Kneeled or Knelt

Alison Chaplin

“Kneeled” or “knelt” both talk about kneeling in the past. They mean the same thing, but people use them a bit differently. This article will look at where they come from, how people use them, and give you tips on which one to pick when you’re writing.

What’s the History of Kneeled and Knelt?

The verb kneel comes from the Old English word cnēowlian, which was derived from the noun cnēow, meaning knee. In Middle English, the verb was spelled knelen or knælen, and had two forms of the past tense and past participle: knelde and knulte. These forms eventually evolved into kneeled and knelt, respectively.

Kneeled is the regular form of the verb, which follows the rule of adding -ed to the base form to form the past tense and past participle. Knelt is the irregular form of the verb, which does not follow this rule and changes the vowel sound instead. Irregular verbs are usually older and more common in the language, and often reflect the way words were pronounced in the past.

How to Use Kneeled and Knelt?

According to the data from Google Books Ngram Viewer, knelt is more common than kneeled in both American and British English, but the gap is narrower in American English. The graph below shows the relative frequency of these two words in books written in English since 1800.

As you can see, knelt has been consistently more popular than kneeled throughout the history of English, but kneeled has gained some ground in the 20th and 21st centuries, especially in American English. This trend may be due to the influence of the regular -ed ending, which is easier to form and remember than the irregular -t ending.

However, knelt is still considered the standard and preferred form of the verb by most dictionaries, style guides, and grammar experts.

KneeledAmerican EnglishSome men kneeled down, made scoops of their two hands joined, and sipped
KneeledBritish EnglishRare and nonstandard
KneltAmerican EnglishThe players knelt on the field during the national anthem to protest against racial injustice
KneltBritish EnglishThe people knelt before the queen

What is the Meaning of Kneeled and Knelt?

Kneeled and knelt have the same meaning: to bend down or rest on one or both knees. They can be used in various contexts, such as religion, sports, protest, or submission. Here are some examples of how they are used in sentences:

  • She walked down to one of the front pews and knelt, genuflecting in long, sweeping movements from her head to her chest to each shoulder.
  • Some men kneeled down, made scoops of their two hands joined, and sipped, or to help women, who bent over their shoulders, to sip, before the wine had all run out between their fingers.
  • The players knelt on the field during the national anthem to protest against racial injustice.
  • He kneeled before the king and begged for mercy.

There is no difference in meaning or difference between these two words, and they can be used interchangeably. However, some people may have a preference for one or the other based on their dialect, education, or personal taste.

Kneeled or Knelt: Which One Should You Use?

Knelt is the preferred and standard form, especially in formal writing. While kneeled is acceptable, knelt is more common in both American and British English. Choose knelt for clarity and consistency, especially in academic or professional contexts.

How “Kneeled or Knelt” can be used in Different Parts of Speech?

“Kneeled” and “knelt” are alternative forms of the same verb, and both are past tense forms of “kneel.” The choice between them often depends on regional or individual preferences. However, there are some general guidelines for their usage in different parts of speech:

Verb (Past Tense):

  • He kneeled down to tie his shoelaces.
  • She knelt in prayer for hours.

Adjective (Past Participle):

  • The knight kneeled before the king.
  • The audience knelt in admiration.

Noun (Gerund or Present Participle):

  • Kneeling is a sign of respect in some cultures.
  • The act of kneeling is common in certain ceremonies.

Pro Tip: If you’re in the U.S., go with “kneeled,” and in Britain, go for “knelt.” It’s just a regional preference in the past tense of “kneel.”


In conclusion, “Kneeled” and “knelt” both describe the past action of bending down on your knees. They mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably, but “knelt” is more commonly used, especially in formal writing and in British English.

In serious writing like for school or work, it’s better to stick with “knelt.” But for more laid-back writing, you can use either, depending on what feels right for your audience and style.