Knock up

This is one of those words that has very different meanings inside and outside the United States.

Inside the United States, a man can knock up a woman by making her pregnant. A woman can be knocked up.

Outside the United States, anyone can knock up someone else by doing something to wake him or her up. It can also mean to excite someone who is tired, to make or create something, or ask someone to come to a certain place.

Caution should be used with this term and a synonym is suggested for clearer meaning.


“Suddenly we just thought, maybe we should actually also tell them about how to get pregnant.” To put it another way, they’re subtly nudging kids to get knocked up. [Slate]

Radar hinted that Terry might not be Amy’s biological father, but something Deanna once said makes it sound like Terry knocked her up all those years ago. [Inquisitr]

His no-nonsense mom, Harriet (Julianne Nicholson), has kicked his hippie dad, Les (Ethan Hawke), out of the house for knocking up her friend. [Variety]

On election day they will switch to “knocking up” – making sure their supporters actually turn out and vote. [The Week]

Well, they did if they were rich. For a small fortune a flush Pharaoh could commission the scribes in the Temple to knock him up his own personal Book of the Dead (except it wasn’t called that then – the name was provided by a German scholar who came up with it in the mid-19th Century). [BBC]

The place is hopping, and there was me thinking that my usual Monday night routine of knocking up some dinner from the leftovers of the Sunday roast was the norm. [Independent Irish]

3 thoughts on “Knock up”

  1. In industrial towns in the UK – in times when most people did not have clocks or alarm clocks – there was a person employed to “knock up” workers in their houses. He would do so by knocking on the [upstairs] windows with a stick

    • Would you believe that… In the States, in Navy port cities, there were men with a similar role, “knocking up” Navy wives at times their spouses were at sea– hence the American version of the term.

      [Okay, that one’s a blatant falsehood, but that doesn’t stop some sailors from believing it about those [email protected]?&#% civilians!]

  2. Proud to be [British | American | Dutch | …], I say! If you are an American, proudly use American idioms. They’re neither inferior to, or worse, “wrong” compared to the British daffynitions. Likewise, if you’re from the larger Anglosphere, terribly influenced by The Kingdom or under its colonial masters … use Britishisms! Proudly.

    Yes, I am a bipartisan when it comes to English language use.



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