[ nik-erz ]
/ ˈnɪk ərz /
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noun (used with a plural verb)
Also knick·er·bock·ers [nik-er-bok-erz]. /ˈnɪk ərˌbɒk ərz/. loose-fitting short trousers gathered in at the knees.
Chiefly British.
  1. a bloomerslike undergarment worn by women.
  2. panties.
British Informal. a woman's or girl's short-legged underpants.
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Idioms about knickers

    to get one's knickers in a twist, British Slang. to get flustered or agitated: Don't get your knickers in a twist every time the telephone rings.

Origin of knickers

1880–85; shortened form of knickerbockers, plural of knickerbocker, special use of Knickerbocker
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does knickers mean?

Knickers most commonly refers to women’s underwear.

Knickers is primarily used in the U.K., where it may sound a little old-fashioned or childish—a lot of British people think of knickers as what grandmothers and little girls wear (as opposed to underwear). It is often used to intentionally imply such associations or to be funny.

In the U.S., knickers was once used to refer to breeches, a kind of knee-length pants once popular for men and boys. But both the pants and the word for them are rarely used anymore.

Example: My mum bought me some new knickers that look like they’re for my granny.

Where does knickers come from?

Knickers has quite a twisted word history. The first records of knickers referring to clothing come from the late 1800s. It is a shortened form of knickerbockers, a type of baggy breeches fastened at the knee. Knickerbockers got their name from Diedrich Knickerbocker, the fictional author of Washington Irving’s A History of New York (1809), in part of which he chronicles the history of Dutch settlers in America. The word knickerbocker became a nickname for the descendants of those settlers and for the type of pants they traditionally wore. (Eventually, it became a nickname for anyone from New York and, much later, the name of a New York basketball team).

Knickers is a short way of referring to the pants called knickerbockers. This use was once common in the U.S. But in the U.K., knickers are always underwear. Sometimes, the word specifically refers to a kind of loose-fitting underwear similar to bloomers (knickerbocker-like pants once worn by women in the U.S. as an alternative to dresses). More informally, it can also refer to the kind of short-legged underwear often called boyshorts. Knickers can also be used in a general way to mean “panties.”

Knickers appears in a few British idioms, including most commonly get one’s knickers in a twist (or bunch or knot), which means “to get overly upset” and is typically used in a rude command not to do that. (The U.S. equivalent is get one’s panties in a twist/bunch/knot, reflecting the fact that panties is a close synonym of knickers.)

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How is knickers used in real life?

Knickers referring to some kind of underwear is primarily used in the U.K., especially to be a bit funny.



Try using knickers!

Which of the following words is NOT a synonym of knickers?

A. panties
B. underwear
C. long johns
D. bloomers

How to use knickers in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for knickers

/ (ˈnɪkəz) /

pl n
an undergarment for women covering the lower trunk and sometimes the thighs and having separate legs or leg-holes
a US variant of knickerbockers
get one's knickers in a twist slang to become agitated, flustered, or upset

Word Origin for knickers

C19: contraction of knickerbockers
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012