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1. a piece of clothing worn on a woman’s foot and leg, held up by suspenders

2. a large sock that children hang on their bed the night before Christmas that is filled with presents while they sleep

Origin and usage

The noun stocking started to be used in English to refer to a covering for the legs in the late 16th century. It is related to the earlier noun stock, which had the same meaning and was used by authors including Shakespeare but is now only used in some dialects. Both words derive from an Old English word ‘stocc‘ meaning log or tree trunk, possibly because legs were thought to resemble these. The expression ‘in your stocking (or stockinged) feet’ means wearing socks (or stockings) but not shoes and is usually used when referring to someone’s height. Apart from this idiomatic use, the adjective stockinged is used mainly in combination with other words in expressions such as ‘black-stockinged‘ or ‘silk-stockinged‘.


The practice of hanging up a stocking or similar receptacle to be filled with presents on the feast of Saint Nicholas (December 6) or on Christmas Eve (December 24) is said to be connected with the life of Saint Nicholas, an early Christian bishop in the Greek city of Myra. One of many tales about his generosity recounts how, after his offer to help the daughters of a poor man was rebuffed, the saint threw bags of gold in through the girls’ window. Some versions recount that the gold fell into stockings hung up to dry, leading eventually to the tradition whereby children leave out a stocking to be filled with gifts.


“In olden days, a glimpse of stocking Was looked on as something shocking. But now, God knows, Anything goes. ”
(Cole Porter, Anything Goes)

Related words

hose, nylons, tights

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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Macmillan Dictionary

Macmillan Dictionary

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