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    New Orleans — nightstick (n.)

    New Orleans

    founded 1718 as Nouvelle Orléans, in honor of French regent Philippe, duc d'Orléans (1674—1723). The name was Englished after the place was purchased by the U.S. in 1803.ETD New Orleans.2

    newsboy (n.)

    also news-boy, "boy who hawks newspapers on the street or delivers them to houses," 1764, from news (n.) + boy.ETD newsboy (n.).2

    newscast (n.)

    "a broadcast of news on radio or (later) television or the internet," 1930, from news + -cast, from broadcast.ETD newscast (n.).2

    newsgroup (n.)

    "internet discussion group within the Usenet system containing messages posted from users in different locations," by 1985, from news (n.), perhaps on the notion of sharing news of a particular topic, + group (n.).ETD newsgroup (n.).2

    newsy (adj.)

    "full of news, gossipy," 1832 from news (n.) + -y (2). Related: Newsily; newsiness.ETD newsy (adj.).2

    newsie (n.)

    1875, short for newsboy.ETD newsie (n.).2

    newsletter (n.)

    also news-letter, "report containing news intended for general circulation," 1670s, from news (n.) + letter (n.). It fell from use until it was revived 20c.ETD newsletter (n.).2

    newspaper (n.)

    "a sheet containing intelligence or reports of passing events, issued at short but regular intervals," 1660s, newes paper, though the thing itself is older (see gazette); from news (n.) + paper (n.).ETD newspaper (n.).2

    Newspeak (n.)

    name of the artificial language of official communication in George Orwell's novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four," 1949, from new (adj.) + speak (n.). Frequently applied to what is perceived as propagandistic warped English.ETD Newspeak (n.).2

    newsprint (n.)

    "cheap paper from pulp, used to print newspapers," 1903, from news (n.) + print.ETD newsprint (n.).2

    newsreel (n.)

    "short movie dealing with news and current events," 1916, from news (n.) + reel (n.).ETD newsreel (n.).2

    newsroom (n.)

    1817, "a reading room, a room where newspapers and sometimes magazines are kept for reading," from news (n.) + room (n.). By 1925 as "office in a newspaper where the news is produced."ETD newsroom (n.).2

    news-stand (n.)

    also newsstand, "a place at which newspaper, periodicals, etc., are sold," by 1865, from news (n.) + stand (n.).ETD news-stand (n.).2

    newsworthy (adj.)

    "of interest to the general public," 1932, from news (n.) + worthy (adj.). Related: Newsworthiness.ETD newsworthy (adj.).2

    newt (n.)

    "small, tailed, salamander-like amphibian," early 15c., neute, newte, a misdivision of an ewte (see N for other examples), a variation of Middle English evete (see eft). "Eft, though now only provincial, is strictly the correct form" [Century Dictionary]. OED notes that "the change of v to w is unusual."ETD newt (n.).2

    Newton (n.)

    unit of force, 1904, named in honor of Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727). Related: Newtonian.ETD Newton (n.).2

    New Wave

    1960, of cinema (from French Nouvelle Vague, late 1950s); 1976 as a name for the more restrained and melodic alternative to punk rock.ETD New Wave.2

    New Year's Eve

    "evening before the first day of the new year," c. 1300; "þer þay dronken & dalten ... on nwe gerez euen." The Julian calendar began on January 1, but the Christian Church frowned on pagan celebrations of this event and chose the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25) as its New Year's Day. The civic year in England continued to begin January 1 until late 12c., and even though legal documents then shifted to March 25, popular calendars and almanacs continued to begin on January 1. The calendar reform of 1751 restored the Julian New Year in England. New Year's was the main midwinter festival in Scotland from 17c., when Protestant authorities banned Christmas, and continued so after England reverted to Christmas, hence the Scottish flavor ("Auld Lang Syne," etc.). New Year's gathering in public places began 1878 in London, after new bells were installed in St. Paul's. In Pepys' day the turning of the year was celebrated at 1 a.m.ETD New Year's Eve.2

    New York

    former New Amsterdam (city), New Netherlands (colony), renamed after British acquisition in 1664 in honor of the Duke of York and Albany (1633-1701), the future James II, who had an interest in the territory. See York. Related: New Yorker. Latinized Noveboracensian "of or pertaining to New York" (1890) contains the Medieval Latin name of York, England, Eboracum. New York minute "very short time" attested by 1976.ETD New York.2

    New Zealand

    from Dutch Nieuw Zeeland, literally "new sea land," but chiefly a reference to the Dutch province of Zeeland. Discovered 1647 by Dutch explorer Abel Tasman and originally named Staaten Landt; the name was changed the following year by Dutch authorities.ETD New Zealand.2

    next (adj.)

    "nearest in place, position, rank, or turn," Middle English nexte, from Old English niehsta, nyhsta (West Saxon), nesta (Anglian) "nearest in position or distance, closest in kinship," superlative of neah (West Saxon), neh (Anglian) "nigh;" from Proto-Germanic *nekh- "near" + superlative suffix *-istaz. Cognate with Old Norse næstr, Dutch naast "next," Old High German nahisto "neighbor," German nächst "next."ETD next (adj.).2

    In reference to time by c. 1200. Adverbial ("next to, immediately after; almost, within a little of") and prepositional ("nearest to, immediately adjacent to") uses are from c. 1200. Phrase the next man "a typical person" is from 1857. Next-best "second best" is by 1670s.ETD next (adj.).3

    next-door (adv.)

    also nextdoor, "in or at the next house," 1570s, from noun phrase next door "nearest or adjoining house" (late 15c.), from next + door. As an adjective from 1660s. Noun meaning "the people living next door" is from 1855. Middle English dwellen at dores (late 14c.) meant "live next door."ETD next-door (adv.).2

    nexus (n.)

    1660s, "bond, link, interdependence between members of a series or group; means of communication," from Latin nexus "that which ties or binds together," past participle of nectere "to bind," from PIE root *ned- "to bind, tie."ETD nexus (n.).2

    Nez Perce

    native people of Idaho and vicinity, and their language, from French Nez Percé, literally "pierced nose." In reference to an early custom of the people of wearing shell ornaments in pierced septums.ETD Nez Perce.2


    abbreviation of no good, attested from 1838; variant n.b.g. for no bloody good is by 1903.ETD n.g..2

    niacin (n.)

    "pellagra-preventing vitamin in enriched bread," 1942, coined from first syllables of nicotinic acid (see nicotine) + chemical suffix -in (2). It was suggested by the American Medical Association as a more commercially viable name than nicotinic acid.ETD niacin (n.).2


    waterfall from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario, from a town name, perhaps from an Iroquoian language and meaning "a neck" (between two bodies of water); general sense of "a cataract, torrent" is attested from 1841; meaning " 'shower' of ringlets (true or false) in women's hair" is from 1864, also known as cataract curls.ETD Niagara.2

    nib (n.)

    1580s, "beak or bill of a bird," Scottish variant of neb "beak or bill of a bird." Perhaps influenced by nibble (v.). Meaning "point" (of a pen or quill) is recorded by 1610s (neb in this sense is from 1590s).ETD nib (n.).2

    nibs (n.)

    especially in His Nibs "boss, employer, self-important person," 1821, of unknown origin; perhaps a variant of nob (n.2) "person of high position."ETD nibs (n.).2

    nibble (v.)

    "to bite gently; eat by gnawing off small bits," c. 1500, not found in Middle English; perhaps from Low German nibbeln "to nibble, gnaw," related to Middle Low German nibbelen, Middle Dutch knibbelen "to gnaw," source of Dutch knibbelen "to cavail, squabble." Related: Nibbled; nibbling.ETD nibble (v.).2

    nibble (n.)

    1650s, "act of nibbling," from nibble (v.). As "a small bite, a morsel" from 1838.ETD nibble (n.).2

    Nibelungenlied (n.)

    German epic poem of 13c., literally "song of the Nibelungs," a race of dwarves who lived in Norway and owned a hoard of gold and a magic ring, literally "children of the mist," from Proto-Germanic *nibulunga-, a suffixed patronymic form from *nebla- (source of Old High German nebul "mist, fog, darkness," Old English nifol), from PIE root *nebh- "cloud." With lied "song" (see Lied).ETD Nibelungenlied (n.).2

    niblick (n.)

    "small, narrow-headed iron golf club," used to get the ball out of ruts or other bad places, 1857, of obscure origin.ETD niblick (n.).2


    central American republic, named for the region, visited 1522 by Spanish conquistador Gil González Dávila, who is said to have named it for a local native chieftain, Nicarao, with Spanish agua "water." Related: Nicaraguan.ETD Nicaragua.2

    nice (adj.)

    late 13c., "foolish, ignorant, frivolous, senseless," from Old French nice (12c.) "careless, clumsy; weak; poor, needy; simple, stupid, silly, foolish," from Latin nescius "ignorant, unaware," literally "not-knowing," from ne- "not" (from PIE root *ne- "not") + stem of scire "to know" (see science). "The sense development has been extraordinary, even for an adj." [Weekley] — from "timid, faint-hearted" (pre-1300); to "fussy, fastidious" (late 14c.); to "dainty, delicate" (c. 1400); to "precise, careful" (1500s, preserved in such terms as a nice distinction and nice and early); to "agreeable, delightful" (1769); to "kind, thoughtful" (1830).ETD nice (adj.).2

    By 1926, it was said to be "too great a favorite with the ladies, who have charmed out of it all its individuality and converted it into a mere diffuser of vague and mild agreeableness." [Fowler]ETD nice (adj.).3

    For sense evolution, compare fond, innocent, lewd, also silly, simple.ETD nice (adj.).4


    Mediterranean seaport of France, ceded to France in 1860 by Sardinia; ancient Nicaea, from Greek nikaios "victorious," from nikē "victory" (see Nike). Nizzard "a resident of Nice" is from Nizza, the Italian form of the city name.ETD Nice.2

    nicely (adv.)

    early 14c., niceli, "foolishly," from nice (q.v.) + -ly (2). In Middle English also "foolishly; stupidly; extravagantly; wickedly." From c. 1600 as "scrupulously;" 1714 as "in an agreeable fashion."ETD nicely (adv.).2

    niceness (n.)

    1520s, "folly, foolish behavior," from nice (q.v.) + -ness. Meaning "exactness" is from 1670s; that of "pleasantness" is from 1809.ETD niceness (n.).2

    Nicene (adj.)

    late 14c., "of or pertaining to Nicaea (Greek Nikaia, modern Turkish Isnik), city in Bithynia where an ecclesiastical council of 325 C.E. dealt with the Arian schism and produced the Nicene Creed. A second council held there (787) considered the question of images. The name is from Greek nikaios "victorious," from nikē "victory" (see Nike).ETD Nicene (adj.).2

    nicety (n.)

    late 14c., nicete, "folly, stupidity," a sense now obsolete, from Old French niceté "foolishness, childishness, simplicity," from nice "silly" (see nice). It underwent a sense evolution parallel to that of nice, arriving at "minute, subtle point" 1580s and "exactitude, accuracy" in 1650s. Phrase to a nicety "exactly, with great exactness" is attested from 1795.ETD nicety (n.).2

    niche (n.)

    1610s, "shallow recess in a wall," from French niche "recess (for a dog), kennel" (14c.), perhaps from Italian nicchia "niche, nook," which is said to be from nicchio "seashell," itself said by Klein, Barnhart, etc. to be probably from Latin mitulus "mussel," but the change of -m- to -n- is not explained (Century Dictionary compares napkin from Latin mappa). Watkins suggests that the word is from an Old French noun derived from nichier "to nestle, nest, build a nest," via Gallo-Roman *nidicare from Latin nidus "nest" (see nidus), but that, too, has difficulties. The figurative sense is recorded by 1725. Biological use dates from 1927.ETD niche (n.).2


    masc. proper name, from French Nicolas, from Latin Nicholaus, Nicolaus, from Greek Nikolaos, literally "victory-people," from nikē "victory" (see Nike) + laos "people" (see lay (adj.)). The saint associated with Christmas (died 326 C.E.) was a bishop of Myra in Lycia, patron of scholars, especially schoolboys. A popular given name in England in the Middle Ages (the native form, Nicol, was more common in early Middle English), as was the fem. form Nicola, corresponding to French Nicole. Colloquial Old Nick "the devil" is attested from 1640s (see Nick).ETD Nicholas.2

    nick (n.)

    "notch, groove, slit," mid-15c., nik, nyke, a word of unknown origin, possibly from a variant of Old French niche (see niche).ETD nick (n.).2

    Nick of time is attested by 1640s (nick of opportunity is 1610s), possibly from an old custom of recording time as it passed by making notches on a tally stick, though nick in the general sense of "critical moment" is older (1570s, Hanmer, who adds "as commonly we say") than the phrase. Nick (n.) specifically as "notch of a tally" is attested from late 15c.ETD nick (n.).3

    nick (v.)

    1520s, "to make a notch or notches in," from nick (n.). The sense of "to steal" is from 1734, probably from earlier slang senses of "to catch, take unawares, arrest" (1620s) or "to cheat, to win a game by cheating" (1540s.) The precise sense connection is unclear; Green's Dictionary of Slang suggests this sense represents a Romany word or else a metaphoric use of nick in the "notch" sense (compare score.) Middle Dutch has nicken, "to bend, to bow" (compare the sense evolution in crook (n.)). Related: Nicked; nicking.ETD nick (v.).2


    masc. proper name, familiar form of Nicholas. Saint Nick, for Saint Nicholas, is by 1811 in a nautical context (he is patron saint of sailors among others.)ETD Nick.2

    As "the devil," especially in the phrase Old Nick, by 1640s, but the reason for that is obscure; perhaps connected with nick (v.) in sense of "catch, seize" (compare Thief as an epithet of Satan, recorded c. 1500) or a shortening of Old Iniquity, a name for the Vice character in old morality plays sometimes used as an insult. It may also simply be a name: other evasive appellations for the devil from Scots dialect include Harry, Sandy, Carl, Smith, Neil, Wally and Bubba. Also compare nickel.ETD Nick.3

    nickel (n.)

    whitish metal element, 1755, the name was coined in 1754 by Swedish mineralogist Axel von Cronstedt (1722-1765) from shortening of Swedish kopparnickel "copper-colored ore" (from which it was first obtained), a half-translation of German Kupfernickel, literally "copper goblin" from Kupfer (see copper) + Nickel "goblin, rascal, fool" (a pet form of masc. proper name Nikolaus.)ETD nickel (n.).2

    Jacob Grimm suggests this is from the source of nixie (and compare pumpernickel). Later German sources (Kluge, etc.) connect the German word to St. Nicholas and the customs surrounding his day in Germany (for which see Krampus). Also compare English Old Nick "the devil;" for which see Nick). Yet the earliest uses of the word are only for a fool or a contemptible person, not a supernatural creature. According to OED (2nd ed., 1989), the ore was so called by miners because it looked like copper but yielded none. Compare fool's gold meaning "iron pyrite."ETD nickel (n.).3

    The meaning "coin made partly of nickel" is from 1857, when the U.S. introduced one-cent coins made of nickel to replace the old bulky copper pennies. The application to the five-cent piece (originally one part nickel, three parts copper) is from 1883; silver half-dimes served for this in the earlier currency.ETD nickel (n.).4

    To nickel-and-dime (someone) "make or keep (someone) poor by accumulation of trifling expenses," is by from 1964 (nickels and dimes "very small amounts of money" is attested from 1893).ETD nickel (n.).5

    nickelodeon (n.)

    1888 as the name of a theater in Boston; by 1909 as "a motion picture theater," from nickel "five-cent coin" (the cost to view one) + -odeon, as in Melodeon (1840) "music hall," ultimately from Greek oideion "building for musical performances" (see odeon). Meaning "nickel jukebox" is first attested 1938.ETD nickelodeon (n.).2

    nicker (v.)

    "to neigh," 1774, Scottish and North of England dialect, of imitative origin (see neigh). Related: Nickered; nickering.ETD nicker (v.).2


    alternative spelling of nickel (q.v.).ETD nickle.2

    nickname (n.)

    mid-15c., neke name, a misdivision of ekename (c. 1300), an eke name, "a familiar or diminutive name," especially one given in derision or reproach, literally "an additional name," from Old English eaca "an increase," related to eacian "to increase" (cognate with Old Norse auka-nefi, auknafn, Swedish öknamn, Danish ögenavn; see eke; also see N). As a verb, "to give a nickname to," from 1530s. Related: Nicknamed; nicknaming.ETD nickname (n.).2

    nicky-tam (n.)

    also nicky tam, "garter worn over trousers," 1911, Scottish, from a shortened, colloquial form of knickers + Scottish & northern English dialect taum, from Old Norse taumr "cord, rein, line," cognate with Old English team, the root sense of which appears to be "that which draws" (see team (n.)). Originally a string tied by Scottish farmers around rolled-up trousers to keep the legs of them out of the dirt.ETD nicky-tam (n.).2


    Latinized form of Greek Nikodēmos, from nikē "victory" (see Nike) + dēmos "people" (see demotic). In the New Testament, a member of the Sanhedrim who visited Jesus by night as an inquirer. After the death of Jesus he contributed aloes and myrrh for anointing the dead. Related: Nicodemical.ETD Nicodemus.2

    Nicorette (n.)

    proprietary name of a nicotine chewing gum used to reduce the urge to smoke, 1980, from nicotine + cigarette.ETD Nicorette (n.).2

    nicotine (n.)

    also nicotin, poisonous volatile alkaloid base found in tobacco leaves, 1819, from French nicotine, earlier nicotiane, from Modern Latin Nicotiana, the formal botanical name for the tobacco plant, named for Jean Nicot (c. 1530-1600), French ambassador to Portugal, who sent tobacco seeds and powdered leaves from Lisbon to France 1561. His name is a diminutive of Nicolas (see Nicholas).ETD nicotine (n.).2

    nicotinic (adj.)

    "of or pertaining to nicotine," 1873, from nicotine + -ic. Alternative nicotic is attested by 1847.ETD nicotinic (adj.).2


    "morbid effects of excessive use of tobacco," by 1873, from nicotine + -ism.ETD nicotinism.2

    nictation (n.)

    "the act of winking," 1620s, from Latin nictationem (nominative nictatio), noun of action from past-participle stem of nictare "to wink, blink" (see nictitate). Alternative form nictitation is from 1784.ETD nictation (n.).2

    nictitate (v.)

    "to wink," 1822, from Medieval Latin nictitatus, past participle of nictitare, frequentative of Latin nictare "wink, blink, signal with the eyes," related to nicere "to beckon," from PIE root *kneigwh- "to blink, to draw together (the eyes or eyelids)," source also of Gothic hniewan, Old High German nigan "to bow, be inclined." Related: Nictitated; nictitating (1713). Earlier form was nictate (v.), 1690s, from Latin nictare.ETD nictitate (v.).2

    nidicolous (adj.)

    of birds, "bearing young which are helpless at birth," 1896, from Modern Latin Nidicolae (1894), the zoologists' collective name for the species of birds having the young born in a more or less helpless condition, unable to leave the nest for some time and fed directly by the parent, from Latin nidus "nest" (see nest (n.)) + colere "to inhabit" (see colony). Contrasted to nidifugous birds (1902), whose young are well-developed and leave the nest at birth (from Latin fugere "to flee").ETD nidicolous (adj.).2

    nidification (n.)

    "nest-building, the act or art of constructing nests," 1650s, from Latin nidificatus, past participle of nidificare, from nidus "a nest" (see nest (n.)) + -ficare, combining form of facere "to make," from PIE root *dhe- "to set, put." Related: Nidify "to build a nest" (1650s).ETD nidification (n.).2

    nidorous (adj.)

    "steaming, reeking, resembling the odor of cooked or burnt meat," 1620s, from Latin nidorosus, from nidor "a steam, fumes, strong smell, aroma," a word of uncertain origin. Latin had nidoricupius "who loves the smell of cooking."ETD nidorous (adj.).2

    nidus (n.)

    "nest, breeding place," especially the case or cell formed by an insect or spider for reception of its eggs, 1742, from Latin nidus "a nest," from Old Latin *nizdus (see nest (n.)). Figurative use by 1807. Classical plural is nidi.ETD nidus (n.).2

    niece (n.)

    c. 1300, nece, "daughter of one's brother or sister; granddaughter; female relative," from Old French niece "niece; granddaughter" (12c., Modern French nièce), earlier niepce, from Latin neptia (also source of Portuguese neta, Spanish nieta), a more decidedly feminine form of neptis "granddaughter," in Late Latin "niece," fem. of nepos "grandson, nephew" (see nephew). Cognate with Old Lithuanian neptė, Sanskrit naptih "granddaughter;" Czech net, Old Irish necht, Welsh nith, German Nichte "niece."ETD niece (n.).2

    It replaced Old English nift, from Proto-Germanic *neftiz, from the same PIE root (Old English also used broðordohter and nefene). Until c. 1600 in English, niece also commonly meant "a granddaughter" or any remote female descendant or kinswoman.ETD niece (n.).3


    in reference to popularity ratings of TV and radio programs, 1951, named for U.S. market researcher Arthur Clarke Nielsen (1897-1980), founder of A.C. Nielsen Co., which evaluates viewership based on samplings of receiving sets.ETD Nielsen.2

    Nietzschean (adj.)

    1904, in reference to the ideas or followers of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). The surname is probably a diminutive of Nikolaus.ETD Nietzschean (adj.).2

    nieve (n.)

    "clenched fist" (northern and Scottish dialect), c. 1300, neve, from Old Norse hnefi (related to Norwegian dialectal neve, Swedish näfve, Danish næve), not found in other Germanic languages.ETD nieve (n.).2


    realm of the dead in Norse mythology, from Old Norse nifl- "mist; dark" (from Proto-Germanic *nibila-, from PIE root *nebh- "cloud") + heimr "residence, world" (from Proto-Germanic *haimaz, from PIE root *tkei- "to settle, dwell, be home").ETD Niflheim.2

    nifty (adj.)

    "smart, stylish, good-looking," 1868, of unknown origin, perhaps theatrical slang, first attested in a poem by Bret Harte, who said it was a shortened, altered form of Magnificat. Related: Niftily; niftiness.ETD nifty (adj.).2

    nig (n.)

    c. 1300, "stingy person," which is connected to niggard (q.v.). As an abbreviated form of nigger, the word is attested by c. 1832, in American English, in the "Jim Crow" song. It is noted in an 1879 British book on colonial household management as "a term too often applied ... to the Indian natives."ETD nig (n.).2


    masc. proper name; see Neil.ETD Nigel.2


    African nation, named for the river Niger, mentioned by that name 1520s (Leo Africanus), probably an alteration (by influence of Latin niger "black") of a local Tuareg name, egereou n-igereouen, from egereou "big river, sea" + n-igereouen, plural of that word. Translated in Arabic as nahr al-anhur "river of rivers."ETD Niger.2


    West African nation, named for river Niger, which runs through it, + country name ending -ia. Related: Nigerian.ETD Nigeria.2

    nigga (n.)

    also niggah, by 1925, representing southern U.S. pronunciation of nigger (q.v.).ETD nigga (n.).2

    niggard (n.)

    "mean or stingy person, miser," late 14c., nigard, nygard, nygart, also with a variant nigoun, nygun (c. 1300), a word of uncertain origin. The suffix suggests French origin (see -ard), but the root word is possibly from earlier nig "stingy" (c. 1300), which is perhaps from a Scandinavian source related to Old Norse *hniggw, related to hnøggr "stingy," from Proto-Germanic *khnauwjaz (source of Swedish njugg "close, careful," German genau "precise, exact"). Perhaps also related to Old English hneaw "stingy, niggardly," which did not survive in Middle English. A noun nig "niggardly person" is attested from c. 1300, but OED considers this unlikely to be the source of the longer word.ETD niggard (n.).2

    niggardly (adj.)

    "sordidly parsimonious, stingy," 1560s, from niggard + -ly (1).ETD niggardly (adj.).2

    As an adverb, "parsimoniously, grudgingly," from 1520s. Related: Niggardliness.ETD niggardly (adj.).3

    nigger (n.)

    1786, earlier neger (1568, Scottish and northern England dialect), negar, negur, from French nègre, from Spanish negro (see Negro). From the earliest usage it was "the term that carries with it all the obloquy and contempt and rejection which whites have inflicted on blacks" [cited in Gowers, 1965, probably Harold R. Isaacs]. But as black African inferiority was at one time a near universal assumption in English-speaking lands, the word in some cases could be used without deliberate insult. More sympathetic writers late 18c. and early 19c. seem to have used black (n.) and, after the American Civil War, colored person.ETD nigger (n.).2

    It was also applied by English colonists to the dark-skinned native peoples in India, Australia, Polynesia.ETD nigger (n.).3

    The reclamation of the word as a neutral or positive term in black culture (not universally regarded as a worthwhile enterprise), often with a suggestion of "soul" or "style," is attested first in the U.S. South, later (1968) in the Northern, urban-based Black Power movement. The variant nigga, attested from 1827 (as niggah from 1835), is found usually in situations where blacks use the word. Also compare nigra.ETD nigger (n.).4

    Used in combinations (such as nigger-brown) since 1840s for various dark brown or black hues or objects; euphemistic substitutions (such as Zulu) began to appear in these senses c. 1917. Brazil nuts were called nigger toes by 1896. Nigger stick "prison guard's baton" is attested by 1971. To work like a nigger "work very hard" is by 1836.ETD nigger (n.).5

    Slang phrase nigger in the woodpile "a concealed motive or unknown factor affecting a situation in an adverse way" [OED] is attested by 1800; Thornton's "American Glossary" (1912) defines it as "A mode of accounting for the disappearance of fuel," hence "an unsolved mystery." Nigger heaven "the top gallery in a (segregated) theater" first attested 1878 in reference to Troy, N.Y. Nigger-shooter "slingshot" is by 1876.ETD nigger (n.).6

    niggerdom (n.)

    "Negroes collectively," by 1855; see nigger + -dom.ETD niggerdom (n.).2

    niggerhead (n.)

    from nigger + head (n.). A term used formerly in the U.S. of various dark, more or less globular things, such as "cheap tobacco" (1843), "protruding root mass in a swamp" (1859), a type of cactus (1877), and the black-eyed susan (1893). Variant negro-head is attested from 1781.ETD niggerhead (n.).2

    niggle (v.)

    1590s (implied in niggling), "work in a finicky, fussy way; trifle, be employed in petty carping," a word of uncertain origin; possibly from a Scandinavian source (compare Norwegian dialectal nigla "be busy with trifles"), perhaps related to source of niggard. Related: Niggled; niggling; niggler.ETD niggle (v.).2

    nigh (adv.)

    "near, nearby, close together, adjacent," Middle English neigh, from Old English neah (West Saxon, Kentish), neh (Anglian), from Proto-Germanic *naehwa- (source also of Old Saxon nah, Old Frisian nei, Middle Dutch, Dutch na, Old High German nah, German nah, Gothic nehwa), of uncertain origin, with no cognates outside Germanic. The Old English progression was neah - near - niehsta, for "nigh - nigher - nighest." But the comparative near and the superlative nehst (see next) gradually evolved into separate words that were no longer felt as related to nigh. New comparative and superlative forms nigher, nighest developed 14c. as phonetic changes obscured the original relationships. As an adjective and preposition in Middle English.ETD nigh (adv.).2

    night (n.)

    late Old English niht (West Saxon neaht, Anglian næht, neht) "the dark part of a day; the night as a unit of time; darkness," also "absence of spiritual illumination, moral darkness, ignorance," from Proto-Germanic *nahts (source also of Old Saxon and Old High German naht, Old Frisian and Dutch nacht, German Nacht, Old Norse natt, Gothic nahts).ETD night (n.).2

    The Germanic words are from PIE *nekwt- "night" (source also of Greek nyx "a night," Latin nox, Old Irish nochd, Sanskrit naktam "at night," Lithuanian naktis "night," Old Church Slavonic nosti, Russian noch', Welsh henoid "tonight"), according to Watkins, probably from a verbal root *neg- "to be dark, be night." For spelling with -gh- see fight. The vowel indicates that the modern English word derives from oblique cases (genitive nihte, dative niht).ETD night (n.).3

    Thus in Old English combinations night was "the night before (a certain day or feast day);" compare German Weihnachten "Christmas," literally "holy night." In early times, the day was held to begin at sunset, so Old English monanniht "Monday night" was the night before Monday, or what we would call Sunday night; so saeterniht "Friday night." The Greeks, by contrast, counted their days by mornings.ETD night (n.).4

    To work nights preserves the Old English genitive of time. Night soil "excrement" (1770) is so called because it was removed (from cesspools, etc.) after dark. Night train is attested from 1838; night-school from 1520s; night-life "habitual nocturnal carousing" is attested from 1852.ETD night (n.).5

    nightcap (n.)

    also night-cap, late 14c., "covering for the head, worn in bed," from night + cap (n.). In the alcoholic sense, it is attested from 1818. American English sense of "final event in a sporting contest" (especially the second game of a baseball double-header) is by 1924.ETD nightcap (n.).2

    nightclub (n.)

    also night-club, "club open at night," 1894, from night + club (n.) in the social sense.ETD nightclub (n.).2

    night-crawler (n.)

    "large earthworm caught at night to be used as bait by anglers," by 1896, American English, from night (n.) + agent noun from crawl (v.).ETD night-crawler (n.).2

    nightfall (n.)

    "the coming on of night," 1700; see night + fall (n.).ETD nightfall (n.).2

    nightgown (n.)

    also night-gown, "loose gown for putting on at night," c. 1400, from night + gown.ETD nightgown (n.).2

    night-hawk (n.)

    from 1610s in reference to various birds, especially the nightjar, from night + hawk (n.). Figurative sense of "one who stays up and is active at night" is from 1818.ETD night-hawk (n.).2

    nightie (n.)

    1871, short for nightgown; originally a children's word.ETD nightie (n.).2

    nightingale (n.)

    "small migratory bird of the Old World, noted for the male's melodious song, heard by night as well as day," Middle English nighte-gale, from Old English næctigalæ, in late Old English nihtegale, a compound formed in Proto-Germanic (compare Dutch nachtegaal, German Nachtigall) from *nakht- "night" (see night) + *galon "to sing," related to Old English giellan "to yell" (from PIE root *ghel- (1) "to call"). With parasitic -n- that began to appear mid-13c. Dutch nightingale "frog" is attested from 1769. In Japanese, "nightingale floor" is said to be the term for boards that creak when you walk on them.ETD nightingale (n.).2

    French rossignol (Old French lousseignol) is, with Spanish ruiseñor, Portuguese rouxinol, Italian rosignuolo, from Vulgar Latin *rosciniola, a dissimilation of Latin lusciniola "nightingale," diminutive of luscinia "nightingale," which, according to de Vaan, "might be explained with haplology from *lusci-cania 'singing in the night' or 'blind singer', but this is speculative."ETD nightingale (n.).3

    nightjar (n.)

    short-billed nocturnal bird, goatsucker, 1620s, from night + jar (v.). So called for the "jarring" sounds made by the male when the female is brooding, which have been described as a "churring trill that seems to change direction as it rises and falls." An Old English word for it was nihthræfn "night raven."ETD nightjar (n.).2

    nightly (adj.)

    Middle English nightli, from Old English nihtlic "nocturnal, at night, occurring during or characteristic of the night;" see night + -ly (1). As an adverb, "every night," Middle English nihtlich (mid-15c.), from the adjective.ETD nightly (adj.).2

    night-light (n.)

    1640s, "faint light visible in the sky at night," from night + light (n.). As "small light used in rooms at night to keep them from total darkness" from 1851.ETD night-light (n.).2

    nightlong (adj.)

    "for the period of a night," Middle English nightlonge, from Old English nihtlang; see night + -long.ETD nightlong (adj.).2

    nightmare (n.)

    c. 1300, "an evil female spirit afflicting men (or horses) in their sleep with a feeling of suffocation," compounded from night + mare (n.3) "goblin that causes nightmares, incubus." The meaning shifted mid-16c. from the incubus to the suffocating sensation it causes. Sense of "any bad dream" is recorded by 1829; that of "very distressing experience" is from 1831.ETD nightmare (n.).2

    Cognate with Middle Dutch nachtmare, German Nachtmahr. An Old English word for it was niht-genga. An 11c. gloss gives, for Latin Echo, Anglo-Saxon wudumær, a "wood-mere."ETD nightmare (n.).3

    nightmarish (adj.)

    "resembling or affecting one like a nightmare," 1834, from nightmare + -ish. Related: Nightmarishly; nightmarishness.ETD nightmarish (adj.).2


    nursery talk, "good-night," 1896; form nighty-night is attested from 1876.ETD night-night.2

    night-owl (n.)

    "owl which flies at night," 1590s; applied since 1846 (American English) to persons who are up or out late at night. Compare night-hawk, also French hirondelle de nuit "prostitute," literally "night-swallow."ETD night-owl (n.).2

    nightshade (n.)

    "plant of the genus solanum," with white flowers and black poisonous berries, Middle English night-shade, from Old English nihtscada, literally "shade of night," perhaps in allusion to the berries; see night + shade (n.). A common Germanic compound, cognates: Dutch nachtschade, German Nachtschatten.ETD nightshade (n.).2

    night-shift (n.)

    1710, "garment worn by a woman at night," from night (n. ) + shift (n.2). The meaning "gang of workers employed after dark" is attested from 1839, from shift (n.1).ETD night-shift (n.).2

    nightspot (n.)

    also night spot, "nightclub," 1936, from night (n.) + spot (n.) "place."ETD nightspot (n.).2

    nightstick (n.)

    also night-stick, "policeman's or watchman's truncheon," 1880, from night + stick (n.). So called because it was carried on night patrols.ETD nightstick (n.).2

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