Student Dictionary

2 entries found for nickel.
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Main Entry: 1nick·el
Pronunciation: primarystressnik-schwal
Function: noun
Etymology: derived from German Kupfernickel "a compound of nickel and arsenic," literally "copper demon," from Kupfer "copper" and Nickel "demon"
1 : a silver-white hard metallic element that can be hammered and shaped and is capable of a high polish, resistant to wearing away, and used chiefly in alloys -- see ELEMENT table
2 a also nick·le : the U.S. five-cent piece made of nickel and copper b : five cents
Word History When copper miners in the German state of Saxony first dug out chunks of what is now known to be nickel ore, they thought it was copper. But even though it was reddish-brown like copper, the ore broke easily and did not seem to have any use. Because they were at first fooled, the Germans called this ore kupfernickel, meaning literally "copper demon" or "copper goblin." Kupfer is the German word for "copper" and nickel in German means "demon" or "goblin." Even though the metal turned out to be quite valuable, it kept its old name. For a while the term was copper nickel in English, and then simply nickel, for both the metal and the American five-cent coin made out of a combination of nickel and copper.

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