Printable Version
Pronunciation: nyu-sêns Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Someone or something that is annoying, pestering. 2. (Law) Anything that interferes with the legal rights of others.

Notes: This word has an unusual adjective, nuisancy, as a nuisancy series of spam from the same rawhide company. It is rarely used, making today's Good Word almost a lexical orphan. The noun itself is used as an adjective much more frequently in phrases like nuisance call, nuisance tax, and nuisance suit.

In Play: Anything that annoys us is a nuisance: "Responding to all these letters is such a nuisance, and I don't even have an underling I can assign the annoyance to." People can be nuisances, too: "The children are such nuisances, always begging for candy and ice cream, but I love them all the same." The difference between a nuisance and an eccentric is how much money you have in the bank.

Word History: Today's Good Word came to English from Old French (where else?) nuisance "nuisance, pollution", the noun from nuire, nuis- "to harm". French inherited nuire from its ancestor, the Latin verb nocere "to injure, harm". Latin, in turn, inherited the word from Proto-Indo-European nek-/nok- "death, die", a word that went into the creation of several other interesting words that English borrowed. Noxious is but one; others include innocuous, innocent, and obnoxious. Greek used the E-form of the PIE word in producing necrosis "death of tissue". An interesting twist in the history of this root is how it went into the making of nectar, the drink of the Greek gods. How? It was originally a compound noun, made up of nek- "death" + ter- "overcome" = "(something that) overcomes death". (Albert Skiles is no nuisance at all, but a prolific contributor of suggestions as good as today's very, very Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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