'The bee's knees' is an expression which denotes that something is desirable or the best of its kind. It originated in America in the 1920s along with a number of other two-word expressions which were constructed in similar animal/anatomy format, although there were exceptions to this format.

Some further examples :

Assorted animals :

Felines :

While 'the bee's knees' is certainly slang and does indeed rhyme, it is not actually rhyming slang in the normal sense, since true rhyming slang consists of a phrase which rhymes with the word that it is substituted for, such as 'butcher's hook' for 'look'.


The Bee’s Knees is a variant of the gimlet, in which honey is used in place of sugar syrup. It takes a bit of work to mix, but the result is a smooth gin drink in which the lime juice melds the complex sweetness of the honey and the herbal notes of the gin. This drink was likely concocted in the halcyon days of the gimlet, the Roaring Twenties, and named after the slang phrase of the time. The lemon garnish for a lime drink is purely for color, I mean, who has ever seen a green bee?

In a separate glass, thoroughly mix the gin and honey.
Pour the resultant mixture and lime juice over crushed ice and shake.
Strain into a cocktail glass.
Garnish with a wheel of lemon.

I tend to mix this drink in pairs, doubling the ingredients, as making this cocktail takes a bit of effort. You want to make sure that the honey is thoroughly dissolved in the gin, or else the ice will catch it and become tainted.

In recent decades, as gin has fallen out of favor as a base for sweeter drinks, the Bee’s Knees has been varied to a (white) rum drink. If you should order this drink at a bar watch the bartender carefully to make sure he does not begin to mix Trader Vic’s Bee’s Kiss (a rum and cream drink), or a Stinger (brandy and crème de menthe).

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Bees do in point of fact have knees. And their knees do please in a way, appropriately nifty with respect to this expression. For the knees of the bees (on its hind legs at least) form what is called the pollen basket. That is where the bee carries the bits of pollen which it borrows from flowers, with tiny hairs on it's legs aiding it in holding steady to a gathered clump of the substance as it wends its way to its home hive. So the knees of the bees keep the pollen from a-fallin' so the bees can make some honey. Which we'll pay for. With our money.

And, naturally, as the bee wends its way home with this precious cargo, it will stop at a few other flowers to pick up a bit more here and a bit more there -- and as it does, its knees will fall a wee bit short of the task, dropping some of its pollen from this or that flower onto a one of the flower's mates -- and, presto, pollenization!!

Delightful as these posterior limb-type implements are, it remains a mystery whence came the expression of something grand being 'the bees knees.' It may well have come from nothing more than one dawdler's word-play catching on. But some speculation points to the expression being an abbreviation of sorts, a shortened form of 'B's and E's,' in turn derived from 'beginnings and endings' (the English translation of the much more ancient 'Alpha and Omega') or 'be alls and end alls.'

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