I have heard the verb "shanked" use to mean pulling down someone's pants, and the noun "shank" to mean stabbing someone. What is the etymology of "shanked"?

From researching online, it appears that the word has some Dutch roots with leg, but both of these slang definitions I've mentioned above do not show up much in definitions for the word. I am curious how it has gained such different meanings in common vernacular.

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    That meaning if shanked is slang. It has the same etymology as shank. – pazzo Dec 11 '14 at 19:14
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    Think of the lower leg. It has a thin bone. You can pull someone's pants down to their shank (lower leg) or can use a thin instrument similar to the lower leg bone, as a knife. I don't know the exact occasion of these meanings, and I've never heard the one re: pants. – pazzo Dec 11 '14 at 19:31
  • Shank and shaft have long been synonyms. ( books.google.com/…). The sharpened blades of a plow are known as shanks. – TRomano Oct 27 '15 at 15:53

Shanks did indeed mean legs - Edward Longshanks was called that for a reason: he was tall and had long legs. It was also used for the narrowest part of a golf club.

In 1816, it was used to mean to send off without ceremony. Perhaps the prison meaning of getting shanked derives from this unceremonious sending off.

The shank (either the part of the leg between the knee and ankle, or the whole) tapers from top to bottom, and perhaps the shank part of something (a toothbrush, for example) might be the part of something transformed into the weapon a shank.

The etymology of shank as a knife or a verb is not quite clear. [edited to add the comment about the tibia being a good bone from which to make bone knives, the tibia being a shank bone. HT to TK-421]

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    Bone knives were probably quite common to our pre-industrial age ancestors. I could imagine a medieval prison would be an appropriate place to acquire a leg bone for making a shiv as a stabbing weapon. (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bone_tool) – TK-421 Dec 11 '14 at 19:50
  • @TK-421 - that's a very reasonable deduction. Thanks. – anongoodnurse Dec 11 '14 at 20:05

Shank: was used to refer also to the shinbone, a bone of the lower part of the leg that may be used as a weapon. (from Etymonline).

Old English sceanca "leg, shank, shinbone," specifically, the part of the leg from the knee to the ankle, from Proto-Germanic *skankon- (cognates: Middle Low German schenke, German schenkel "shank, leg"), perhaps literally "that which bends," from PIE root *skeng- "crooked" (cognates: Old Norse skakkr "wry, distorted," Greek skazein "to limp"). Shank's mare "one's own legs as a means of transportation" is attested from 1774 (shanks-naig).

The Urban Dictionary suggests its origin as a verb meaning stabbed as prison slang.

Shanked, shank.

orgin: prison slang

  • shanked: to be stabbed with a homemade knife.

  • made out of scrap of metal found anywhere and sharpend like a knife. and bottom tightly wrapped with a cloth as a handle.

  • Probably in the past in prisons shinbones were adapted and used as knives.
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    I loved learning the meaning of "the Shank's mare". +1 I must have missed the shin bone as weapon on Etymonline. – anongoodnurse Dec 11 '14 at 20:07
  • A shank is also the name of part of a screw, the smooth part between the head and the threaded part. – Mynamite Dec 12 '14 at 0:18

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