Panties are a form of underwear, usually light and snug-fitting, designed to be worn by women or girls in the area directly below the waist. Typical components include an elastic waistband, a crotch panel to cover the genital area (usually lined with absorbent material such as cotton), and a pair of leg openings which, like the waistband, are often made of elastic. Panties have either no legs or in some cases very short ones. "Panties" is usually used in the plural—a single unit is a "pair of panties"—though "panty" is used in such derivatives as "panty liner and panty hose". The term was first use to describe small knickers, in 1924[1].



Women's panties or knickers
Women's panties or knickers
Various styles of panties

Panties are divided into various types based on such criteria as amount of rear coverage, width at the sides, and height at which they are worn. These categories are not necessarily distinct and usage may vary somewhat among brands.[2]

  • Briefs rise to the waist or just below the navel and have full coverage in the rear.
    • Classic (or full) brief - the sides extend below the hip
    • High-cut (French cut) brief - the sides are somewhat narrower
    • Boyleg briefs (or boyshorts) - styled after men's briefs and may have short legs extending below the crotch.
    • Control panties (or control briefs) - a special type of briefs designed to offer support and give a slimmer appearance; these usually contain a stretch material such as spandex and may extend above the waist.
  • Hipsters are similar to briefs, but are worn lower with the waistband around the hips.
  • Bikinis are also worn at the hips, but the fabric at the sides is narrower. In the string bikini, it disappears altogether to leave the waistband as a "string". The rear coverage of the bikini is not as full as with the brief. Bikini is the most widely worn style among women worldwide.
  • Tangas have full rear coverage, but the waistband is reduced to a narrow strip at the sides.
  • Thongs have a waistband similar to tangas, but the rear coverage is not as full. The crotch is extended to the back with a narrow strip of fabric fitting between the buttocks, which becomes wider toward the top.
  • The G-string is a thong with virtually no rear coverage, the narrow strip in the back extending from the crotch all the way to the waistband. It shows most of the buttocks.

Panties are made of a variety of materials and fabrics including satin, silk, pvc, cotton, nylon, mesh, lace, rawhide, leather, latex, lycra, and/or polyester. Construction is typically of two pieces (front and rear) joined by seams at the crotch and sides, often with an additional gusset in the crotch, and elastic at the waistband and leg-openings. Edible panties are sold in novelty or sex shops.

In British English, and in places such as the UK, Ireland, South Africa, India, and occasionally in other Commonwealth nations such as Australia and New Zealand, panties are often referred to as knickers. The term knickers is not generally used in the US and Canada, where the term "panties" is usually favored. In the UK, pants is also used, but can mean men's or women's underwear. This should not be confused with the North American usage of pants which are called trousers in the UK.

Alternate wording

In the English speaking world, in particular in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and other Commonwealth countries, and occasionally in the United States,[citation needed] knickers is a word that is used to describe women's and rarely men's underpants and undergarments, women's lingerie, and for sports pants sportswear. In the United States it is more commonly used as a short form for knickerbockers, a type of golfing pants, also called plus fours.

The word carries a naughty or playful connotation, which keeps it in use in the media. The word has entered the English language in many ways. The phrase 'Knickers to you' has evolved into a favourite way of telling someone that one doesn't care about them or their opinion. The phrase 'Don't get your knickers in a twist' is in common usage, as a way of telling someone to 'calm down' and 'don't get angry', regardless of which gender. The phrase 'Fur coat and no knickers' describes a woman who looks rich and glamorous, but is in fact not so classy. 'Oh knickers' is a mild expletive, which is used when something has gone wrong. The appellation 'tarty knickers' has come to be applied to women who dress in a way which is ostentatious or sexually provocative. French knickers describe a loose fitting boxer like underpants, which may be made of silk or satin, typically with a lace trim.

In older usage knickers referred to men's garments such as knickerbockers, also known as plus twos or plus fours in British English.[3] The term knickerbockers has become historic in British English but is used in North America.[3][4] The term "knickers" is still used to refer to "knickerbockers" in American English. However, the adoption of the term "knickers", in the 20th century, to denote a women's undergarment in English, has caused the use the term "knickers" and "knickerbockers", to become historic or at most restricted to a specific type of golfing pants.

In the 19th Century, George Cruikshank, whose illustrations are classic icons for Charles Dickens's works, also did the illustrations for Washington Irving's droll History of New York (published in 1809) when it was published in London. He showed the old-time Knickerbockers, Irving's fictitious Dutch colonial family, in their loose knee-length Dutch breeches. By 1859 relatively short loose ladies' undergarments, a kind of abbreviated version of pantalettes or pantaloons, were known as "knickers" in England, but this is often used as a general term for all women's underwear.

There are now many names for women's undergarments that are sometimes called knickers, such as panties, thongs, g-strings, briefs, shorts, tangas and others.

Other use

Knickers was also an early English term for toy marbles. It is etymologically related to the surname Knickerbocker (marble baker).[5]

See also


  1. ^ Jackie Stuart. History Drawers On. AuthorHouse. p. 62. ISBN 978-1-4567-8967-1. Retrieved 15 September 2011. 
  2. ^ Parkinson, Ann (2011-09-09). "Women's Panties - LoveToKnow Lingerie".'s_Panties. Retrieved 2011-09-13. 
  3. ^ a b Shorter Oxford English Dictionary 6th Ed., Oxford University Press, 2007
  4. ^ Roetzel, Bernhard: Gentleman: A Timeless Fashion. Könemann; Königswinter, 2004. ISBN 3-8331-1061-9
  5. ^ "Origin of the Game of Marbles". Retrieved 2011-09-13. 

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • panties — (n.) 1845, drawers for men (derogatory), dim. of PANTS (Cf. pants); meaning underpants for women or children first recorded 1908. Panty raid first attested 1952 …   Etymology dictionary

  • panties — [n] women’s underwear bikini, briefs, intimate things, lingerie, underclothes, undergarment, underpants, undies; concept 451 …   New thesaurus

  • panties — ► PLURAL NOUN informal ▪ legless underpants worn by women and girls; knickers …   English terms dictionary

  • panties — ☆ panties [pan′tēz ] pl.n. women s or children s legless underpants: also pantie [pan′tē] n …   English World dictionary

  • panties — noun (esp. AmE) ⇨ See also ↑knickers ADJECTIVE ▪ cotton, lace … OF PANTIES ▪ pair VERB + PANTIES ▪ wear …   Collocations dictionary

  • panties — ● panty, panties ou pantys nom masculin (anglais panties, culottes) Gaine culotte à jambes …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • panties — pan|ties [ˈpæntiz] n [plural] especially AmE a piece of women s underwear that covers the area between their waist and the top of their legs British Equivalent: knickers ▪ a pair of lacy panties …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • panties — [[t]pæ̱ntiz[/t]] N PLURAL: also a pair of N Panties are short, close fitting underpants worn by women or girls. [mainly AM] (in BRIT, usually use , knickers) …   English dictionary

  • panties — noun (plural) a piece of women s underwear that covers the area between their waist and the top of their legs; knickers BrE: a pair of lacy panties …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • panties — /pan teez/, n. (used with a pl. v.) underpants or undershorts for women and children. Also, pantie, panty. [1835 45, Amer.; pl. of PANTY] * * * …   Universalium

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