\ ˈner-ē How to pronounce nary (audio) \

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 Nancy Pelosi, 79, is a light brunette with nary a stray gray. Author: Roxanne Roberts, Anchorage Daily News, "The senior citizens running for president and how they try to look younger," 10 Nov. 2019 Nancy Pelosi, 79, is a light brunette with nary a stray gray. Washington Post, "Can we talk about the senior citizens running for president and how they try to look younger?," 6 Nov. 2019 And the story is still set in 2005, with nary a cell phone in sight. Sydney Bucksbaum, EW.com, "Looking For Alaska stars on why the 2005 coming-of-age drama is actually timeless," 17 Oct. 2019 The ambition of the nation’s oldest civil rights statute was a broad stroke striving at equality, with nary a mention of any particular pleading burden. Eriq Gardner, The Hollywood Reporter, "Byron Allen v. Comcast: Supreme Court Race Case Could Reshape Bias Lawsuits," 8 Oct. 2019 Curiously, there is nary a mention of the impending move to Las Vegas. Chuck Barney, The Mercury News, "Raiders ‘Hard Knocks’ recap: Welcome to Gruden’s ‘nightmare’," 6 Aug. 2019 Backstreet performed with nary a musician in sight, using its multi-level stage as a visual playground. Mary Colurso | Mcolurso@al.com, al, "Does Birmingham still care about the Backstreet Boys? (Spoiler alert: Yes!)," 5 Sep. 2019 Davis deemed him the best man for the position, a notion Madden (class of 2006) supported with seven division titles, one Super Bowl win (XI) and nary a season under .500. Jon Wertheim, SI.com, "How the Influence of Al Davis Shaped the Modern NFL," 27 Aug. 2019 Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively are known for their delightful mutual trolling on social media, with nary a birthday or anniversary between them going unnoticed without a little good-natured fun flung one direction or the other. Krystin Arneson, Glamour, "Ryan Reynolds Just Trolled Blake Lively With Unflattering Photos for Her Birthday," 25 Aug. 2019

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

1746, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for nary

alteration of ne'er a

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Last Updated

10 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Nary.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nary. Accessed 10 December 2019.

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More Definitions for nary

How to pronounce nary (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of nary

: not one

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with nary

Comments on nary

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


to state or do over again or repeatedly

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