1. casks, barrels, etc, made of wood
    2. from the wood(of a beverage) from a wooden container rather than a metal or glass one
  9. have the wood on or have got the wood on Australian and NZ informal to have an advantage over
  10. out of the wood or out of the woods clear of or safe from dangers or doubtswe’re not out of the wood yet
  11. see the wood for the trees (used with a negative) to obtain a general view of a situation, problem, etc, without allowing details to cloud one’s analysishe can’t see the wood for the trees
  12. (modifier) made of, used for, employing, or handling wooda wood fire
  13. (modifier) dwelling in, concerning, or situated in a wooda wood nymph


  1. (tr) to plant a wood upon
  2. to supply or be supplied with fuel or firewood


  1. obsolete raging or raving like a maniac

Old English wudu, earlier widu “tree, trees collectively, the substance of which trees are made,” from Proto-Germanic *widuz (cf. Old Norse viðr, Danish and Swedish ved “tree, wood,” Old High German witu “wood”), perhaps from PIE *widhu- “tree, wood” (cf. Welsh gwydd “trees,” Gaelic fiodh- “wood, timber,” Old Irish fid “tree, wood”). Woodsy is from 1860. Out of the woods “safe” is from 1792.


“violently insane” (now obsolete), from Old English wod “mad, frenzied,” from Proto-Germanic *woth- (cf. Gothic woþs “possessed, mad,” Old High German wuot “mad, madness,” German wut “rage, fury”), from PIE *wet- “to blow, inspire, spiritually arouse;” source of Latin vates “seer, poet,” Old Irish faith “poet;” “with a common element of mental excitement” [Buck]. Cf. Old English woþ “sound, melody, song,” and Old Norse oðr “poetry,” and the god-name Odin.

  1. The thick xylem of trees and shrubs, resulting from secondary growth by the vascular cambium, which produces new layers of living xylem. The accumulated living xylem is the sapwood. The older, dead xylem in the interior of the tree forms the heartwood. Often each cycle of growth of new wood is evident as a growth ring. The main components of wood are cellulose and lignin.

Some people say, “Knock on wood,” and then knock on something made of wood for good luck, when they have made a remark that has been true up to that point and they want it to continue to be true: “I’ve never had an accident yet, knock on wood.”

Also, touch wood. Express a wish that something will or will not occur, as in This last round of treatment should have cured her, knock on wood. This expression alludes to an ancient superstition that literally knocking on or touching wood will ward off evil spirits. [c. 1900]

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