Printable Version
Pronunciation: nid-êr-ing Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun & Adjective

Meaning: A malicious coward (noun) or maliciously cowardly (adjective)

Notes: Today's Good Word is a bit outdated, but then so am I: being behind the times does not count you out. Besides, as the next section will show, we, unfortunately, still have use for this word. You might find it spelled nithing or nidderling in older literature, but today's spelling and pronunciation are the preferred. We have words for malicious people and for cowards but this word blends both these meanings as no other does.

In Play: Political campaigns in the US bring out the worst of nidderings: "I hate those niddering political ads with anonymous people criticizing the character of a candidate." We do, unfortunately, find nidderings around the office, too: "That niddering Lida Lott has been spreading vicious rumors about Benny Fischel behind his back in hopes of getting his promotion."

Word History: This word is probably a misreading and mispronunciation of Old English nithing (which still lurks around the margins of current English vocabulary). Nithing came to us from Old Norse (Viking) niðingr, derived from nið "envy, hatred". The root of this word seems to be purely Germanic, for we only find it in Germanic languages. In Old English it was nið "quarrel", and it survives today in Dutch nijd "envy" and German Neid "envy". The suffix -ing is also a common suffix among Germanic languages, though it rarely refers to individuals, as it does on niddering.

Dr. Goodword,

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