October 21, 2012
- nice (adjective)
- What does it mean?
- 1 a : finicky in tastes or habits b : relating to or noticing small differences2 : pleasing, agreeable3 : well behaved : respectable
- How do you use it?
- "It wasn't nearly such a nice cave as Mr. Tumnus's, Lucy thought -- just a hole in the ground but dry and earthy." (C. S. Lewis, _The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe_)
- Are you a word wiz?
The word "nice" has undergone great changes in meaning over the course of its history. What do you think its original meaning was?If you picked B, nice job! Back in the 14th century, when "nice" was first borrowed into English from French, it meant "foolish or stupid." This is not as surprising as it may seem, since it came through early French from the Latin "nescius," meaning "ignorant." During the Middle Ages, "nice" developed a range of meanings from "cowardly" to "particular, fastidious." Of these, only the "fastidious" sense is still used, in phrases such as "a nice distinction," for example. It was not until the 18th century that "nice" acquired its now familiar meaning of "pleasant, agreeable," and not until the mid-20th century that that meaning was considered standard in American English.