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

Examples of nickel in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In a recent study, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, discovered traces of arsenic, lead, mercury, nickel, copper, and iron in tampons—leaving many women wondering how safe their menstrual care products really are. Meg Walters, Glamour, 11 July 2024 The team ran tests for 16 heavy metals: arsenic, barium, calcium, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, iron, manganese, mercury, nickel, lead, selenium, strontium, vanadium and zinc. Sandee Lamotte, CNN, 11 July 2024 In fact, in Milwaukee, gas prices for the holiday should be about a nickel lower than a year ago, at about $3.37, according to Patrick De Haan, the gasoline analyst for GasBuddy, a gas price analysis website. David Clarey, Journal Sentinel, 3 July 2024 The Diablos also received contributions from newcomers such as nickel Brock deFries, linebacker Brady Bowman and safety Ryder Brown. Dan Albano, Orange County Register, 29 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for nickel 

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 23 Jul. 2024.

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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