nugatory (adj.) Look up nugatory at
"trifling, of no value," c. 1600, from Latin nugatorius "worthless, trifling, futile," from nugator "jester, trifler, braggart," from nugatus, past participle of nugari "to trifle, jest, play the fool," from nugæ "jokes, jests, trifles," of unknown origin.
nugget (n.) Look up nugget at
1852, "lump of gold," probably from southwestern England dialectal nug "lump," of unknown origin [OED]. Another theory is that it is from a misdivision of an ingot. Transferred sense is from 1859.
nuisance (n.) Look up nuisance at
c. 1400, "injury, hurt, harm," from Anglo-French nusaunce, Old French nuisance "harm, wrong, damage," from past participle stem of nuire "to harm," from Latin nocere "to hurt" (from PIE root *nek- (1) "death"). Sense has softened over time, to "anything obnoxious to a community" (bad smells, pests, eyesores), 1660s, then "source of annoyance, something personally disagreeable" (1831). Applied to persons from 1690s.
nuke (n.) Look up nuke at
short for nuclear weapon, 1959, U.S. military slang (see nuclear). The verb is attested from 1962; the slang sense of "to cook in a microwave oven" is from 1987. Related: Nuked; nuking.
null (adj.) Look up null at
"void of legal force," 1560s, from Middle French nul, from Latin nullus "not any, none," from ne- "not, no" (from PIE root *ne- "not") + illus "any," diminutive of unus "one" (from PIE root *oi-no- "one, unique").
nullification (n.) Look up nullification at
in U.S. political sense of "a state's refusing to allow a federal law to be enforced," 1798, in Thomas Jefferson; from Late Latin nullificationem (nominative nullificatio) "a making as nothing," from past participle stem of nullificare (see nullify). Related: Nullificationist.
nullifidian (n.) Look up nullifidian at
1560s, from Latin nulli-, comb. form of nullus "no" (see null) + fides "faith" (from PIE root *bheidh- "to trust, confide, persuade").
nullify (v.) Look up nullify at
1590s, from Late Latin nullificare "to esteem lightly, despise," literally "to make nothing," from Latin nullus "not any" (see null) + comb. form of facere "to make" (from PIE root *dhe- "to set, put"). Related: Nullified; nullifying.
nulliparous (adj.) Look up nulliparous at
1859, from medical Latin nullipara "female who has never given birth," from nulli-, stem of nullus "no" (see null) + -para, fem. of parus, from parere "to bring forth" (from PIE root *pere- (1) "to produce, procure") + -ous.
nullity (n.) Look up nullity at
1560s, from French nullité (14c.) or directly from Medieval Latin nullitalis, from Latin nullus "not any" (see null).
numb (v.) Look up numb at
1550s, from numb (adj.). Related: Numbed; numbing.
numb (adj.) Look up numb at
c. 1400, nome, "deprived of motion or feeling," literally "taken, seized," from past participle of nimen "to take, seize," from Old English niman "to take, catch, grasp" (from PIE root *nem- "assign, allot; take"). The unetymological -b (to conform to comb, limb, etc.) appeared 17c. The notion is of being "taken" with palsy, shock, and especially cold. Figurative use from 1560s.
number (v.) Look up number at
c. 1300, "to count," from Old French nombrer "to count, reckon," from nombre (n.) "number" (see number (n.)). Meaning "to assign a number to" is late 14c.; that of "to ascertain the number of" is from early 15c. Related: Numbered; numbering.
number (n.) Look up number at
c. 1300, "sum, aggregate of a collection," from Anglo-French noumbre, Old French nombre and directly from Latin numerus "a number, quantity," from PIE root *nem- "assign, allot; take." Meaning "symbol or figure of arithmetic value" is from late 14c. Meaning "single (numbered) issue of a magazine" is from 1795. Meaning "dialing combination to reach a particular telephone receiver" is from 1879; hence wrong number (1886). The modern meaning "musical selection" (1885) is from vaudeville theater programs, where acts were marked by a number. Earlier numbers meant "Harmony; proportion calculated by number," and "Verses, poetry" [Johnson].

Number one "oneself" is from 1704 (mock-Italian form numero uno attested from 1973); the biblical Book of Numbers (c. 1400, Latin Numeri, Greek Arithmoi) so called because it begins with a census of the Israelites. Slang number one and number two for "urination" and "defecation" attested from 1902. Number cruncher is 1966, of machines; 1971, of persons. To get or have (someone's) number "have someone figured out" is attested from 1853. The numbers "illegal lottery" is from 1897, American English.
numbles (n.) Look up numbles at
"offal," from Old French nombles "loin of veal, fillet of beef, haunch of venison," from Latin lumulus, diminutive of lumbus "loin" (see lumbo-).
numbness (n.) Look up numbness at
1570s, from numb (adj.) + -ness.
numbnuts (n.) Look up numbnuts at
stupid or ineffectual person, by 1971, U.S. slang, from numb (adj.) + nuts "testicles;" with suggestion of impotence.
numbskull (n.) Look up numbskull at
1717, numskull, from num, old spelling of numb (adj.) + skull. Numskulled (adj.) is attested from 1706.
numen (n.) Look up numen at
"divine spirit, presiding divinity," 1620s, from Latin numen "divine will, divinity," literally "a nod," from nuere "to nod" (assent); see numinous.
numerable (adj.) Look up numerable at
1570s, from Latin numerabilis "that can be counted or numbered," from numerare "to count, number," from numerus "a number" (see number (n.)). Related: Numerably.
numeracy (n.) Look up numeracy at
1957, from numerate (adj.), from Latin numeratus "counted out," from numerus "a number" (see number (n.)) on model of literacy, etc.
numeral (n.) Look up numeral at
1520s, "word expressing a number," from Middle French numéral (late 15c.), from Late Latin numeralis "of or belonging to a number," from Latin numerus "a number" (see number (n.)). Meaning "figure standing for a number" is from 1680s. As an adjective, "expressing number," from 1520s. Old English numerals were formed as in German (seofan and twentig); the modern English pattern likely is from influence of French (vingt-sept).
numerate (v.) Look up numerate at
1721, "to count," from Latin numeratus "counted out," past participle of numerare "to count, to number," from numerus "a number" (see number (n.)). Related: Numerated; numerating.
numeration (n.) Look up numeration at
mid-15c., from Latin numerationem (nominative numeratio), noun of action from past participle stem of numerare "to count, number," from numerus "number" (see number (n.)).
numerator (n.) Look up numerator at
1540s, from Late Latin numerator "counter, numberer," agent noun from numerat-, past participle stem of numerare "to count, number," from numerus "a number" (see number (n.)).
numerical (adj.) Look up numerical at
1620s, from Latin numerus "a number" (see number (n.)) + -ical. Perhaps by influence of French numérique "of a number or numbers." Related: Numerically.
numerology (n.) Look up numerology at
1911, "study of the occult meaning of numbers," a hybrid from Latin numerus "a number" (see number (n.)) + Greek -logia (see -logy). A correct formation would be arithmology, from Greek arithmos "number." Related: Numerological; numerologist.
numerous (adj.) Look up numerous at
early 15c., from Latin numerosus "numerous," from numerus "a number" (see number (n.)). Related: Numerosity.
Numidia Look up Numidia at
ancient region in North Africa, roughly corresponding to modern Algeria, Latin, named for its inhabitants, the Numidians, whose name is related to nomad (n.).
numinous (adj.) Look up numinous at
"divine, spiritual," 1640s, from Latin numen (genitive numinis) "divine will," properly "divine approval expressed by nodding the head," from nuere "to nod," from PIE *neu- (2) "to nod" (source also of Greek neuein "to nod") + -ous.
numismatic (adj.) Look up numismatic at
1765, "pertaining to historical coins and coinage," from French numismatique (late 16c.), from Latin numismat-, stem of numisma "coin, currency," from Greek nomisma "current coin, money, usage," literally "what has been sanctioned by custom or usage," from nomizein "have in use, adopt a custom," from nomos "custom, law, usage," from PIE root *nem- "assign, allot; take." Related: Numismatical (1716). Earlier in the same sense was nummary (1650s), from Latin nummarius, from nummus "a coin."
numismatics (n.) Look up numismatics at
"study of coins," 1829, from numismatic. Also see -ics.
numismatist (n.) Look up numismatist at
"student of coins and coinage," 1799, from French numismatiste, from Latin numismat-, stem of numisma "current coin" (see numismatic).
nun (n.) Look up nun at
Old English nunne "nun, vestal, pagan priestess, woman devoted to religious life under vows," from Late Latin nonna "nun, tutor," originally (along with masc. nonnus) a term of address to elderly persons, perhaps from children's speech, reminiscent of nana (compare Sanskrit nona, Persian nana "mother," Greek nanna "aunt," Serbo-Croatian nena "mother," Italian nonna, Welsh nain "grandmother;" see nanny).
nuncheon (n.) Look up nuncheon at
mid-14c., "slight refreshment," originally taken in the afternoon, from none "noon" (see noon) + shench "draught, cup," from Old English scenc, related to scencan "to pour out, to give to drink," cognate with Old Frisian skenka "to give to drink, German, Dutch schenken "to give." Compare luncheon.
nuncio (n.) Look up nuncio at
papal envoy, 1520s, from older Italian nuncio (now nunzio), from Latin nuntius "messenger," from PIE root *neu- "to shout."
nunnery (n.) Look up nunnery at
late 13c., "nunhood," from nun + -ery. Meaning "convent of nuns" is from c. 1300. Meaning "house of ill fame" is attested by 1590s.
nuptial (adj.) Look up nuptial at
late 15c., from Middle French nuptial, or directly from Latin nuptialis "pertaining to marriage," from nuptiae "wedding," from nupta, fem. past participle of nubere "to marry, wed, take as a husband," related to Greek nymphe "bride," from PIE *sneubh- "to marry, wed" (source also of Old Church Slavonic snubiti "to love, woo," Czech snoubiti "to seek in marriage," Slovak zasnubit "to betroth"). Related: Nuptially.
nuptials (n.) Look up nuptials at
"marriage, wedding," 1550s, plural of nuptial.
Nuremberg Look up Nuremberg at
city in northern Bavaria, from German Nürnberg, Medieval Latin Norinberga. Second element is Berg "mountain," first element of unknown origin. Associated with the Nazis and site of mass party rallies every September during the Third Reich. The Nuremberg Laws (1935) barred Jews from German citizenship and forbid intermarriage with Aryans. The Nuremberg trials for war crimes and crimes against humanity were held 1945-6.
nurse (n.1) Look up nurse at
12c., nurrice "wet-nurse, foster-mother to a young child" (modern form from late 14c.), from Old French norrice "foster-mother, wet-nurse, nanny" (source of proper name Norris), from Late Latin *nutricia "nurse, governess, tutoress," noun use of fem. of Latin nutricius "that suckles, nourishes," from nutrix (genitive nutricis) "wet-nurse," from nutrire "to suckle" (see nourish). Meaning "person who takes care of sick" in English first recorded 1580s.
nurse (n.2) Look up nurse at
"dogfish, shark," late 15c., of unknown origin.
nurse (v.) Look up nurse at
1530s, "to suckle (an infant);" 1520s in the passive sense, "to bring up" (a child); alteration of Middle English nurshen (13c.; see nourish), Sense of "take care of (a sick person)" is first recorded 1736. Related: Nursed; nursing.
nursery (n.) Look up nursery at
c. 1400, "breeding, nursing," from Old French norture, norreture "food, nourishment; education, training," from Late Latin nutritia "a nursing, suckling," from Latin nutrire "to nourish, suckle" (see nourish). Meaning "place or room for infants and young children and their nurse" is from c. 1300. As a type of school, 1580s. Horticultural sense is from 1560s. Nursery rhyme is from 1832.
nursing (n.) Look up nursing at
1530s, verbal noun from nurse (v.). Meaning "profession of one who nurses the sick" is from 1860.
nursling (n.) Look up nursling at
also nurseling, "object of a nurse's care," 1550s, from nurse (v.) + -ling.
nurturance (n.) Look up nurturance at
1938, from nurture + -ance. Related: Nurturant.
nurture (v.) Look up nurture at
"to feed or nourish," early 15c., from nurture (n.). Related: Nurtured; nurturing.
nurture (n.) Look up nurture at
c. 1300, "breeding, upbringing," from Old French norture, nourreture "food, nourishment; education, training," from Late Latin nutritia "a nursing, suckling," from Latin nutrire "to nourish, suckle" (see nourish).
nut (n.) Look up nut at
"hard seed," Old English hnutu, from Proto-Germanic *hnut- (source also of Old Norse hnot, Dutch noot, Old High German hnuz, German Nuss "nut"), from PIE *kneu- "nut" (source also of Latin nux; see nucleus). Sense of "testicle" is attested from 1915. Nut-brown is from c. 1300 of animals; c. 1500 of complexions of women.

Meaning "crazy person, crank" is attested from 1903 (British form nutter first attested 1958; nut-case is from 1959); see nuts. American English slang sense of "amount of money required for something" is first recorded 1912. The nut that goes onto a bolt is first recorded 1610s (used of other small mechanical pieces since early 15c.). Nuts and bolts "fundamentals" is from 1960.