Green’s Dictionary of Slang

knocker n.1

[knock v.]

1. in sexual contexts.

(a) a promiscuous man, a whoremonger.

[UK]N. Field Woman is a Weathercock I ii: abra: My father is a Ninny, and my mother was a Hammer. capt. pouts: You should be a knocker, then, by the mother’s side.
[UK]Mercurius Fumigosus 16 13–20 Sept. 146: The City Knockers [...] met with a Regiment of Shee-Troopers [...] at first incounter, there had been old knocking, but that the Shee-Troopers yeelded upon quarter, delivering up their Arms, upon promise of their lives, some thrusts were made on both sides, but no great mischief done. [Ibid.] 25 Oct.–1 Nov. 190: A lusty Book-binder (being one of the City Knockers) [...] would undertake to bind for a Mistriss a Two-leav’d Horn-book in Buff, double guilt.
[UK]C. Cotton Virgil Travestie (1765) Bk I 50: Venus [...] Bore that old Knocker good Anchises.

(b) the (head of the) penis.

[UK]Motteux (trans.) Gargantua and Pantagruel (1927) II Bk IV 233: I perceived that every cock of the game used to call his doxy his hatchet; for with that same tool (this he said lugging out and exhibiting his nine-inch knocker) they so soundly and resolutely shove and drive in.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue ms. additions n.p.: Knocker [...] the Penis .
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
[UK]Partridge DSUE (1984) 656: mid-C.17–20.
J. Richardson Confessions of an Eng. Traveller 14: I entered the cunt slowly, wriggling my cock, threading my bulb through her cunt’s hairy lips- and finally my knocker was inside her cunt's lips, and the rest of my long round prick could easily enter.
G.M. Fraser Flashman & Redskins 54: Susie was the perfect fool for any chap with a big knocker.
[US]H. Rawson Dict. of Invective (1991) 227: The pregnant sense, however, is in keeping with the earlier use of knock to mean copulation and knocker to mean penis; with such derivative expressions as knocking-house, a brothel, and knocking-jacket, a nightgown.

2. in pl., as a part of the body.

(a) the testicles [they ‘knock together’ but note knackers n.].

[UK]Barrère & Leland Dict. of Sl., Jargon and Cant.
[US]H.N. Cary Sl. of Venery.
[US] in G. Legman Limerick (1953) 236: There was a young man of Coblenz / The size of whose balls was immense. / One day, playing soccer, / He sprung his left knocker, / And kicked it right over the fence.
[US]Randolph & Wilson Down in the Holler 103: Knocker is sometimes used to mean testicle.
[US] ‘Don’t Call Me’ in Oscar Brand Bawdy Songs and Backroom Ballads 63: I don’t want a bullet in my backside, / I don’t want my knockers shot away.
[US]San Diego Sailor 59: I reached over and got him by the nuts [...] He got back on the bed without my losing my grip on his knockers. [Ibid.] 83: The mauling he was giving my knockers helped some.
[UK]D. Powis Signs of Crime 190: Knockers Low expression meaning [...] a man’s testicles.

(b) (orig. US) the female breasts; occas. in sing.

[US](con. late 19C) N. Kimball Amer. Madam (1981) 206: You’ll pardon me, Mrs Brown. The tits, you got as fine a pair of knockers I ever seen.
[US]J. Smiley Hash House Lingo 25: Fix the knockers – look at the nice breasts on that woman.
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Men, Big World 34: She’s a Swedish kid with nice knockers but no brains.
[UK]G. Lambert Inside Daisy Clover (1966) 166: She bends her arms, clenches her fists over her knockers, and lets out her breath very sharply.
[US]T. Southern Blue Movie (1974) 96: And knocker [...] all the bare knocker you want . . . sucking those perfect pink nipples.
L. Dawson The Spy Who Came... 31: An absolutely sensational piece of crumpet [...] with a pair of knockers like the Great Orme.
[US]C. Hiaasen Skin Tight 191: I think you got bigger knockers.
[US]S. Morgan Homeboy 4: It sluiced between her knockers and torpedoed out between her legs.
[Aus]Bug (Aus.) July [Internet] Despite his affection for roaming golf courses, Fatty still has a fair pair of knockers.
[US]Mad mag. Jan. 48: [heading] Lindsay Lohan. Opportunity Knockers.
[US]Slate 20 Jan. [Internet] [headline] The Return of the Pert Knocker.
[UK](con. 1980s) I. Welsh Skagboys 30: Ah like a good pair ay knockers oan a bird.

3. a physically or socially superior individual.

(a) an outstandingly attractive person or thing.

[UK]L. Barry Ram-Alley III i: Comfort her teares and say her daughters matcht. With one that has a knocker to his father, An honest Noble Knight.
[UK]Middleton Chaste Maid in Cheapside II ii: They’re pretty children both, but here’s a wench Will be a knocker.
[US]St Louis (MO) Globe-Democrat 29 Apr. n.p.: Net, clean-cut, effective and plump, her figure was a knocker.
[UK]Bowyer & Strange ‘It’s a Little Bit of Sugar for the Bird’ [lyrics] When she wears my knickerbockers, Her calves are simply knockers, They’re quite a bit of sugar for the bird!

(b) (US, also k’nocka) the top person, the person in authority, often in comb., e.g. head knocker under head n., top knocker [their ‘striking’ appearance].

[US]Ade Artie (1963) 51: I’m goin’ to be the head knocker in the push.
[US]S. Lewis Main Street (1921) 414: And do you know what the animile was? He was a knocker!
[US]Kramer & Karr Teen-Age Gangs 127: Because Harry was always promoting something, the candy store proprietor had called him K’nocka, a Jewish word meaning a little shot acting like a big shot.

(c) (Aus.) the ideal, the best way.

[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 4 may 5/5: ‘Biggest shake to take the cliner, / That’s the knocker! safe and sound!’.

4. a form of hair dressing seen as resembling a door-knocker.

(a) ‘a Man’s hair tied behind in a Club’ (Grose, c.1786).

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue ms. additions n.p.: Knocker A Man‘s hair tied behind in a Club [...] I am sorry for your poor Lady said an Irishman to a Gentleman who had his hair Club’d. Who so, Answered he. Because quoth Paddy I see your knocker is tied up. Alluding to the Knocker of a Door, which is commonly tied up when any person is sick in the Houser.

(b) a form of pendant to a wig, similar to a pigtail.

[UK] ‘Sung in Fontainbleau’ in Songster’s Companion 77: My head is puff’d with Mareschal, And to my back a knocker.
La Belle Assemblée XVII. No. 106. 27: The physicians with their great wigs had disappeared, and had given place to those who wore a wig with a knocker, while a black velvet coat [...] and an ivory-headed cane were characterizing marks of their profession.
[UK]New Monthly Mag. XLIX 550: Pig-tails and ‘knockers’ superseded the ponderous ‘clubs’ .

(c) a small curl worn flat on the temples, a fashionable hairstyle at that time [abbr. door-knocker n. (2)].

[UK]Sam Sly 19 May 2/1: T. H———n, alias Moll H———n [...] not to vainly attempt to cultivate his knockers at the side of his head.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.

5. in context of communication.

(a) (US Und.) an informer or complainant.

[US]W.J. Kountz Billy Baxter’s Letters 20: Say, Jim, I’ve heard knockers in my time, but Estelle is the original leader of the anvil chorus.
[US]Daily Trib. (Bismarck, N.D.) 2 Apr. 2/3: Had the word ‘knocker’ been in Webster’s time as it is used today as a slang phrase, he would have undoubtedly defined it thus:- A poor unfortunate person [...] lacking in judgment, individuality and success themselves, they ‘knock’ and seek to destroy the success achieved by others.
[US]Morn. Tulsa Dly World (OK) 13 June 19/2: Knocker — A stool pigeon; to get information.
[US]Van Loan ‘Sporting Doctor’ in Taking the Count 22: I want to show these knockers where they get off.
[US]S. Lewis Babbitt (1974) 146: If [...] we do not stand at least tenth, then I’ll be the first to request any knocker to remove my shirt and to eat the same.
[US]D. Maurer Big Con 122: And they weren’t knockers either.
[US]Ragen & Finston World’s Toughest Prison 806: knocker – One who informs [...] The principal witness or complainant.

(b) (orig. US) a critic, esp. one who relishes making negative comments.

[US]F. Hutcheson Barkeep Stories 41: W’en de bloke gets troo makin’ his spiel I cuts in — not wantin’ t’ be a knocker er nottin’ like dat, y’ know.
[US]‘Hugh McHugh’ It’s Up to You 12: Percy used to be a dramatic critic [...] and he had the reputation of being able to throw the hammer farther than any one else in the ‘Knocker’s Union’.
[US]‘A-No. 1’ From Coast to Coast with Jack London 8: Many an envious ‘knocker’ had his blatant mouth shut up in short order by a persual of its pages.
[US]T. Wolfe Look Homeward, Angel (1930) 255: Where are all the Wise Guys now who said ‘I told you so?’ They’re all mighty glad to give Little Stevie [...] the Glad Hand when he breezes down the street. Every Knocker is a Booster now all right.
[US](con. 1919) Dos Passos Nineteen Nineteen in USA (1966) 518: Knockers and slackers always to carp and criticise.
[US]W. Winchell ‘On Broadway’ 10 Apr. [synd. col.] Over at the Hurricane some knockers were knifing another.
[Aus]L. Haylen Big Red 59: Knocking! Everybody around here is a life member of G.A.K.A. Great Australian Knockers’ Association. Membership free. Everyone joins.
B. Humphries in Tharunka 13 June 14/5: These knockers, in my book, are lower than the basic wage ladies and gentlemen. They’re as low as a snake's armpits.
[UK]M. Amis London Fields 128: I know the knockers take the piss, but there’s considerable prestige in the sport these days.
[UK]Guardian 13 July 19: How out of touch the knockers of Prescott are.
[UK]J. King White Trash 53: The knockers could say what they liked about the NHS but it worked.

(c) a criticism; negative comments; also as the knockers.

[UK]Boy’s Own Paper 10 Nov. 86: ‘Hear that Mortimer?’ cried Larkins. ‘No competition, my boy. There’s a knocker for you!’.
[UK]Galton & Simpson ‘Hancock in Hospital’ Hancock’s Half-Hour [Radio script] sidney: You don’t look too good to me. tony: Oh cor ... winkles, crisps and now the knockers.

6. (UK tramp) an arrest.

[UK]F. Jennings Tramping with Tramps 211: A Knocker – taken by the police.

7. in UK Und. uses.

(a) a gambler or prisoner who refuses to pay their debts (which cannot be enforced legally in the UK).

[UK]N&Q 12 Ser. IX 347: Knocker. Non-payer.
[UK]A. Baron Lowlife (2001) 172: If I didn’t pay up soon I would be branded as a knocker, a man who didn’t honour his debts.
[UK]S. McConville ‘Prison Language’ in Michaels & Ricks (1980) 525: Tobacco may [...] be bet, in which case care must be taken to avoid making a bet with a knocker or defaulter.
[UK](con. 1970s) N. ‘Razor’ Smith A Few Kind Words and a Loaded Gun 199: Those who did not pay their debts were known as ‘knockers’, or Tilbury dockers in rhyming slang.

(b) one who passes bad cheques or gains goods on credit — and fails to pay the bill.

[UK] ‘English Und. Sl.’ in Variety 8 Apr. n.p.: Knocker or shyster—Welsher.
[UK]R. Cook Crust on its Uppers 25: We’re knockers, that’s what we are. We swim into a shop in Bond Street. Need a tie? Have a dozen. Knock, morrie.

(c) (UK Und.) a scrounger.

[UK]B. Hill Boss of Britain’s Underworld 71: There were the usual run of pay-outs [...] The knockers and tappers who always had to be looked after.

8. see hard-hitter n.

9. see knocko n.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

knocker-face (n.) (also knocker-head) [reminiscent of an old-fashioned door knocker]

an ugly face, or the person who ‘owns’ it.

[UK]Sl. Dict.
[UK]A. Barrère Argot and Sl. 272: Monstrico, m. (familiar), ugly person, one with a knocker face.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.
knocker-gear (n.)

low-value goods that are sold door-to-door, mainly as a pretext for gaining an introduction to the owner, who may thus be defrauded of heirlooms and/or valuables.

[UK]P. Allingham Cheapjack 188: ‘As soon as I can lay me ’ands on a bit of gelt,’ he went on, ‘I’m going to lay it out in some good knocker gear. You can’t beat gear.’.
knocker-worker (n.)

a door-to-door pedlar.

[UK]Partridge DSUE (1984) 657: [...] C.20.

In phrases

dressed up to the knocker

dressed in one’s best clothes.

[UK]Leics. Chron. 24 May 12/4: In their eyes every Englishman’s a tramp, unless he’s dressed up to the knocker.
[UK]R. Barnett Police Sergeant C 21 258: A rya dressed up to the knocker passes and takes a good look at me.
[US]New Ulm Rev. 21 Mar. 7/3: Never mind [...] Another week or two, an we’ll be doin’ the toff around lime-us, dressed up to the knocker.
[US]Princeton Union (MN) 22 Nov. 7/1: Inside was a dona — a real lady, you understand, dressed up to the knocker.
live up to the knocker (v.) (also live up to the door)

to live up to one’s means.

[UK]Barrère & Leland Dict. of Sl., Jargon and Cant II 22/2: Live up to the door (popular) to live up to one’s means. A variant is to live up to the knocker.
on the knocker

1. (UK Und., also on the knock) touring houses, ostensibly to buy or sell goods, but spec. to trick or bully people into selling heirlooms, antiques etc. for minimal prices; thus the knocker (game), working as a fraudulent door-to-door salesman.

[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor I 425/1: ‘Do save all your old lumber for me.’ Of a sudden he begins searching his pockets, and exclaims, ‘Dear me, I haven’t enough change in my pocket, but I’ll soon settle that – my mate has it outside. I’ll just take a load out to the cart, and come back for the others with the money;’ and so he hooks it [...] and that’s what he calls having them on the knock.
[UK]Western Gaz. 18 Mar. 12/4: Oh! you’re on the knocker [...] Pocket-swag is the goods, ’cause it takes less carrying.
[UK]P. Allingham Cheapjack 186: The knocker’s the only game in winter.
[UK]D. Powis Signs of Crime 190: Knocker, on the Visiting houses to sell or purchase goods, but particularly seeking antiques from elderly spinsters and widows who can be bullied into selling cheaply.
[UK] in G. Tremlett Little Legs 10: When you go out on the knocker, you go from door to door, saying, ‘I’m a traveller . . . have you any gold or silver?’.

2. (Aus., also on the knob, on the knuckle) at once, on demand, esp. of cash payments, exactly.

[UK]O.C. Malvery Soul Market 142: ’Arf-a-crown a week, and down on the knuckle.
[UK]Eve. Teleg. (Dundee) 10 June 8/3: I walks right in to see Mr thingumabob, toot de sweet, all on the knocker, PDQ!
[UK]G. Ingram Cockney Cavalcade 108: He’ll pay on the knob, if he’s got any money on him.
[NZ]B. Crump Hang On a Minute, Mate (1963) 12: A pub that didn’t close at six on the knocker.
[Aus]F.J. Hardy Yarns of Billy Borker 102: Murphy was a good bookmaker. Gave a bit of credit during a bad trot and always settled on the knocker.
[NZ]McGill Dict. of Kiwi Sl. 66/2: knocker, phr. on the knocker punctual; originally ‘cash on the knocker’, meaning cash on demand, prompt payment required; eg ‘Crombie is invariably here on the knocker for council meetings, no matter how busy he might be.’.
[NZ]McGill Reed Dict. of N.Z. Sl. [as cit. 1988].

3. working as a door-to-door salesman.

[UK]J. Maclaren-Ross Of Love And Hunger 23: I been on the knocker meself and I know it’s no picnic.
overstep the knocker (v.)

(Aus.) to drink to excess.

[Aus]Truth (Perth) 26 Nov. 8/8: The stuff what bites an’ pinches / As it did the night before, / When you overstepped the knocker, / Which you've frequent done, I’m sure.
up to the knocker [sense 3a or fig. use of SE (door) knocker]

1. capable, up to a task.

[UK]C. Selby London by Night I ii: jack: How do you feel? ned: Not quite up to the knocker.
[UK]Derby Day 110: It’s a splendid turn out. ‘Right up to the knocker,’ as they say. I don’t do things by halves when I go out.
[UK]Burnley Gaz. 12 Aug. 3/5: He wer’ up to th’ knocker.
[UK]G. Leybourne ‘Parisien Harry’ in Comic Songs 10: That’s the proper sort of life [...] right up to the knocker, proper, and no mistake.
[UK]Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday 21 June 61: Ally’s Own Slang Dictionary. [...] Up to the Knocker.
[UK]E.J. Milliken ’Arry Ballads 23: I’m up to the knocker, I tell you.
[US]A.J. Boyd Shellback 24: He must [...] know his duty ‘up to the knocker’.
[Aus]J. Gunn We of the Never-Never (1962) 144: Got everything up to knocker, haven’t they?
[Ire]Joyce ‘Grace’ Dubliners (1956) 166: Weren’t some of the Popes – of course, not our present man, or his predecessor, but some of the old Popes – not exactly... you know... up to the knocker?
[Aus]‘William Hatfield’ Sheepmates 26: Not quite up to the knocker, Son?

2. fashionably dressed or over–dressed.

[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
[UK]Wild Boys of London I 106/2: The liveliest of our friends, the Dolphin, having once more put on his respectable dress, resolved to lose no time in putting himself forward [...] ‘Up to the knocker,’ said Hallelujah, beginning to grin at Sam.
[UK]Five Years’ Penal Servitude 243: She were a fine woman, and togged like a lady right up to the knocker.
[UK]J. Greenwood Tag, Rag & Co. 243: I shall have ’em all on to-morrow – tidy sort of weskit, cuffs, collar, and dicky – all up to the knocker.
[UK]D.C. Murray Rainbow Gold I 198: He’s dressed too [...] dressed up to the knocker.
[Aus]L. Stone Jonah 67: But now, gimme somethin’ new, if it’s only a bit o’ ribbon in me ’at, an’ I feel dressed up ter the knocker.
[UK]Nicholson & Smith Spend, Spend, Spend (1978) 221: Dressed up to the knockers I was.

3. in prime condition; enjoying oneself.

[UK] ‘’Arry at the Sea-Side’ in Punch 10 Sept. 111/1: Oh, I’m up to the knocker, I tell yer; fresh ’errins for breakfast, old pal, / Bottled beer by the bucket, prime ’bacca, and oh, such a scrumptious young gal.

4. completely.

[UK] ‘’Arry at the Play’ in Punch 2 Nov. in P. Marks (2006) 40: It suits me right up to the knocker.
[UK]Sporting Times 1 Mar. 2/2: ‘It was a spiff affair, I can tell you. Right up to the knocker’.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 5 June 1/4: Wotever they said they’d pay they paid up to ther knocker.
[Aus]J. Furphy Rigby’s Romance (1921) Ch. xxx: [Internet] I was edicated up to the knocker before ever I seen Nora.