nui·​sance ˈnü-sᵊn(t)s How to pronounce nuisance (audio)
: harm, injury
relieving the nuisance of poisonous fumes from rural factoriesCollier's Yr. Bk.
: one that is annoying, unpleasant, or obnoxious : pest
My allergies are a nuisance in the springtime.
Weeds are a nuisance to the gardener.

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What is an attractive nuisance?

Nuisance is a fine example of a word that has taken on a weakened meaning. It has been in use in English since the 15th century, and for much of that time signified "harm" or "injury" rather than mere "annoyance" (the word came into our language from French, but it can be traced back to the Latin nocēre, meaning “to harm”). In the early 19th century nuisance began to see considerable use in reference to people or things that were obnoxious rather than injurious, and that meaning has become the prevalent one. We retain evidence of the word’s earlier "harm" sense, however, in the legal term attractive nuisance, which refers to an enticing thing or condition (such as an unattended ladder leaning against a house) that might attract a child and cause them injury.

Examples of nuisance in a Sentence

the new neighbor is threatening to become a nuisance, dropping in on us several times a day folding up this map correctly is such a nuisance
Recent Examples on the Web Photograph: Taiga Motors Jet skis can be a nuisance. WIRED, 18 Nov. 2023 Three of her four children are adolescents (aged 13, 15, and 17), and she’s saddened by the way society often views them as a nuisance, or even a threat. Annie Atherton, Washington Post, 27 Oct. 2023 Common allergy symptoms in kids are usually more of a nuisance than an emergency. Stacey Colino, Parents, 20 Sep. 2023 The plants with a reputation for being a messy nuisance can even be used in tasty desserts including the restaurant’s sea salt caramels and its light and sweet kelp cake. Laura Baisas, Popular Science, 26 Oct. 2023 There’s no question that cars parked in the same spot for days on end can be a nuisance and that vehicles that are actually abandoned can be a blight on a neighborhood. Michael Smolens, San Diego Union-Tribune, 25 Oct. 2023 The company claimed that her property encroached on their land, caused a nuisance, and impeded their development plans. Melissa Noel, Essence, 19 Oct. 2023 Some view beavers as a nuisance, but Lundquist told me that the tension really comes down to the fact that humans spent decades killing beavers and draining their native habitats. Ryan Fonseca, Los Angeles Times, 13 Sep. 2023 The bag itself rides on the wearer's back (close to your body), keeping your items safely out of the way without swinging everywhere and becoming a nuisance. Elizabeth Marino, Peoplemag, 12 Sep. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Middle English nusaunce, noisaunce "harm, damage, (in law) cause of annoyance or inconvenience," borrowed from Anglo-French nusance, noisance, from nuis-, nois-, nus-, stem of nuire, nure, noisir, nuser "to injure, damage, vex" (going back to Latin nocēre "to injure, harm") + -ance -ance — more at noxious

Note: The meanings of Anglo-French nuire and nusance have been influenced by partially overlapping forms of noier "to annoy, vex," an aphetic form of anoier, ennoier (see annoy).

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of nuisance was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near nuisance

Cite this Entry

“Nuisance.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


nui·​sance ˈn(y)üs-ᵊn(t)s How to pronounce nuisance (audio)
: an annoying or troublesome person, thing, or way of doing something

Legal Definition


nui·​sance ˈnüs-ᵊns, ˈnyüs- How to pronounce nuisance (audio)
: something (as an act, object, or practice) that invades or interferes with another's rights or interests (as the use or enjoyment of property) by being offensive, annoying, dangerous, obstructive, or unhealthful
attractive nuisance
: a thing or condition on one's property that poses a risk to children who may be attracted to it without realizing the risk by virtue of their youth
: a doctrine or theory employed in most jurisdictions: a possessor of property may be liable for injury caused to a trespassing or invited child by a condition on the property if he or she failed to use ordinary care in preventing such injury (as by fencing in a pool) and had reason to foresee entry by the child and if the utility of the condition was minor compared to the likelihood of injury declined to extend the doctrine of attractive nuisance…to moving trainsHoneycutt v. City of Wichita, 796 P.2d 549 (1990)

Note: The doctrine of attractive nuisance originated in an 1873 U.S. Supreme Court case, Sioux City & Pacific Railroad Co. v. Stout, 84 U.S. 657 (1873), involving a trespassing child injured by a railroad turntable; an early premise was that the attractive nuisance caused the trespass, and so by extension the owner was responsible for the trespass as well. Subsequent modification of the doctrine has focused on the possessor's duty to use care in preventing injury, whether a child is a trespasser or invitee.

common nuisance
: public nuisance in this entry
nuisance at law
: nuisance per se in this entry
nuisance in fact
: an act, occupation, or structure that is considered a nuisance in relation to its circumstances or surroundings a lawful business may be a nuisance in fact in a particular location

called also nuisance per accidens

compare nuisance per se in this entry
nuisance per se
: an act, occupation, or structure that is considered a nuisance regardless of its circumstances or surroundings a house of prostitution is a nuisance per se

called also nuisance at law

compare nuisance in fact in this entry
private nuisance
: something (as an activity) that constitutes an unreasonable interference in the right to the use and enjoyment of one's property and that may be a cause of action in civil litigation
public nuisance
: something that unreasonably interferes with the health, safety, comfort, morals, or convenience of the community and that is treated as a criminal violation declared that the landfill was a present and prospective public nuisance and ordered…operations to ceaseSCA Servs. v. Transportation Ins. Co., 646 N.E.2d 394 (1995)

called also common nuisance


Anglo-French nusaunce, from Old French nuire to harm, from Latin nocēre

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