The Meaning Behind the New York Knick(erbocker)s

The most interesting question in basketball at this moment, lexicographically speaking, has to do with the New York Knickerbockers. (Sorry, LeBron James.) Now, before you start throwing knickknacks at your computer screen, indulge a brief explanation.

Knickerbocker was a common surname among the Dutch colonists of New York way back when it was New Amsterdam. The wonderful early American writer Washington Irving famously used it as a pseudonym in his “History of New York,” and Knickerbocker has since been another way of describing a New Yorker. So, unlike some sport team names which make no sense, the Knicks is rich with Big Apple history.

Should the New York Knicks be wearing knickers? The “loose-fitting short trousers gathered in at the knees” or “bloomerslike undergarment worn by women” are indeed a shortened form of knickerbocker. One theory claims that the garment was named after the illustrations in the above-mentioned Washington Irving book. Then again, this brief explanation risks turning into a linguistic knickknackatory — “a collection of knickknacks.” So consider this the end before we reach the proverbial knickpoint.


  1. Minnesota Lynx -  December 28, 2015 - 4:56 pm

    I really hope I have read about this months ago.

  2. wolf tamer and iron miner -  March 12, 2014 - 3:17 am

    There’s an ice cream called knickerbocker glory.

  3. jack lane -  September 17, 2011 - 8:13 am

    Does anyone else know what “Knickerbocker liquor locker” is the answer to and from what game it is? (The gorgeous Chris Bendinger is the author.)

  4. sonia -  September 11, 2011 - 12:14 am

    Write about the expansion of NYC to the other boroughs (Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island)

  5. WordyGirl -  November 4, 2010 - 11:33 am

    I love this web site.

  6. Terry -  September 11, 2010 - 7:40 pm

    New Yorkers already know this because local sports reporters on the local network stations will call them “The Knickerbockers” every once and a while. Marv Albert and Warner Wolf are among the old-timers who originated calling them by their full name in the 1970s.

  7. New Yorker -  September 11, 2010 - 2:06 pm

    I can just imagine the Knicks playing in knickers!!! Funny stuff!!!

  8. This Old Man -  July 9, 2010 - 2:41 pm

    what about ‘… knick knack paddy whack give a bone…’? any relevance?

  9. Lola -  July 9, 2010 - 11:38 am

    My dad lived near the Knickerbocker factory in Brooklyn, NY. I thought it was a factory that made stuffed animals!

  10. Robyn -  July 9, 2010 - 11:12 am

    What about the child’s handclap game…”Knickerbocker Knickerbocker #9 a man got drunk off a bottle of wine, he called the doctor and the doctor said…”?

  11. JadeyWeb -  July 9, 2010 - 9:40 am

    The Knickerbocker Brewery was owned by Jake Ruppert, who once owned the Yankees.

  12. miconr -  July 9, 2010 - 7:56 am

    I always thought the Knicks were named after the guy that owned them….same guy that owned the Knickerbocker Brewery?

  13. Anonymous -  July 9, 2010 - 7:37 am

    Ha, cool… always wondered about that! Thanks!


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