Printable Version
Pronunciation: nay-say-êr Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A pessimist, a disparager, someone who constantly disagrees or otherwise expresses negative opinions. 2. An opponent, someone who opposes something. The opposite of a yea-sayer.

Notes: The common positive and negative interjections in the English language around the world are yes and no. However, in parts of Scotland and northern England, nay and yea (or aye) are often preferred. A nay-sayer then is the same as a no-sayer, except that nay-sayer has stuck in the language, making no-sayer unnecessary.

In Play: Generally, nay-sayers are considered pessimists who say "nay" to everything: "The nay-sayers in management make it impossible for any innovation in this company." However, this word can also be used for those who say "nay" to only one thing: "There are nay-sayers who think William Arami will never find a wife, but I think he will and that she will be lucky to have him."

Word History: The use of yea and nay is most prominent in Scotland and northern England because the Viking influence was strongest there. Nay is simply the English spelling of Danish nej "no". The Slavic language preferred the E variant to the O-variant of the Proto-Indo-European negative interjection, too. Russian ne means both "no" and "not". Yea is less clearly a borrowing, though it is similar to ja "yes" found in many Germanic languages, including Danish, Norwegian, and German. When these words were brought to the New World, they changed to yeah and naw, particularly in the Southern US states. (We are certainly happy that Jack Gibson said "yea" and not "nay" to the idea of suggesting today's very Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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