Green’s Dictionary of Slang

knock out v.

1. (also bang out) in intransitive uses.

(a) to do roughly or quickly, esp. of writing, to create, to make etc.

[UK]Dickens letter 19 Jan. Letters (1880) I 422: We may knock out a series of descriptions without much trouble .
[US]J. London letter 19 June in Bamford Mystery of Jack London (1931) 209: The day is a scorcher, and as soon as we can knock out about twenty letters as brief as this, we’re going swimming.
[US]Van Loan ‘Loosening Up of Hogan’ Ten-Thousand-Dollar Arm 156: He sat down at the piano and banged out some ragtime.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 277: Even comb and tissue paper you can knock a tune out of.
[US]J. Lait Broadway Melody 7: Write a verse that nobody will ever hear or remember, knock out a chorus that has a swing.
[US]H. Miller Tropic of Cancer (1963) 61: She knocks out two pairs of shoes a day.
[US]Ted Yates This Is New York 29 Mar. [synd. col.] ‘Barnett wants [illeg.] to knockout [sic] a column for the Associated Negro Press’.
[US]C. Himes ‘Let Me at the Enemy’ Coll. Stories (1990) 39: I’ll knock out my couple thousand all ricky.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 23/1: Bang out, [...] to typewrite; to write.
[UK]N. Cohn Awopbop. (1970) 103: Not in the same class as the stuff he’d once knocked out on a lazy afternoon.
[UK]J. McClure Spike Island (1981) 276: It got to the stage when I could sit at the typewriter and do their routine reports, and I’d knock all these out [...] while they were out.
[US]B. Hamper Rivethead (1992) 83: None of them had any real flair for knockin’ out the printed word.
[UK]C. Fowler Darkest Day (1998) 333: The first oil sketch [...] was knocked out on a manky old bit of board.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 11 Feb. 17: Ron can knock out a fugue with the best of them.
[US]J. Stahl Plainclothes Naked (2002) 131: Write a book, too. Bang out a tell-all, you’ll be the toast of the supermarket.

(b) (orig. Aus.) to earn a sum of money; e.g. knock out £200 per week; although orig. of food, in phr. knock out tucker.

[NZ]V. Pyke Story Wild Will Enderby (4th edn) I 62: By most of the neighbouring miners, they were regarded as two industrious young men who worked very hard for a bare living—‘just knocking out tucker’, as the phrase went .
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 16 June 26/1: There are about 300 people round about ‘Bung’ Arrow scratching out some kind of a precarious living – the licensed publican must, therefore, have some difficulty in paying the rent and rates and taxes, not to mention ‘knocking out tucker.’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 1 Oct. 26/3: Having got his company for practically nothing, it is hard lines if the battler-manager doesn’t knock out a couple of pounds a week over expenses.
[Ire]Joyce ‘Ivy Day at the Committee Room’ Dubliners (1956) 124: ‘And how does he knock it out?’ asked Mr O’Connor. ‘That’s another mystery.’.
[US]R. Lardner Big Town 3: At that time I was knocking out about eighteen hundred dollars per annum selling cigars.
[US]A. Kober Parm Me 24: I don’t know much he knocks out a year, but it must be in the heavy thousands.
[UK]T. Sutherland Green Kiwi 97: You can knock out a fiver a week.

(c) to obtain for oneself, e.g. knock out some sleep.

[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor III 413/1: I came here to betther myself, to knock out something betther.
[UK]J. Buchan Greenmantle (1930) 360: The car was good, and I handled her well [...] and often I knocked fifty miles an hour out of her.
[Ire]S. O’Casey Juno and the Paycock Act I: I’ll knock out a bit somewhere, never fear.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 25: I thought George was going to knock out some of the usual corn.

(d) to sell.

[UK](con. 1920s) J. Sparks Burglar to the Nobility 13: I was busy knocking out the mid-day Racing Pinks.
[UK]T. Taylor Baron’s Court All Change (2011) 63: [W]e’d knocked out a tola’s worth of Charge that afternoon.
[UK]G.F. Newman You Flash Bastard 174: You seem to forget what we owe him. I mean it; this, all this doesn’t all come by straight graft. We’d still be struggling in debt if I’d relied solely on knocking out cars.
[UK]J. Sullivan ‘Cash & Curry’ Only Fools and Horses [TV script] Oh we’ll knock that one out and all Rodney.
[UK]C. Newland Scholar 52: Garvey spent most of his time knocking out his duds.
[UK]J. Sweeney ‘Bad Days in Bakhmut’ in JohnSweeneyRoars 7 Sept. 🌐 The kebab guy [...] is ten sheets to the wind but he knocks out the best, tastiest kebab I have ever had, ever.

2. in transitive uses.

(a) to make someone bankrupt.

[UK]Sl. Dict. 210: Knock out [...] to make bankrupt; as a knocked-out backer or bookmaker. When a man cannot meet his engagements on the turf, he is said to be knocked out.

(b) to fail an examination candidate.

[UK]Partridge DSUE (1984) 656: late C.19–20.

(c) (US) to deprive someone, esp. of money.

[US]G. Devol Forty Years a Gambler 77: You have knocked me out of many a good dollar.
[UK]Sporting Times 9 June 1/4: This life that I am leading [...] this mixture of mashing and mafficking is slowly but surely knocking me out.
[US]M. Braly Shake Him Till He Rattles (1964) 112: He looked around at the scuffed and soiled sawdust, the beat-up tables [...] and thought that Dino would be smart to use a little soap and paint before the Health Inspectors knocked him out.

(d) to kill someone; thus knock-out man n.

[UK] in Puck (N.Y.) 29 July 347: Here I used to nick my rifle, / When I knocked out any white man [HDAS].
[US]E. Townsend Chimmie Fadden and Mr Paul 41: She says nobody knocked Napoleon out; dat he put himself in de hands of his frends, and dey put him on an island.
[UK]J.N. Hall Kitchener’s Mob 197: I’ll tyke me charnces down below w’en I gets knocked out.
[US](con. 1880s) H. Asbury Gangs of N.Y. 227: Said McGlon the day after the murder: ‘A guy ain’t tough until he has knocked his man out!’.
[UK]V. Davis Gentlemen of the Broad Arrows 171: He has been knocked out with a machine-gun.
[US]Henry Armstrong in Heller In This Corner (1974) 209: He was what one time was called the ‘knockout man’ for the gangsters. If you don’t pay up something they’d put a bomb under you. He used to do that.

(e) (orig. US) to surprise, overcome or defeat.

[US]Daily L.A. Herald 13 Aug. 2/3: An astonished person is ‘knocked out’’.
G.W. Peck How Private Peck Put Down the Rebellion 165: That letter knocked me out in one round.
[UK]P. Cheyney Dames Don’t Care (1960) 25: His wife is brought back an’ is knocked out by the news.
[UK]J. Curtis Look Long Upon a Monkey 39: That Valerie had shown up at all was wonderful. The first glimpse had nearly knocked him out.

(f) (esp. US black, also knock flat) to impress, to overwhelm, to delight.

[UK]Sporting Times 8 Feb. 5/3: Florence St. John is fairly knocking them out in America, her success in New York having been repeated ‘only more so,’ in Philadelphia.
[Aus]W.T. Goodge ‘A Snake Yarn’ in Bulletin 21 Jan. 14: ‘You talk of snakes,’ said Jack the Rat, ‘But blow me, one hot summer, I seen a thing that knocked me flat —’.
[US]Mencken letter 12 Nov. in Bode New Mencken Letters (1977) 38: I have no doubts about the next volume [...] you will knock them out with it.
[US]H.C. Witwer Classics in Sl. 29: Hamlet runs across ’em and immediately is knocked flat by a idea.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 11: When he played the blues he really knocked us out.
[US]L. Durst Jives of Dr. Hepcat (1989) 8: Guys and gals, it knocks me out to be able to elucidate before a group of real gone people that’s out of this world.
[UK]T. Taylor Baron’s Court All Change (2011) 97: ‘It really knocks me out, that does’.
[UK]G. Melly Owning Up (1974) 213: The remark which knocked us out was when one of the Chinese men shouted at another in a strong Scouse accent, ‘Der trouble wid youse is you’re yeller!’.
[UK]F. Norman Too Many Crooks Spoil the Caper 34: Ain’t ’e a scream, Iron Eyes – don’t ’e knock yuh out?
[UK]Indep. Information 21–27 Aug. 66: The smart graphics [...] and awesome special moves are sure to knock you out.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 28 Jan. 13: Obviously, I had heard of The Verve, and was knocked out to be offered the chance.

(g) (Aus.) in fig. use, to surpass.

[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 16 Sept. 5/5: Talk about yer London slums and / Awl there holes of Misery; / I have spotted things in Sydney / Knocks out anything I see.

(h) (US Und.) to arrest.

[Aus]Townsville Daily Bulletin (Aus.) 14 June 13: To be ‘knocked out’ means to be arrested.
[US]A.J. Pollock Und. Speaks.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 119/2: Knock out. 1. To arrest.

(i) to steal, esp. to steal everything from the place one is robbing.

[UK]P. Tempest Lag’s Lex. 116: knock out, to [...] To knock out a place or gaff, is to burgle it thoroughly, leaving it cleaned out of anything of value.

In phrases

knock oneself out (v.) (orig. US)

1. to have a very enjoyable time, to ‘let oneself go’, to amaze oneself.

[US] ‘Sl. among Nebraska Negroes’ in AS XIII:4 Dec. 317/1: To knock yourself out means to go the limit in some particular direction.
[US]C. Himes ‘Let Me at the Enemy’ in Coll. Stories (1990) 36: We was at the Creole Breakfast Club knockin’ ourselves out when this icky George Brown butts in.
[US]Babs Gonzales ‘The Be-Bop Santa Claus’ 🎵 Have a crazy, cool Christmas and knock yourself out!
[US] ‘Sl. of Watts’ in Current Sl. III:2.
[US]E.E. Landy Underground Dict. (1972).
[US](con. 1970s) G. Pelecanos King Suckerman (1998) 54: Do a hit if you want; knock yourself out.
[US]T. Dorsey Stingray Shuffle 26: Paul held one of the travel guides up [...] ‘Are these free?’ ‘Knock yourself out.’.
[US]A. Steinberg Running the Books 202: Knock yourself out [...] but watch out for Gallows. he’s kind of a character.
[US]D. Winslow ‘Paradise’ in Broken 318: ‘So do you mind if we look around?” “Knock yourselves out’.

2. to work very hard.

[US]J.H. O’Hara Pal Joey 59: They are knocking themselves out indevouring to sign some baby.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 110: You knock yourself out making great new music for the people, and they treat you like some kind of plague.
[US]J. Thompson Criminal (1993) 71: You’re a reporter and you knock yourself out on something.
[UK]T. Keyes All Night Stand 7: Maybe he feels like he wasted on the lovely little scrubbers we knock ourselves out for.
[US]R. Price Clockers 505: A lot of running around knocking myself out and feeling like a moke.

3. to worry.

[US]J. Thompson Savage Night (1991) 64: Was I knocking myself out over nothing?
[US]‘Ed Lacy’ Best that Ever Did It (1957) 22: I nodded. ‘But I don’t feel right about it.’ ‘Barney, stop knocking yourself out.’.

In exclamations

knock yourself out!

(US) have a good time!

[US]P. Crump Burn, Killer, Burn! 101: Knock yourself out, baby.
[US]P. Thomas Down These Mean Streets (1970) 133: ‘Knock yourself out.’ ‘Thankee kindly, suh,’ Brew said and continued chomping away.
[US]G. Cain Blueschild Baby 190: ‘You’re young yet, knock yourself out, there’ll be plenty of time for love’.
[US]Carson & Denham Arrest-Proof Yourself 20: Boogie on—go wild—knock yourself out.

SE in slang uses

In phrases

knock out of the box (v.) [baseball jargon]

(US) to defeat, to overcome, to kill.

[W.R. Morison ‘Surgery and Baseball in France’ in Harvard Alumni Bull. 21 June n.p.: The Harvard nine started off with a rush, scoring 8 runs in the first inning, and knocking the Canadian pitcher out of the box].
[US]C. Stoker Thicker ’n Thieves 124: Captain Wingard called me in. He couldn’t understand why Captain Cecil Wisdom, the personnel chieftain, who was going to knock Brenda out of the box, hadn’t taken any action.
[US]B. Schulberg On the Waterfront (1964) 182: You’ve got a hell of a chance to knock Johnny Friendly out of the box.
[US] E. Grogan Ringolevio 327: They can taste what it’ll be like when those few who own everything are knocked out of the box.
[US]NWA ‘Straight Outa Compton’ 🎵 I’m knocking niggers out of the box daily! You’re weekly, monthly & yearly!