: not any : not one
I must have it back as I have nary other copyFlannery O'Connor
nary a or nary an
: not a single
survived the accident with nary a scratch

Did you know?

Nary, most often used in the phrase "nary a" to mean "not a single," is an 18th-century alteration of the adjectival phrase "ne'er a," in which ne'er is a contraction of never. That contraction dates to the 13th century, and the word it abbreviates is even older: never can be traced back to Old English nǣfre, a combination of ne ("not" or "no") and ǣfre ("ever"). Old English ne also combined with ā ("always") to give us , the Old English ancestor of our no. Ā, from the Latin aevum ("age" or "lifetime") and Greek aiōn ("age"), is related to the English adverb aye, meaning "always, continually, or ever." This aye (pronounced to rhyme with say) is unrelated to the more familiar aye (pronounced to rhyme with sigh) used as a synonym of yes.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Caye Caulker, Belize There's nary a traffic light on this colorful, laidback island — a five-mile strip of land that's barely a 10-minute flight from Belize City. Anne Olivia Bauso, Travel + Leisure, 25 Mar. 2023 There was nary a mention of Blake Bailey, Roth’s authorized biographer, and his subsequent implosion along with the book. Karen Heller, Washington Post, 22 Mar. 2023 Variety overheard that dirtied patches of the carpet had to be swiftly recut and replaced behind the scenes so nary a nominee would notice the spots. Jazz Tangcay, Variety, 12 Mar. 2023 The nylon-spandex blend has nary a scratch after months of abuse, but is still plenty flexible for quick yoga sessions. The Editors, Outside Online, 6 Feb. 2023 There was seemingly nary a parking space anywhere, even at the gym, which led to some angry yogis. The Arizona Republic, 14 Feb. 2023 There’s never any sense of genuine strife between Gabe and Natalie that doesn’t involve their romantic relationship and there’s nary any hardship (financial or whatnot) shown between them raising their small child. Courtney Howard, Variety, 17 Aug. 2022 Currently nary were African-Americans, 3.4% were Hispanic, and 2.4% were East or South Asian. Ellen Mcgirt, Fortune, 31 May 2022 This is a play that hurls a lot of biographical information at the audience, but Reiter's diction and delivery are impeccable and nary a word is lost. Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 23 May 2022 See More

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

Word History


alteration of ne'er a

First Known Use

1746, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of nary was in 1746


Dictionary Entries Near nary

Cite this Entry

“Nary.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nary. Accessed 30 Mar. 2023.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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