nick·​el ˈni-kəl How to pronounce nickel (audio)
variants or less commonly nickle
: a silver-white hard malleable ductile metallic element capable of a high polish and resistant to corrosion that is used chiefly in alloys and as a catalyst see Chemical Elements Table
: the U.S. 5-cent piece regularly containing 25 percent nickel and 75 percent copper
: the Canadian 5-cent piece
: five cents
slang : a packet containing five dollars worth of an illicit drug (such as marijuana)

called also nickel bag

: a pass defense in football that employs five defensive backs

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web The researchers then made a battery cell with this electrolyte, a graphite anode and an NMC811 cathode, which is made of 80 percent nickel, 10 percent cobalt, and 10 percent manganese. IEEE Spectrum, 15 May 2023 The sourcing of nickel particularly has been in the spotlight. Yusuf Khan, WSJ, 11 May 2023 However, this type of nickel can’t currently be delivered against the LME contract. Diego Lasarte, Quartz, 21 Mar. 2023 Voisin, Jordan and starting Husky (nickel) safety Yam Banks — a first-team All-Sun Belt Conference pick who had a school-record six interceptions last season — are all also back for 2023, in effect giving the Jaguars four starting safeties for three positions. Creg Stephenson |, al, 17 Mar. 2023 Nickelback is a peptide made of 13 amino acids which bonds to two nickel ions. Jackie Appel, Popular Mechanics, 10 Mar. 2023 Lacy adds that most allergic reactions are caused by nickel sensitivity. Lisa Desantis, Glamour, 22 Feb. 2023 The group’s head of nickel and cobalt trading, Socrates Economou, is leaving the company, according to people familiar with the matter. Archie Hunter, Fortune, 9 Feb. 2023 Earth's core is surrounded by a fluid outer core of molten iron and nickel that is 1,500 miles thick. Jason Hahn, Peoplemag, 24 Jan. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'nickel.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


probably from Swedish nickel, from German Kupfernickel niccolite (mineral containing nickel arsenide), probably from Kupfer copper + Nickel goblin; from the deceptive copper color of niccolite

First Known Use

1755, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of nickel was in 1755

Dictionary Entries Near nickel

Cite this Entry

“Nickel.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
: 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
also nickle : the U.S. five-cent piece made of nickel and copper
: five cents


2 of 2 verb
nickeled or nickelled; nickeling or nickelling
: to plate with nickel

derived from German Kupfernickel "a compound of nickel and arsenic," literally "copper demon," from Kupfer "copper" and Nickel "demon"

Word Origin
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.

Medical Definition


nick·​el ˈnik-əl How to pronounce nickel (audio)
: a silver-white hard malleable ductile metallic element capable of a high polish and resistant to corrosion that is used chiefly in alloys and as a catalyst
symbol Ni
see Chemical Elements Table

More from Merriam-Webster on nickel

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