the bee’s knees: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘the bee's knees’ mean?

The idiom "the bee's knees" means that something or someone is exceptionally excellent, impressive or of high quality.

Idiom Explorer

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The idiom "the bee's knees" is an excellent way to describe something or someone of very high quality or outstanding. This phrase became popular in the 1920s, a time known for its unique slang and flapper culture. While the exact origin of the idiom is uncertain, there are several theories that attempt to explain its meaning.

One theory suggests that the idiom originated from the idea that bees collected pollen on their knees, which symbolizes their diligence and efficiency. This theory aligns with the notion that "the bee's knees" is used to express admiration or praise for exceptional qualities.

Another theory proposes that "the bee's knees" emerged as part of a trend to popularize animal-related phrases during the 1920s, such as "the cat's pajamas" or "the snake's hips." These phrases were catchy and represented the latest trends or fashionable preferences of the time.

Despite its decline in popularity, "the bee's knees" has managed to persist in colloquial language, particularly in certain regional dialects in the United States. Today, this idiom is frequently used to describe anything exceptional or highly regarded, whether it be a person, object, experience, or idea.

In order to understand the figurative meaning of "the bee's knees," it is important to consider its historical context and the slang used in the 1920s. This idiom captures the spirit of that era and serves as a reminder of the creativity and playfulness of the language during that time. While the exact origins may be unclear, the continued usage of this expression demonstrates its resonance across different generations.

"The bee's knees" is related to the idiom "best of the bunch." Both phrases convey the idea of something or someone being superior or outstanding. They are used to describe things that are considered the best or top-notch in a particular category.

Similarly, "the bee's knees" can be associated with the phrase "that ever walked on two legs." This idiom is used to emphasize the exceptional qualities or abilities of a person or thing. It suggests that the subject being described is the best or most impressive of its kind.

Lastly, "the bee's knees" shares a connection with the idiom "the cat's pajamas." Both phrases originated in the 1920s and are used to describe something or someone as outstanding or exceptional. Just like "the bee's knees," "the cat's pajamas" is an idiomatic expression that denotes high quality or excellence.

To conclude, "the bee's knees" is an idiomatic expression used to praise or describe something as excellent or outstanding. Its usage dates back to the 1920s and it has managed to persist in colloquial language. It is related to idioms such as "best of the bunch," "that ever walked on two legs," and "the cat's pajamas," all of which convey the idea of something or someone being superior or exceptional. The enduring usage of "the bee's knees" highlights its significance and resonance with different generations.

Example usage

Examples of how the idiom the bee's knees can be used in a sentence:

  1. She thinks she's the bee's knees because she won the dance competition.
  2. That new restaurant everyone is talking about is the bee's knees - the food is amazing!
  3. He always wears the latest fashion trends, thinking he's the bee's knees.

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