\ ˈner-ē \

Definition of nary 


: not any : not one I must have it back as I have nary other copy —Flannery O'Connor

nary a or nary an

: not a single survived the accident with nary a scratch

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Did You Know?

Nary, often used in the phrase "nary a" to mean "not a single," is an 18th century alteration of the adjectival phrase "ne'er a," in which "ne'er" is a contraction of "never." That contraction dates to the 13th century, and the word it abbreviates is even older: "never" can be traced back to Old English "nǽ fre," a combination of "ne" ("not" or "no") and "ǽfre" ("ever"). Old English "ne" also combined with "ā" ("always") to give us "nā," the Old English ancestor of our "no." "Ā," from the Latin aevum ("age" or "lifetime") and Greek aiōn ("age"), is related to the English adverb aye, meaning "always, continually, or ever. This "aye" (pronounced to rhyme with "say") is unrelated to the more familiar "aye" (pronounced to rhyme with "sigh") used as a synonym of "yes."

Examples of nary in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

In the dead of winter, most of Hope is shuttered, with nary a restaurant or a gas station to be found, let alone a WiFi connection or a dependable phone signal. Maya Wilson, Bon Appetit, "Love Is a Cold Cocktail in the Middle of Frigid Alaska," 12 Feb. 2018 Later, that same trail led us across a 2-mile-long, curving, sandy beach with nary a soul nor structure in sight before heading onward through rich farmland. Doug Hansen,, "Hiking Spain's wild coast," 12 July 2018 To his point, the program highlights of 2017 division winners produces nary a name worthy of a sideways glance. Bryce Miller,, "Cover your ears: Over-the-Line evolves, but the raunchy team names remain," 14 July 2018 This is a camper at its most stripped down, with nary a kitchen or bathroom in sight. Megan Barber, Curbed, "Tiny expandable camper costs just $4,500," 6 July 2018 But the real comedy comes from the video's remarkable original edit, which alternated perfectly between the male and female suspects' scenes, conveying unintended slapstick with nary a sound. Amy B Wang, ajc, "Cameras capture every angle of Canadian couple's snack-throwing, ceiling-shattering arrest," 1 July 2018 The House passed its bill on June 21 by a two-vote margin, with nary a Democratic vote, which didn’t bother House Republicans one bit. Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "Senate Clears Farm Bill, Setting Up Fight With House GOP Over SNAP," 28 June 2018 The pictures of dead soldiers on the TV made nary an impression. Paul Daugherty,, "TML: Summer of 1970 - Wedgies, wiffle ball and no reason to stay inside," 21 June 2018 Clear, still waters with nary a ripple breaking the surface hugged by ancient sandstone cliffs flecked with lush, green flora instantly transport you to a place of serenity. Carla Minsky, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Travel is Good for the Soul," 10 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'nary.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of nary

1848, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for nary

alteration of ne'er a

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Statistics for nary

Last Updated

17 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for nary

The first known use of nary was in 1848

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English Language Learners Definition of nary

: not one

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What made you want to look up nary? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


the setting in which something occurs

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