Can we use "knowing" as an adjective, just like "all-knowing"?

God is all-knowing

How does the next one make you feel?

God is knowing of everything.

It may be better to say:

God knows everything.

And what about this?

A knowing God is always around you.

2 Answers 2


Knowing exists as an adjective to describe both god and mortals.

The OED has an extensive entry on the adjective knowing, across several senses. The ones that are not marked obsolete or rare are listed below. The one which relates to theology, in which you might find reference to a 'knowing God' is sense 3.

2a. Of an action: done with full awareness or consciousness; deliberate. Of a person: aware of what he or she is doing, or of a fact, state of affairs, etc.; cognizant, conscious, informed, wilful. Cf. knowingly adv. 2.

eg. 1998 Pittsburgh Post-Gaz. (Nexis) 28 May a16 The knowing perpetrators of mass manslaughter would still be free to make their additional fortunes at the expense of foreign smokers.

  1. That knows or has knowledge; conscious; capable of mental perception or apprehension; cognitive.

eg. 1909 Harvard Theol. Rev. 2 379 Life requires illusions: man is not primarily a knowing being; his intellect is but a means for the maintenance of his life.

2003 B. Han in A. Milchman & A. Rosenberg Foucault & Heidegger 156 Free agency..rests on the possibility of rational determination and therefore also on the exercise of our reason in its knowing capacity.

4a. Originally: (of a person) having or showing discernment, insight, cunning, etc.; shrewd, crafty, canny, worldly-wise. Later also: (of a look, gesture, etc.) indicative of such insight; showing or (esp. covertly) suggesting the possession of secret or exclusive knowledge or understanding.

eg.2008 Boston Mag. (Nexis) Oct. Watching these two saunter off, I exchange knowing looks with a fellow gym-goe

  • 1
    If only downvoters would have the courtesy to explain their action it would be helpful.
    – WS2
    Jan 2, 2022 at 18:25

The word traditionally used to describe this aspect of the monotheistic God common to Christianity and Judaism (and maybe Islam, but I have insufficient knowledge of that religion to be sure) is "omniscient". That literally means knowing everything. It is sometimes combined with other words as in "omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent God...". Literally these words mean: all powerful, all knowing, and everywhere present God. I am quite sure that these words would not be used to describe any person who is thought to be less than divine.

There is a very old cartoon showing a bishop rebuking a boy servant by asking him "Who is it that sees all, knows all, and before whom even I am but a worm?" to which the boy answers "the Missus, my lord" (the bishop's wife).

The point of the joke is that the term "all knowing" cannot really be applied to a living person.

  • 2
    But what the question is really asking is whether you can use knowing as an adjective without all.
    – user230
    Jan 28, 2018 at 23:33
  • I would say only in the sense of intimating private knowledge, as in "she gave him a knowing look". In other words she knows something about him that he knows she knows and wishes that nobody knew.
    – JeremyC
    Jan 28, 2018 at 23:45
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    @JeremyC Yes, "omniscient" is the more technical term, but "all-knowing" is used, too (I'm a Protestant Christian and have heard loooots of sermons). But I concur with snailplane that the OP was asking about "knowing" as an attribute of a person—whether divine or not, is past the point, as it's not used as an attribute of persons, only of "looks", "glances", "nods", as you are saying (and as I've written in my answer).
    – user68912
    Jan 29, 2018 at 2:33
  • @tenebris2020 Not so. See my answer which refers to OED sense 2a.
    – WS2
    Dec 21, 2021 at 20:56

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