Nimrod Look up Nimrod at
"great hunter," 1712, a reference to the biblical son of Cush, referred to (Genesis x.8-9) as "a mighty hunter before the Lord." It came to mean "geek, klutz" by 1983 in teenager slang, for unknown reasons. (Amateur theories include its occasional use in "Bugs Bunny" cartoon episodes featuring rabbit-hunting Elmer Fudd as a foil; its possible ironic use, among hunters, for a clumsy member of their fraternity; or a stereotype of deer hunters by the non-hunting population in the U.S.)
Nimzo-Indian (adj.) Look up Nimzo-Indian at
type of defensive opening in chess, 1935, in reference to Aron Nimzowitsch (1886-1935), Latvian-born Jewish chess genius who popularized it, a variation of the Indian defense (late 19c.) attributed to Indian chess player Moheschunder Bannerjee.
Nina Look up Nina at
fem. proper name; in a Russian context it is a shortening of Annina, diminutive of Greek Anna. In a Spanish context, Niña "child, infant," a nursery word.
nincompoop (n.) Look up nincompoop at
1670s, nicompoop. Despite similarity [noted by Johnson] to Latin legal phrase non compos mentis "insane, mentally incompetent" (c. 1600), the connection is denied by etymologists because the earliest forms lack the second -n-. Weekley thinks first element may be a proper name, and cites Nicodemus, which he says was used in French for "a fool," or Nicholas. Klein says probably an invented word.
nine (n.) Look up nine at
Old English nigen, from Proto-Germanic *niwun (source also of Old Saxon nigun, Old Frisian niugun, Old Norse niu, Swedish nio, Middle Dutch neghen, Dutch negen, Old High German niun, German neun, Gothic niun "nine"), from PIE *newn "nine" (source also of Sanskrit nava, Avestan nava, Greek ennea, Albanian nende, Latin novem (with change of -n- to -m- by analogy of septem, decem), Lithuanian devnyi, Old Church Slavonic deveti (the Balto-Slavic forms by dissimilation of -n- to -d-), Old Irish noin, Welsh naw).

Nine to five "the average workday" is attested from 1935. Nine days has been proverbial since 14c. for the time which a wonder or novelty holds attention.
ninefold Look up ninefold at
Old English nigonfeald; see nine + -fold.
ninepins (n.) Look up ninepins at
1570s, from nine + plural of pin (n.). From the number of pins to be knocked down.
nines (n.) Look up nines at
in phrase to the nines "to perfection" (1787) first attested in Burns, apparently preserves the ancient notion of the perfection of the number as three times three (such as the nine Muses).
[T]he Book of St. Albans, in the sections on blasonry, lays great stress on the nines in which all perfect things (orders of angels, virtues, articles of chivalry, differences of coat armour, etc.) occur. [Weekley]
No one seems to consider that it might be a corruption and misdivision of to then anes, literally "for the one (purpose or occasion)," a similar construction to the one that yielded nonce (q.v.).
nineteen (n.) Look up nineteen at
late Old English nigontene (Anglian), nigontyne (West Saxon); see nine + -teen.
nineteenth (adj.) Look up nineteenth at
late 14c., nyntenthe; from nineteen + -th (1); a replacement or modification of nigonteoþa, from Old English nigon-teoða. Nineteenth hole "bar-room in a golf clubhouse" is attested from 1901.
nineties (n.) Look up nineties at
1857 as the years of someone's life between 90 and 99; from 1848 as the tenth decade of years in a given century; 1849 with reference to Fahrenheit temperature. See ninety.
Many still live who remember those days; if the old men cannot tell you the exact date, they will say: 'It were in the nineties;' (etc.) ["Chambers's Journal," Nov. 1, 1856]
In Britain, the naughty nineties was a popular name 1920s-30s for the 1890s, based on the notion of a relaxing of morality and mood in contrast to earlier Victorian times. In U.S., gay nineties in reference to the same decade is attested from 1927, and was the title of a regular nostalgia feature in "Life" magazine about that time.
The long, dreary blue-law Sunday afternoons were periods of the Nineties which no amount of rosy retrospect will ever be able to recall as gay, especially to a normal healthy boy to whom all activities were taboo except G. A. Henty and the bound volumes of Leslie's Weekly of the Civil War. [Life, Sept. 1, 1927]
ninetieth (adj.) Look up ninetieth at
late 14c., nyntithe, from ninety + -th (1); a replacement or modification of Old English nigenteoþan.
ninety (n.) Look up ninety at
Old English nigontig, from nine + -tig "group of ten" (see -ty (1)). Cognate with Old Frisian niontich, Middle Dutch negentich, Dutch negentig, German neunzig.
ninny (n.) Look up ninny at
"simpleton, fool," 1590s, perhaps a misdivision of an innocent (see N for other examples), or from the pet form of the proper name Innocent, with sense influenced by the name's literal meaning. There may be some influence in the word of Italian ninno "baby, child."
ninnyhammer (n.) Look up ninnyhammer at
also ninny-hammer, "simpleton," 1590s, from ninny + hammer (n.), but the signification of the second element is obscure.
ninth (adj.) Look up ninth at
c. 1300, modification (by influence of nine) of nigonðe, from Old English nigoða, nigend.
Niobe Look up Niobe at
in Greek mythology, a queen of Thebes, daughter of Tantalus, changed to a stone while weeping for her children (slain, after she boasted of them overmuch, by Artemis and Apollo); hence the name is used figuratively for bereavement and woe. The name is said to mean literally "snowy; snowy-bright."
niobium (n.) Look up niobium at
named by German scientist Heinrich Rose, who discovered it in 1844 in a mineral then called tantalum; so called because in Greek mythology Niobe was the daughter of Tantalus. With metallic element ending -ium.
nip (v.) Look up nip at
"to pinch sharply; to bite suddenly," late 14c., related to Middle Low German nipen "to nip, to pinch," German nippen, Middle Dutch nipen "to pinch," Dutch nijpen, Old Norse hnippa "to prod," but the exact evolution of the stem is obscure. Related: Nipped; nipping. To nip (something) in the bud in the figurative sense is first recorded c. 1600.
nip (n.1) Look up nip at
"small measure of spirits," 1796, shortening of nipperkin (1670s) "quantity of liquor of a half pint or less," possibly of Dutch or Low German origin (compare German Nipp "sip, taste") and related to nip (v.). Reinforced by nip (n.2) on notion of "fragment or bit pinched off" (c. 1600).
nip (n.2) Look up nip at
"a pinch; a sharp bite," 1540s, from nip (v.). Meaning "a chill in the weather" is from 1610s, probably so called for its effect on vegetation. Nip and tuck "a close thing" is recorded from 1832, perhaps from sailing or tailoring.
nipper (n.) Look up nipper at
"small boy," 1859, originally (1530s) a pickpocket who "pinched" other people's property; see nip (v.).
nipple (n.) Look up nipple at
1530s, nyppell, "teat, duct-laden extremity of a mammalian breast," alteration of neble (1520s), probably diminutive of neb "bill, beak, snout" (see neb), hence, literally "a small projection." In reference to an artificial device on an infant's bottle, from 1875. A 16c.-17c. slang term for a woman's nipples was cherrilets.
Nipponese Look up Nipponese at
"Japanese," 1859, from Nippon, Japanese word for "Japan," from ni(chi) "the sun" + pon, hon "source," which is said to be from Chinese for "rising sun-place." Derisive slang shortening Nip attested from 1942.
nippy (adj.) Look up nippy at
1898, in reference to a "biting" chill in the air, from nip (n.2) + -y (2). Related: Nippiness.
nirvana (n.) Look up nirvana at
1836, from Sanskrit nirvana-s "extinction, disappearance" (of the individual soul into the universal), literally "to blow out, a blowing out" ("not transitively, but as a fire ceases to draw;" a literal Latinization would be de-spiration), from nis-, nir- "out" + va- "to blow" (see wind (n.1)). Figurative sense of "perfect bliss" is from 1895.
nisei (n.) Look up nisei at
"American born of Japanese parents," from Japanese ni- "second" + sei "generation." Use limited to U.S. West Coast until c. 1942.
nit (n.) Look up nit at
Old English hnitu "louse egg, nit," from Proto-Germanic *hnitu- (source also of Norwegian nit, Middle Dutch nete, Dutch neet, Middle High German niz, German Niß), from PIE root *knid- "egg of a louse" (source also of Russian, Polish gnida, Czech knida; Greek konidos, genitive konis "egg of a louse").
nite (n.) Look up nite at
arbitrary respelling of night, attested from 1931.
niter Look up niter at
see nitre.
nitpick (v.) Look up nitpick at
"seek petty faults," also nit-pick, 1962, back-formation from earlier nitpicker. Related: Nitpicking; nitpicky.
nitpicker (n.) Look up nitpicker at
"pedantic critic," 1951; see nit (n.) + pick (v.).
nitrate (n.) Look up nitrate at
1794, from French nitrate (1787) or formed in English from nitre + -ate (3). Related: Nitrates.
nitre (n.) Look up nitre at
c. 1400, "native sodium carbonate," from Old French nitre (13c.), from Latin nitrum, from Greek nitron, which is possibly of Eastern origin (compare Hebrew nether "carbonate of soda;" Egyptian ntr). Originally a word for native soda, but also associated from Middle Ages with saltpeter (potassium nitrate) for obscure reasons; this became the predominant sense by late 16c.
nitric (adj.) Look up nitric at
1794, originally in reference to acid obtained initially from distillation of saltpeter; see nitre + -ic. Perhaps immediately from French nitrique. Known as aqua fortis, later acid spirit of nitre, then nitric acid. (1787) under the system ordered by Lavoisier.
nitrification (n.) Look up nitrification at
1827, from French nitrification (1787, de Morveau), from nitrifier (1777), from nitre (see nitre).
nitro (n.) Look up nitro at
abbreviation of nitroglycerine, 1935, slang.
nitro- Look up nitro- at
before vowels nitr-, word-forming element used scientifically and indicating "nitrogen, nitrate" or "nitric acid," from Greek nitron (see nitre).
nitrogen (n.) Look up nitrogen at
1794, from French nitrogène, coined 1790 by French chemist Jean Antoine Chaptal (1756-1832), from Greek nitron "sodium carbonate" (see nitro-) + French gène "producing," from Greek -gen "giving birth to" (see -gen). The gas was identified in part by analysis of nitre. Earlier name (1772) was mephitic air, and Lavoisier called it azote (see azo-).
nitroglycerine (n.) Look up nitroglycerine at
also nitroglycerin, "explosive oily liquid," 1857, from nitro- + glycerin. So called either because it was obtained by treating glycerine with nitric and sulfuric acids or because it is essentially a nitrate (glyceryl trinitrate).
nitrous (adj.) Look up nitrous at
c. 1600, from Latin nitrosus, from nitrum (see nitre). Originally "of nitre, pertaining to nitre;" more precise use in chemistry (designating a compound in which the nitrogen has a lower valence than the corresponding nitric compound) is from 1780s. Nitrous oxide attested from 1800.
nitty (adj.) Look up nitty at
"full of nits," 1560s, from nit + -y (2).
nitty-gritty (n.) Look up nitty-gritty at
"basic facts," 1961, knitty-gritty, American English, said to have been chiefly used by black jazz musicians, perhaps ultimately from nit and grits "finely ground corn." As an adjective from 1966.
nitwit (n.) Look up nitwit at
"stupid person," 1922, probably from nit "nothing," from dialectal German or Yiddish, from Middle Low German (see nix) + wit (n.).
nix (v.) Look up nix at
"cancel, refuse, forbid," 1903, from nix (n.). Related: Nixed; nixing.
nix (n.) Look up nix at
"nothing, none," 1789, from German nix, dialectal variant of nichts "nothing," from Middle High German nihtes, from genitive of niht, nit "nothing," from Old High German niwiht, from ni, ne "no" (from PIE root *ne- "not") + wiht "thing, creature" (compare naught).
nixie (n.) Look up nixie at
"water fairy," 1816 (introduced by Sir Walter Scott), from German Nixie, from Old High German nihhussa "water sprite," fem. of nihhus, from Proto-Germanic *nikwiz (source also of Old Norse nykr, Old English nicor "water spirit, water monster," also used to gloss hippopotamus), perhaps from PIE *neigw- "to wash" (source also of Sanskrit nenkti "washes," Greek nizo "I wash," Old Irish nigid "washes").
Nixon Look up Nixon at
surname, variant of Nickson, literally "son of (a man named) Nick, English familiar form of Nicholas.
no Look up no at
"negative reply," early 13c., from Old English na (adv.) "no, never, not at all," from ne "not, no" + a "ever." First element from Proto-Germanic *ne (source also of Old Norse, Old Frisian, Old High German ne, Gothic ni "not"), from PIE root *ne- "not." Second element from PIE *aiw- "vital force, life, long life, eternity" (see aye (adv.)).

As an adjective meaning "not any" (c. 1200) it is reduced from Old English nan (see none), the final -n omitted first before consonants and then altogether. As a noun from c. 1300. Phrase no can do "it is not possible" is attested from 1827, a locution of English-speaking Chinese noted 19c. in China, Australia and West Coast of U.S.
We repeated our advice again and again, but got no answer but a loud horse-laugh, and their national maxim of No can do: Europe fashion no do in China. ["Reminiscences of a Voyage to and from China," in "Paxton's Horticultural Register," London, 1836]
Construction no X, no Y attested from 1530s (in no peny no pardon). No problem as an interjection of assurance first attested 1963. No way as an expression meaning "it can't be done" is attested by 1968 (no way "by no means" is from c. 1400).
no-account (adj.) Look up no-account at
"worthless," 1845, American English, literally "of no account" (see account (n.)). The phrase of non acompte "of no value or importance" is from late 14c. Contracted form no'count is attested from 1853.