What is the difference between "knickers" and "panties"? I've read the difference is that "knickers" used in the UK and "panties" is used in US. Is this the only difference?

  • 3
    In the US, "panties" only refer to women's underwear, never men's.
    – Charles
    Commented Nov 22, 2011 at 8:19
  • @Charles The same happens in Japan! Commented Mar 9, 2013 at 19:37

5 Answers 5


That's what I've always assumed. Wikipedia seems to agree:

In British English, and in places such as the UK, Ireland, South Africa, India, and occasionally in other Commonwealth nations such as Australia and New Zealand, panties are often referred to as knickers. The term knickers is not generally used in the US and Canada, where the term "panties" is usually favored. In the UK, pants is also used, but can mean men's or women's underwear. This should not be confused with the North American usage of pants which are called trousers in the UK.

  • 1
    This is surprising to me. In India, "knickers" is often used for "knickerbockers" (see JeffSahol's answer) or just any kind of shorts (not underwear). Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 12:28
  • 3
    In the US, "panties" usually refers to women's garments, while "undies" means either men's or women's garments. Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 15:26
  • This is one of us Brits' greatest sources of humour. For example, when someone from the US gets mud on his or her trousers and exclaims that they need to change their pants.
    – Kaz Dragon
    Commented Nov 23, 2011 at 10:35
  • Falling into a puddle and getting a wet fanny is also pretty snigger-worthy.
    – silves89
    Commented Nov 23, 2011 at 12:25
  • In BE "panties" rather than pants/knickers has sexual implications. Panties = feminine/lingerie, you wouldn't call what your grandmother wears "panties" but a tabloid newspaper would use them about a young women
    – mgb
    Commented Nov 9, 2012 at 16:03

As well as the UK/US divide, there's the matter of collocation. We speak of panty liners and not knicker liners, while on the other hand we speak of knicker elastic and not panty elastic.


Panties are used by advertisers in the U.S. to sell women's underwear. Women don't call their underwear panties.

Knickers is a British term for underpants..unless used to refer to old fashioned style clothing that went down to your knees.

  • 1
    What do women n the US call them then?
    – Mitch
    Commented Nov 22, 2011 at 3:31
  • Every woman I know calls them panties, especially if they are particularly frilly, feminine or for girls. Growing up, boys underwear could be called gitch or gotch. I live in central Canada.
    – ghoppe
    Commented Nov 22, 2011 at 4:19
  • @Mitch: Yendi just has inadequate experience to make such a claim.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Nov 22, 2011 at 4:19
  • 2
    Apparently, I'm not a woman, because I do indeed call my underwear "panties". Well, sometimes. Mostly, I just call them underwear.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Nov 22, 2011 at 22:46

Also knickers , in the US at least, is short for knickerbockers.

  • 3
    Yes, but to my knowledge this is only used to refer to New York City's basketball team (and it's Knicks, not Knickers). It is otherwise completely out of use here.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 13:02
  • TED, golfknickers.com/category_s/57.htm
    – JeffSahol
    Commented Nov 18, 2011 at 13:06
  • 1
    Probably just because there's a squatter on Golfpants.com . :-)
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Nov 21, 2011 at 12:55

In the U.S. "knickers" refers to "knickerbockers," or "shorts" for MEN that are OUTERWEAR.


"Panties" refers to "underwear," and specifically to WOMEN's underwear.

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