\ ˈnän(t)s How to pronounce nonce (audio) \

Definition of nonce

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the one, particular, or present occasion, purpose, or use for the nonce
2 : the time being



Definition of nonce (Entry 2 of 2)

: occurring, used, or made only once or for a special occasion a nonce word

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Did You Know?


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."

Examples of nonce in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Most of the time, this doesn't happen, so the miner chooses another nonce and repeats the calculation until a winning block comes up. Timothy B. Lee, Ars Technica, "Bitcoin Gold, the latest Bitcoin fork, explained," 13 Nov. 2017 The reinstallation forces the client to reset packet numbers containing a cryptographic nonce and other parameters to their initial values. Dan Goodin, Ars Technica, "Serious flaw in WPA2 protocol lets attackers intercept passwords and much more," 16 Oct. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'nonce.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of nonce


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1884, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for nonce


Middle English nanes, alteration (from misdivision of then anes in such phrases as to then anes for the one purpose) of anes one purpose, irregular from an, on one — more at one

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Time Traveler for nonce

The first known use of nonce was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for nonce



English Language Learners Definition of nonce

: used or made only once or for a special occasion

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Spanish Central: Translation of nonce

Comments on nonce

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using a distributed computer network

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