Printable Version
Pronunciation: ni-di-gri-di Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: Smallest niggling details at the heart of a matter as opposed to a broad overview.

Notes: This word is a noun that may be used as an attributive adjective only, not in the predicate of a sentence, in other words, This is nitty-gritty but 'This is the nitty-gritty'. The qualitative noun is nitty-grittiness.

In Play: Most dictionaries ignore the words themselves, nitty and gritty, and define the word merely as 'the heart of a matter'. But these two words were chosen for a reason: both refer to tiny grains: "I like to stay on my white horse and leave the nitty-gritty of our finances for my wife to wade through." Again, it is the granularity at the heart of the thing: "Horace is good at client relations, but he leaves the day-by-day nitty-gritty of the business up to me."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a rhyming compound based on gritty, the adjective for grit. The sense of gritty is close to granular "fine-grained". Nitty is the adjective for nit "louse egg", which is probably the smallest thing we can see with the naked eye, so it emphasizes tininess. Grit is a Germanic word going back to PIE ghre(n)d-/ghro(n)d- "rub, grind" without the Fickle N. The same PIE word produced English groats. With the Fickle N the same PIE word emerged in English as grind. (So, we're down to the nitty-gritty of showing our gratitude to Daniel Obertance for recommending such a gritty Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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