"notwithstanding," early 14c., neuer þe lesse; as one word from mid-14c., neuerþeles. The sense of never here is "not at all; none the," as in unmerged expressions such as never the wiser, never the worse. In the same sense Middle English also had never-less (early 14c.), neverthelater (c. 1200), never-later (late 14c.).