nui·sance | \ ˈnü-sᵊn(t)s , ˈnyü- \

Definition of nuisance 

1 : harm, injury relieving the nuisance of poisonous fumes from rural factoriesCollier's Yr. Bk.

2 : one that is annoying, unpleasant, or obnoxious : pest My allergies are a nuisance in the springtime. Weeds are a nuisance to the gardener.

Keep scrolling for more

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

The Colorado climate lawsuits involve a new application of an old principle Like the lawsuits filed in California and Rhode Island, the cases in Colorado invoke public nuisance law. Umair Irfan, Vox, "Why Colorado thinks it has a chance to make oil companies pay for climate change," 5 July 2018 Hailed by some as a public benefit, derided by others as a public nuisance, the scooters have been temporarily banned by the city starting Monday. Jessica Guynn, USA TODAY, "Only in San Francisco: Activists block Google buses with scooters to protest 'techsploitation'," 31 May 2018 Both party elders and rank-and-file lawmakers treated such rumblings as minor nuisances until the push arrived in the House. Gabriel Debenedetti, Daily Intelligencer, "Mega-Donor Tom Steyer Is Forcing Democrats to Talk Impeachment. Is It a Losing Strategy?," 25 May 2018 Lawyers for the oil companies have sought to dismiss the suits by San Francisco and Oakland, arguing among other things that they were premised on an overreaching interpretation of public-nuisance law. Miguel Bustillo, WSJ, "Judge Demands More Information from Oil Companies in Climate-Change Suits," 24 May 2018 Ousley and safety committee member Joe Salzgeber agreed that amending the city's nuisance law is the best direction to take. Brian Lisik/special To,, "Brunswick safety committee proposes new wildlife feeding law," 8 May 2018 Instead, the trophy has been seen as a nuisance to many top teams in the Premier League., "Tottenham Boss Pochettino Claims Winning FA Cup 'Won't Change Our Lives' Despite Trophy Drought," 19 Apr. 2018 But by the middle of the 20th century, growing populations of mustangs were seen by many Westerners as a nuisance. Bob Kustra And The Reader’s Corner Team, idahostatesman, "Reader’s Corner: A timely look at America’s mustangs and their place in the Western landscape | Idaho Statesman," 23 Mar. 2018 The protracted nuisance of having to deal with the police officer, then the traffic court, and then the insurance company. Ian Bogost, The Atlantic, "Driving Without a Smartphone," 10 July 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of nuisance

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for nuisance

Middle English nusaunce, noisaunce, from Anglo-French, from nuisir, nuire to harm, from Latin nocēre — more at noxious

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about nuisance

Phrases Related to nuisance

make a nuisance of oneself

Statistics for nuisance

Last Updated

17 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for nuisance

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for nuisance



English Language Learners Definition of nuisance

: a person, thing, or situation that is annoying or that causes trouble or problems


nui·sance | \ ˈnü-sᵊns , ˈnyü- \

Kids Definition of nuisance

: an annoying or troublesome person, thing, or situation


nui·sance | \ ˈnüs-ᵊns, ˈnyüs- \

Legal Definition of nuisance 

: 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

1 : 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

2 : 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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on nuisance

What made you want to look up nuisance? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a magnificent or impressive array

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Name that Food Quiz

Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!