nob·​by ˈnä-bē How to pronounce nobby (audio)
nobbier; nobbiest
: chic, smart

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Nobby comes from the noun nob, which is used in British English to mean “one in a superior position in life.” (This nob may have begun as a slang word for “head,” but a possible connection to noble has been suggested as well.) Appearing in English in the 18th century, nobby was first used to describe people in society’s upper echelons. In a way similar to that of a more recent coinage, posh, it has extended in usage to describe the places frequented by such people, as well as their genteel customs. Charles Dickens, for example, wrote in his 1853 novel Bleak House of “[r]especting this unfortunate family matter, and the nobbiest way of keeping it quiet.”

Word History

First Known Use

1788, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of nobby was in 1788


Dictionary Entries Near nobby

Cite this Entry

“Nobby.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.

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