Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
The verb כנע (kana') is generally thought to mean to be humbled, subdued, or brought into subjection, but more fundamentally, this verb describes the process of synchronicity; bringing elements from a wild, feral state into a state of common order and mutual benefit (like, say, a trade agreement). State formation depends on synchronicity, but, more fundamentally, so does language formation.
Synchronicity may demand the abandonment of one's naturally free state, which some thinkers interpret as a wholesale loss of freedom. But in fact, the secondary freedom gained (say: the ability to converse) from this initial loss (giving up growling and howling and having to agree on words) is far greater. This same principle may even explain why a universe which operates by means of the second law of thermodynamics (pursue maximum entropy) is able to produce DNA and cells to run it (greater than maximum entropy).
The strength of a group is proportional to its level of synchronicity, and the principles of laughter and harmonic music may have originated as demonstrations of strength (namely group-synchronicity) rather than entertainment (see the name Isaac).
About half of the thirty six occurrences of this verb in the Bible occur in the reports of military campaigns (Nehemiah 9:24). A large portion of the other occurrences deal with a king's submission to God (1 Kings 21:29).
HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament notes two striking usages of this verb, namely in Leviticus 26:41 and 2 Chronicles 7:14, where humility is marked as a key condition for God's blessing.
This root yields one derivative, the feminine noun כנעה (kin'a), meaning bundle or pack, which demonstrates that the verb does not simply denotes subdual but rather a bringing tightly together (Jeremiah 10:17 only).