"not in any situation or state; in no place," Old English nahwær "nowhere, not at all;" see no + where. Colloquial nowheres, with adverbial genitive, is by 1803.
As a noun, "non-existent place," 1831; "remote or inaccessible place," 1908. Hence such phrases as middle of nowhere (by 1848, seemingly originally a place you knocked someone or something into; see below), road to nowhere (by 1800 as "a way that is not a thoroughfare, a road leading to no destination;" the figurative use, "a program, course of action, etc. deemed likely to lead to no useful result," is by 1891).
Similar constructions were attempted with nowhat ("not at all," 1650s) and nowhen ("at no time, never," 1764), but they failed to take hold and remain nonce words. Middle English also had an adverb never-where (early 14c.).
THE COMET IS COMING.--The appearance of the great comet that is expected to knock all creation into the middle of nowhere about the 16th of June, has been indefinitely postponed on account of the great gift sale at 96 Third street, where every purchaser of 25 cents' worth of liniment receives a free gift as soon as the purchase is made .... [announcement in Louisville Daily Courier, Louisville, Kentucky, May 28, 1857]
updated on June 19, 2022