One way to categorise common knots to join two ropes together (i.e. bends) is:

  1. Bends tied as if there were only one rope: by holding the two ropes together (side by side, parallel, both ending in the same place and direction) and then tying a knot (e.g. a stopper knot) in the pair as if it were just a single rope. (These tend to produce a knot which lies to one side, helping the joined line run over ledges without snagging.) Some examples are the overhand bend (a.k.a. EDT) and the double-overhand bend.
  2. Bends tied by first tying a knot in one rope, then threading the second rope alongside it in the opposite direction. Some examples are the water knot and the rethreaded figure-eight bend.
  3. Other bends where the ropes do not trace side-by-side. Some of these are still symmetrical (e.g. double fisherman's bend) and some are not (e.g. sheet bend).

Are there any accepted names for these categories?

For example, the figure-eight has been used to derive knots in both the first and second categories, but one sometimes rolls apart while the other is strong. Is there a way to unambiguously label these apart?

Another example is that the double-overhand is used to derive knots in both the first and third categories (mentioned above), but in the first category it is sometimes confused with a different (and perhaps slightly weaker) knot: the one created by stacking two consecutive (single) overhand bends. How can this ambiguity be avoided?

  • 1
    An example hitch (not a bend): The Poachers Knot or Scaffold Knot is a double overhand noose. I'd used it long before i'd heard of any of those names. I called it a "half a double fisherman's knot". To the uninitiated, it sounds like a verbose/silly way of saying just a "fisherman's knot".
    – Martin F
    May 15, 2020 at 18:05

1 Answer 1


From the samples you give I assume you are a climber or use the knots in a related field.
Keep to the names accepted in the climber community, as that is how the knots (bends or whatever) are known.
The only working way to tell one knot apart from the others is to include a good picture of the knot, although in some cases a video may also work.

Knot names is a difficult subject as most are traditional and people resist renaming knots (bends and hitches are included in knots in these.)
When people tried in the past the new names got accepted by some people but the old names are still used, have been in print for a long time.

Include all the different languages and naming traditions and you will understand that getting 'logical naming' across the world is impossible.

The best is to learn the knots and their names, get a good knowledge on which is reliable in which situation.

I am a member of the International Guild of Knot Tyers, and have been since 1994, and on the forum (and meetings) there I have seen several discussions and all came to the conclusion that renaming knots is not going to happen.
The best alternative is a database (Wikipedia like) where each knot is listed under all its known names and with a good picture, and if available its number in each of a few books, the Ashley Book Of Knots being the best known one of them.

A start was made but I think people ran out of steam and it is now one of the many partly made projects on internet.

If you want to discuss this with people who look at knots for them being knots, this forum has many of them and many of the older discussions.

  • Even if the common names are unavoidable, is there any systematic way of spelling out a knot without a picture (akin to scientific names in biology, or IUPAC systematic nomenclature in chemistry)? ABOK# is one-dimensional, so conveys nothing about the structure.. Don't names for knot categories exist?
    – benjimin
    May 11, 2020 at 1:51
  • There have been several tries but traditions and the size of the field makes it impossible to bring change. It is not my field of speciality, I tie decorative knots with any number of strings, at this time from one to 140, so for me any 3D structure discussion lacks. In the forum I link to there has been discussions about better classification systems.
    – Willeke
    May 11, 2020 at 3:52
  • ABOK is 2D as is any printed book and are many internet pictures. Animated instructions and 3D imaging have started but still lack in showing essential detail of properly tightened knots.
    – Willeke
    May 11, 2020 at 4:01

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