Knock Your Socks Off – Phrase, Meaning and Origin

Meaning:

To knock someone’s socks off is to impress them. It can also mean to take someone by surprise.

Example: Henry has been playing the guitar since he was a kid, so he’s quite skilled at it. His friend, Cody, has never heard him play before, so when he was visiting and heard Henry playing music for the first time, it knocked his socks off. (In other words, Cody was both impressed and surprised by what he heard.)
Synonyms / Related Phrases:
1. Blown away
2. Blow one’s mind
Knock One's Socks Off
An assortment of different colored socks.

The Origin Of ‘Knock Your Socks Off’

Literally speaking, knocking a person’s socks off sounds like it would be a difficult thing to do. Indeed, assuming the socks are snugly fit on the person’s foot and not just loosely hanging there, how much force would be necessary to knock them off? Probably quite a bit, enough that it would seriously injure the person in the process or perhaps even be fatal. Ouch!

Anyways, moving on, this expression today mostly has to do with impressing or surprising someone. Or at least, that is usually the way I see it used. However, in the mid-19th century, there is an example of it used with the meaning of “someone or something that is thoroughly defeated.” This example comes from the Logansport Democractic Pharos newspaper, January 1856:

“The promptness and certainty with which the Ague King’s American remedy for Chills and Fever, knocks the socks off that disease.”

This quote is the oldest recording I have seen of this expression in print, nothing from before that year. This might suggest that the phrase originated around that time, or that it started gaining popularity around there.


Sentence Examples

  • I’ve prepared an elaborate dinner for my family. Hopefully when they see it, it will knock their socks off.
  • I’ve come up with an idea that I think will knock your socks off when you hear it.

Similar Examples:

  • Learning about the different systems in the human body and how they work together blew me away.
  • I got invited to a five star restaurant and after tasting the food, it blew my mind how delicious everything was.

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