Definition of nonce
- for the nonce
Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP
Nonce first appeared in Middle English as a noun spelled "nanes." The spelling likely came about from a misdivision of the phrase "then anes." ("Then" was the Middle English equivalent of "the" and anes meant "one purpose.") The word was especially used in the phrase for the nonce, meaning "for the one purpose," as in Geoffrey Chaucer's "Prologue" of Canterbury Tales: "A cook they hadde with hem for the nones To boille the chiknes with the marybones." The adjective "nonce" did not exist in print until the publication in 1884 of the New English Dictionary on Historical Principles (which later became the Oxford English Dictionary). The editor of that dictionary, James Murray, created the term "nonce-word" as a label for "words apparently employed for the nonce."
: used or made only once or for a special occasion
What made you want to look up nonce? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).