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N 

fourteenth letter of the English alphabet; in chemistry, the symbol for nitrogen.

In late Middle English a and an commonly were joined to the following noun, if that word began with a vowel, which caused confusion over how such words ought to be divided when written separately. In nickname, newt, and British dialectal naunt, the -n- belongs to a preceding indefinite article an or possessive pronoun mine.

Other examples of this from Middle English manuscripts include a neilond ("an island," early 13c.), a narawe ("an arrow," c. 1400), a nox ("an ox," c. 1400), a noke ("an oak," early 15c.), a nappyle ("an apple," early 15c.), a negge ("an egg," 15c.), a nynche ("an inch," c. 1400), a nostryche ("an ostrich," c. 1500). A manuscript from c. 1500 has a nylle for "an isle." My naunt for mine aunt is recorded from 13c.-17c. None other could be no noder (mid-15c.). My nown (for mine own) was frequent 15c.-18c. In 16c., an idiot sometimes became a nidiot (1530s), which, with still-common casual pronunciation, became nidget (1570s), which, alas, has not survived. Also compare nonce, pigsney. Even in 19c. provincial English and U.S., noration (from an oration) was "a speech; a rumor."

The process also worked in surnames, from oblique cases of Old English at "by, near," as in Nock/Nokes/Noaks from atten Oke "by the oak;" Nye from atten ye "near the lowland;" and see Nashville. (Elision of the vowel of the definite article also took place and was standard in Chancery English of the 15c.: þarchebisshop for "the archbishop," thorient for "the orient.")

But it is more common for an English word to lose an -n- to a preceding a: apron, auger, adder, umpire, humble pie, etc. By a related error in Elizabethan English, natomy or atomy was common for anatomy, noyance (annoyance) and noying (adj.) turn up 14c.-17c., and Marlowe (1590) has Natolian for Anatolian.  The tendency is not limited to English: compare Luxor, jade (n.1), lute, omelet, and Modern Greek mera for hēmera, the first syllable being confused with the article.

The mathematical use of n for "an indefinite number" is attested by 1717 in phrases such as to the nth power (see nth). In Middle English n. was written in form documents to indicate an unspecified name of a person to be supplied by the speaker or reader.

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Na 

chemical symbol for sodium, from Latin natrium (see sodium).

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NAACP 

abbreviation of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, first attested 1910. The organization was founded Feb. 12, 1909, as National Negro Committee.

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Naaman 
masc. proper name, biblical name of Aramean general cured of leprosy by Elisha, from Hebrew Na'aman, literally "pleasantness," from stem of na'em "was pleasant or lovely." Compare Naomi.
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nab (v.)

"to catch (someone) by a sudden grasp, seize suddenly," 1680s, probably a variant of dialectal nap "to seize, catch, lay hold of" (1670s, now surviving only in kidnap), which possibly is from Scandinavian (compare Norwegian nappe, Swedish nappa "to catch, snatch;" Danish nappe "to pinch, pull"); reinforced by Middle English napand "grasping, greedy." Related: Nabbed; nabbing. Nabbing-cull was old slang for "constable," and Farmer and Henley ("Slang and Its Analogues") has "TO NAB THE STIFLES = to be hanged."

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Nabataean (n.)

also Nabatean, c. 1600, "one of the Arab peoples dwelling in ancient times east and south of Palestine," builders of the rock city of Petra in modern Jordan, from Latin Nabataeus, Greek Nabataios; their name is of unknown origin.

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nabob (n.)

1610s, "deputy governor of an Indian province under the Mogul Empire," Anglo-Indian, from Hindi nabab, from Arabic nuwwab, honorific plural of na'ib "viceroy, deputy," from base n-w-b "to take someone's place." Also used colloquially of Europeans who came home from India having made a fortune there, hence "very rich man" (1764).

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nacelle (n.)

late 15c., "small boat," from Old French nacele "little boat, bark, skiff" (12c., Modern French nacelle), from Vulgar Latin *naucella, from Late Latin navicella "a little ship," diminutive of Latin navis "ship" (from PIE root *nau- "boat"). The original sense was soon obsolete. Modern meaning "gondola of an airship" is from 1901, a borrowing from French; extended to "cockpit of an aircraft" by 1914; later transferred to other similar housings and structures.

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nacho (n.)

according to "The Dallas Morning News" [Oct. 22, 1995] and other sources, named for restaurant cook Ignacio Anaya, who invented the dish in the Mexican border town of Piedras Negras in 1943. The masc. given name is from Latin Ignatius.

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