We often hear the subject expression and "knock someone's socks off" and it is not difficult to understand what it means.

The Link shows what it means and how it originated:

  1. Overwhelm, bedazzle, or amaze someone, as in The young pianist knocked the socks off of the judges, or That display will knock their socks off. [Slang; mid-1800s]


  1. Also, knock the spots off. Surpass or outdo completely, defeat. For example, These large chains have been knocking the socks off the small independent grocers, or Our team knocked the spots off them. The spots most likely allude to target practice with playing cards where the object is to shoot through all the pips, spots, or marks indicating the suit or numerical value of a playing card, but one authority holds that they were used in a horse-breeding context and meant "to be in the vanguard." [Mid-1800s]

But this and other links don't show explanations on why the verb, knock, was used for the socks which cannot be easily taken off by knocking.

  • 1
    It's precisely because the socks can't easily be taken off by a knocking that the phrase was used, or at least so the Word Detective asserts. You also have to consider that the rhyme makes the phrase more memorably.
    – JEL
    Commented Oct 7, 2015 at 9:19

2 Answers 2


I think it comes from its original meaning of 'beat/strike', the idea is that you knock someone to the point that even their socks come off, that is hard, violently, (both physically but mainly figuratively):


  • Old English cnocian (West Saxon cnucian), "to pound, beat; knock (on a door)," likely of imitative origin. Meaning "deprecate, put down" is from 1892. , Knock-kneed first attested 1774. Knock-down, drag-out is from 1827.

( Eynonline)

  • The phrase looks to have gotten popular around the mid-19th century, and while today the phrase is typically expressed to describe someone who is taken by surprise, back then it looks to have been mostly used in the sense of 'to defeat someone or something thoroughly, or completely.'

    • For example, in the Logansport Democractic Pharos newspaper, Janurary 1856, common flu symptoms are said to be defeated soundly by a particular remedy:

    • "The promptness and certainty with which the Ague King's American remedy for Chills and Fever, knocks the socks off that disease."


  • To knock somebody's socks off off means to surprise somebody by showing or providing them with something really impressive. The phrase was originally documented in the American South in the 1940s, where the phrase referred to beating somebody in a fight (similar to "knock his block off"). For this reason, the phrase originally had negative connotations, but began to acquire more positive connotations as the phrase was used more figuratively as a synonym for astonishing or impressing somebody.

  • One major factor in popularizing the positive meaning of "knock your socks off" was an ad campaign done by Pepsi-Cola in the mid-1960s to promote Mountain Dew, a regional Southern soft drink purchased by Pepsi-Cola that Pepsi hoped to make popular on a national basis. Mountain Dew originally got its name for a Southern slang term for moonshine whiskey. So Pepsi naturally decided to launch an ad campaign that played up Mountain Dew as a quintessentially Southern soft drink, but one that could be enjoyed by people from all regions of the United States. Since the stereotype was that Southern people liked to go barefoot, the ad campaign encouraged soft drink buyers to "get that barefoot feeling" by buying Mountain Dew, which the ads claimed would "knock your socks off."



Have you ever seen a cartoon of Charlie Brown (Peanuts) being knocked down by a fly ball he pitched? It literally knocks his socks off.


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