Bees Knees – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a way to describe something as the coolest thing you've ever seen? If so, you could use the phrase "bee's knees." This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


If you're describing something as "the bee's knees," it means that it's the best or "coolest" thing in its category. For instance, your friend's dance moves could be the bee's knees. The new video game you bought could be the bee's knees. or your favorite dessert from the Cheesecake Factory could be the "bee's knee's."

It's somewhat archaic language and similar to phrases like "the cat's pajamas." Typically, the phrase suits use by older generations, and younger generations might find the expression somewhat archaic and silly. However, almost everyone knows what the saying means, and many people use it today.

Example Usage

"Man, Carvel really does make the best ice cream. It's the best soft serve in America, and their milkshakes are the bee's knees. Go give it a try and ask them to swirl the chocolate crunchy into the shake."

"This bike is the bee's knee's thanks, mom; I'm going to go and take it for a spin right now."

"Did you see how Steve-O managed to dodge that bullet, man? He's the bee's knee's."

"That birthday present was the bee's knees, thanks, mom."

"Wow, what a pizza; you guys are the bee's knee's when it comes to making a good pie."

"Yeah, I tried that new vanilla/cherry Dr. Pepper; it's the bee's knees."


The origin of the expression "bee's knee's" comes from an 18th century fanciful phrase referring to something that doesn't exist. Initially, the term means something that was a "spoof item," such as a "left-handed hammer."

However, the modern use of the word appeared in the "Roaring Twenties." The expression went on to mean something that was the best or "cool." Other similar expressions at the time were "the cat's pajamas," used by young people to describe something that was the best in its class.

There is no connection to the earlier use of "a bee's knee." In the early 18th century, this expression was common as a synonym for something appearing very small. This phrase appears in Mrs. Townley Ward - Letters, June 1797 in N. & Q.

"It cannot be as big as a bee's knee."

Phrases Similar to Bees Knees

  • The cat's pajamas.
  • This is the greatest.
  • This is top class.

Phrases Opposite to Bees Knees

  • This is rubbish.
  • This is terrible.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Bee's knees.
  • The bee's knees.

Ways People May Say Bees Knees Incorrectly

The phrase doesn't have any reference to bees or bees' knees. It's a way of saying something is the best there is. Using the expression to describe a bee's knees is incorrect. The phrase is somewhat outdated, and not many people use it anymore, except as a platitude or cliché.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Bees Knees

You can use the phrase "bee's knees" when you're trying to tell someone that an item, event, song, person, or anything you really like, is the best in its class. If something is the "bee's knees," it means that there is nothing better than it; it is at the top of its range or a class leader.

So, you could say that your car is the bee's knees, your teacher is the bee's knees, or your breakfast is the bee's knees. It's a subjective statement, and just because you find it to be the best doesn't mean that others have to agree with you.

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