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Bee’s knees

any hymenopterous insect of the superfamily Apoidea, including social and solitary species of several families, as the bumblebees, honeybees, etc.
the common honeybee, Apis mellifera.
a community social gathering in order to perform some task, engage in a contest, etc.:
a sewing bee; a spelling bee; a husking bee.
have a bee in one’s bonnet,

to be obsessed with one idea.
to have eccentric or fanciful ideas or schemes:
Our aunt obviously has a bee in her bonnet, but we’re very fond of her.

put the bee on, Informal. to try to obtain money from, as for a loan or donation:
My brother just put the bee on me for another $10.
the bee’s knees, Older Slang. (especially in the 1920s) a person or thing that is wonderful, great, or marvelous:
Her new roadster is simply the bee’s knees.
noun the bee’s knees
(functioning as sing) (informal) an excellent or ideally suitable person or thing
any hymenopterous insect of the superfamily Apoidea, which includes social forms such as the honeybee and solitary forms such as the carpenter bee See also bumblebee, mason bee related adjective apian
busy bee, a person who is industrious or has many things to do
have a bee in one’s bonnet, to be preoccupied or obsessed with an idea
a social gathering for a specific purpose, as to carry out a communal task or hold competitions: quilting bee
See spelling bee
(nautical) a small sheave with one cheek removed and the pulley and other cheek fastened flat to a boom or another spar, used for reeving outhauls or stays
abbreviation (in South Africa)
Black Economic Empowerment: a government policy aimed at encouraging and supporting shareholding by black people

1923, a survivor of a fad around this year for slang terms denoting “excellence” and based on animal anatomy. Also existed in the more ribald form bee’s nuts. Other versions that lasted through the century are cat’s whiskers (1923), cat’s pajamas, cat’s meow. More obscure examples are canary’s tusks, cat’s nuts and flea’s eyebrows. The fad still had a heartbeat in Britain at the end of the century, as attested by the appearance of dog’s bollocks in 1989. Bee’s knee was used as far back as 1797 for “something insignificant.”

stinging insect, Old English beo “bee,” from Proto-Germanic *bion (cf. Old Norse by, Old High German bia, Middle Dutch bie), possibly from PIE root *bhi- “quiver.” Used metaphorically for “busy worker” since 1530s.

Sense of “meeting of neighbors to unite their labor for the benefit of one of their number,” 1769, American English, probably is from comparison to the social activity of the insect; this was extended to other senses (e.g. spelling bee, first attested 1809; Raising-bee (1814) for building construction; also hanging bee “a lynching”). To have a bee in (one’s) bonnet (1825), said of one who is harebrained or has an intense new notion or fancy, is said in Jamieson to be Scottish, perhaps from earlier expressions such as head full of bees (1510s), denoting mad mental activity.


An excellent person or thing (1923+)


BEE IN one’s BONNET (mid-1800s+)


Enough narcotic to fill a penny matchbox, a unit used in selling drugs; b
An obsession with something

Related Terms

put the bee on someone, put the bite on someone

[1960s+ Narcotics; fr box]
Bachelor of Electrical Engineering

First mentioned in Deut. 1:44. Swarms of bees, and the danger of their attacks, are mentioned in Ps. 118:12. Samson found a “swarm of bees” in the carcass of a lion he had slain (Judg. 14:8). Wild bees are described as laying up honey in woods and in clefts of rocks (Deut. 32:13; Ps. 81:16). In Isa. 7:18 the “fly” and the “bee” are personifications of the Egyptians and Assyrians, the inveterate enemies of Israel.

In addition to the idiom beginning with


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