Knee-Slapper – Origin and Meaning

Photo of author

Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

A knee-slapper is an extremely funny joke or story that might elicit a spontaneous knee slap in response. And that’s where this term gets its origin.

The term knee-slapper falls under the category of idioms, which are expressions in the English language that often convey meanings beyond their literal interpretation. Idioms play a significant role in the richness and nuance of the English language.

So whether you’re interested in its history or want to use it better, keep reading to learn all about this amusing idiom.

Knee-Slapper Meaning

Knee Slapper – Origin and Meaning

The term knee-slapper means a joke or anecdote that’s hilariously funny. It’s as simple as that. When something is deemed a knee-slapper, it just means it’s so humorous that one collapses into laughter when they hear it, slapping their knee.

My grandfather used to slap whatever surface was near: the table, his knee, someone’s upper arm. He was a very enthusiastic laughter, and I always think of him when I hear this idiom.

Knee Slapper or Knee-Slapper: Should It Always Be Hyphenated?

You might see the term spelled both ways in a more casual setting or informal writing. However, knee-slapper with a hyphen is the correct and more accepted version. It’s a compound noun, and the hyphen helps keep the two words as one unit of meaning. So, keep them joined at the hip (or the hyphen)!

Knee-Slapper Origin and Etymology

Knee Slapper Ngram
Knee-slapper usage trend.

The origin of the phrase knee-slapper is not definitively pinpointed. However, it has been in use since the mid-1900s. Some sources suggest that the phrase originates from the physical action of slapping your knee when you hear something super funny. It’s one of those terms that emerged from observing a common physical reaction to humor.

Knee-Slapper Synonyms

  • Rib-tickler
  • Belly laugh
  • Crack-up
  • Hoot
  • Side-splitter

Examples of Knee-Slapper in a Sentence

Knee Slapper – Origin and Meaning 1

  • My grandpa told a knee-slapper about his youth, and we all burst into laughter.
  • I’m not sure if it was genuinely funny or if I was just tired, but that joke felt like a real knee-slapper.
  • Jancie has a total knack for telling knee-slappers at parties we go to.
  • We went to last night’s comedy show, which had a few good knee-slappers.
  • “If that story isn’t a knee-slapper, I don’t know what is!” exclaimed Tom.
  • The popular comedian ended his set with an unforgettable knee-slapper, as usual.
  • I’m always searching for a good knee-slapper to lighten the mood.
  • The movie had serious moments, but the knee-slappers made it worth watching.
  • Her book wasn’t meant to be a comedy, but it had its knee-slapper moments, regardless.
  • “I promise this next story is a knee-slapper,” she said, rubbing her hands together in glee.

A Final Chuckle

Understanding the term knee-slapper isn’t rocket science. It’s all about laughter and the kind that’s so hearty you might just find yourself clapping your palm against your knee. Now that you’re in on the joke, why not explore more idioms? They might not all be knee-slappers, but they’re sure to add some color to your words!