Granny knot

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Granny knot
Granny knot.svg
NamesGranny knot, false knot, lubber's knot, calf knot, booby knot
Category Binding
Origin Ancient
Related Reef knot, thief knot, grief knot
Releasing Often jams
CaveatShould not be used as a bend. Inferior to reef knot for binding purposes, it can release suddenly and unpredictably.
ABoK #3, #80, #186, #464, #1206, #1405, #2553, #3786

The granny knot is a binding knot, used to secure a rope or line around an object. It is considered inferior to the reef knot (square knot), which it superficially resembles. Neither of these knots should be used as a bend knot for attaching two ropes together.


The granny knot is also called the false, lubber's, calf, and booby knot. Patterson's Nautical Encyclopedia calls it "old granny knot" and Sir Edwin Arnold calls it the "common or garden knot." The name granny is given in Vocabulary of Sea Phrases (Anonymous, 1799) and Roding pictures the knot in 1795.

The granny consists of two identical half knots, one tied on top of the other. It has but one practical purpose that I know of and that is to serve as a surgeon's knot. Formerly it was employed for tying up parcels in five-and-ten-cent stores, but the practice was given up and paper bags substituted as they were found to be simpler.


Called the "granny's knot" with references going back to at least 1849, the knot was so-called because it is "the natural knot tied by women or landsmen". [2] [3] It has also been suggested that rather than impugning the knot-tying skill of grandmothers, the name "granny" may be a corruption of granary after its possible use tying the necks of grain sacks. [4]


When attempting to tie a reef knot (square knot), it is easy to produce a granny knot accidentally. This is dangerous because the granny knot can slip when heavily loaded. A tightened granny knot can also jam and is often more difficult to untie than the reef knot. It is better to tie a reef knot in nearly all circumstances. One way to distinguish them is that in the reef knot each loop passes completely over, or completely under (not through) the neck of the other.

The reef knot is commonly taught as left over right, tuck under then right over left, tuck under. The granny knot is the first step repeated twice, left over right, tuck under. This is a very common mistake made by people learning to tie a reef knot.

Bourchier knot of heraldry Complete Guide to Heraldry Fig686.png
Bourchier knot of heraldry


In heraldry, the granny knot is known as the Bourchier knot, due to being a heraldic badge of the Bourchier family. [5]

See also

Related Research Articles

Overhand knot

The overhand knot, also known as a a knot and half knot, is one of the most fundamental knots, and it forms the basis of many others, including the simple noose, overhand loop, angler's loop, reef knot, fisherman's knot, and water knot. The overhand knot is a stopper, especially when used alone, and hence it is very secure, to the point of jamming badly. It should be used if the knot is intended to be permanent. It is often used to prevent the end of a rope from unraveling. An overhand knot becomes a trefoil knot, a true knot in the mathematical sense, by joining the ends.

Millers knot

A miller's knot is a binding knot used to secure the opening of a sack or bag. Historically, large sacks often contained grains; thus the association of these knots with the miller's trade. Several knots are known interchangeably by these three names.

Constrictor knot

The constrictor knot is one of the most effective binding knots. Simple and secure, it is a harsh knot that can be difficult or impossible to untie once tightened. It is made similarly to a clove hitch but with one end passed under the other, forming an overhand knot under a riding turn. The double constrictor knot is an even more robust variation that features two riding turns.

Thief knot Type of knot

The thief knot resembles the reef knot except that the free, or bitter ends are on opposite sides. It is said that sailors would secure their belongings in a ditty bag using the thief knot, often with the ends hidden. If another sailor went through the bag, the odds were high the thief would tie the bag back using the more common reef knot, revealing the tampering, hence the name. It is difficult to tie by mistake, unlike the granny knot.

A whipping knot or whipping is a binding of marline twine or whipcord around the end of a rope to prevent its natural tendency to fray.

Grief knot

A grief knot is a knot which combines the features of a granny knot and a thief knot, producing a result which is not generally useful for working purposes. The word grief does not carry its usual meaning but is a portmanteau of granny and thief.


Shoelaces, also called shoestrings or bootlaces, are a system commonly used to secure shoes, boots, and other footwear. They typically consist of a pair of strings or cords, one for each shoe, finished off at both ends with stiff sections, known as aglets. Each shoelace typically passes through a series of holes, eyelets, loops or hooks on either side of the shoe. Loosening the lacing allows the shoe to open wide enough for the foot to be inserted or removed. Tightening the lacing and tying off the ends secures the foot firmly within the shoe. The laces can be tied in different shapes, most commonly a simple bow.

Half hitch

The half hitch is a simple overhand knot, where the working end of a line is brought over and under the standing part. Insecure on its own, it is a valuable component of a wide variety of useful and reliable hitches, bends, and knots.

Surgeons knot

The surgeon's knot is a surgical knot and is a simple modification to the reef knot. It adds an extra twist when tying the first throw, forming a double overhand knot. The additional turn provides more friction and can reduce loosening while the second half of the knot is tied. This knot is commonly used by surgeons in situations where it is important to maintain tension on a suture, giving it its name.

Bottle sling

The bottle sling is a knot which can be used to create a handle for a glass or ceramic container with a slippery narrow neck, as long as the neck widens slightly near the top.

Bight (knot)

In knot tying, a bight is a curved section or slack part between the two ends of a rope, string, or yarn. A knot that can be tied using only the bight of a rope, without access to the ends, is described as in the bight. The term "bight" is also used in a more specific way when describing Turk's head knots, indicating how many repetitions of braiding are made in the circuit of a given knot.

Shoelace knot

The shoelace knot, or bow knot, is commonly used for tying shoelaces and bow ties.

Basket weave knot

The basket weave knots are a family of bend and lanyard knots with a regular pattern of over–one, under–one. All of these knots are rectangular and lie in a plane. They are named after plait-woven baskets, which have a similar appearance.

Reef knot Type of knot

The reef knot, or square knot, is an ancient and simple binding knot used to secure a rope or line around an object. It is sometimes also referred to as a Hercules knot. The knot is formed by tying a left-handed overhand knot and then a right-handed overhand knot, or vice versa. A common mnemonic for this procedure is "right over left; left over right", which is often appended with the rhyming suffix "... makes a knot both tidy and tight". Two consecutive overhands of the same handedness will make a granny knot. The working ends of the reef knot must emerge both at the top or both at the bottom, otherwise a thief knot results.

The reef knot or square knot consists of two half knots, one left and one right, one being tied on top of the other, and either being tied first...The reef knot is unique in that it may be tied and tightened with both ends. It is universally used for parcels, rolls and bundles. At sea it is always employed in reefing and furling sails and stopping clothes for drying. But under no circumstances should it ever be tied as a bend, for if tied with two ends of unequal size, or if one end is stiffer or smoother than the other, the knot is almost bound to spill. Except for its true purpose of binding it is a knot to be shunned.

Bourchier knot

The Bourchier knot is a variety of heraldic knot. It was used as a heraldic badge by the Bourchier family, whose earliest prominent ancestor in England was John de Bourchier, a Judge of the Common Pleas, seated at Stanstead Hall in the parish of Halstead, Essex. He was the father of Robert Bourchier, 1st Baron Bourchier (d.1349), Lord Chancellor of England. The various branches of his descendants held the titles Baron Bourchier, Count of Eu, Viscount Bourchier, Earl of Essex, Baron Berners, Baron FitzWarin and Earl of Bath. The knot should perhaps have been called the "FitzWarin knot" as according to Boutell (1864) the device was first used by the FitzWarin family, whose heir was the Bourchier family.

Chinese button knot

Chinese button knot is essentially a knife lanyard knot where the lanyard loop is shortened to a minimum, i.e. tightened to the knot itself. There emerges therefore only two lines next to each other from the knot: the beginning and the end. The knot has traditionally been used as a button on clothes in Asia, thus the name.

The Chinese Button Knot is worn throughout China on underwear and night clothes. Buttons of this sort are more comfortable to lie on and to rest against compared to common bone and composition buttons, and they cannot be broken even by the laundry.

A Chinese tailor ties the knot without guide, flat on his table. But one may be more quickly and easily tied in hand by a modification of the sailor’s method of tying his knife lanyard knot (#787). The two knots are tied alike, but they are worked differently.


  1. Ashley, Clifford W. (1944). The Ashley Book of Knots, p.220-21. Doubleday. ISBN   0-385-04025-3.
  2. Smyth, William Henry (2008) [1867], Sir Edward Belcher (ed.), The Sailor's Word-Book, Project Gutenberg, p. 346
  3. Melville, Herman (1849). Redburn.
  4. Budworth, Geoffrey (2000), The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Knots, New York: Lyons Press, p. 40
  5. Arthur Charles Fox-Davies, A Complete Guide to Heraldry (1909), pp.  390, 469.