from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A word coined and used only for the nonce, or for the particular occasion.


Sorry, no etymologies found.


  • The proper basis for comparison is the trajectory that the American economy was following when he took office, which is summed up by the nonce-word “stagflation”.

    A World Without Reaganomics

  • State-of-the-art anything died from overuse, and world-class is out of the competition, falling back into the nonce-word category.

    The Right Word in the Right Place at the Right Time

  • The adjective is a nonce-sense, summerly elsewhere meaning 'such as one expects in summer'; the noun is a nonce-word.


  • Though aggress is in the dictionary, every one will feel that it is rare enough to be practically a neologism, and here a nonce-word.


  • A 'nonce-word' (and the use might be extended to 'nonce-phrase' and 'nonce-sense'—the latter not necessarily, though it may be sometimes, equivalent to nonsense) is one that is constructed to serve a need of the moment.


  • Though he prefers to use terms like "energy grid" rather than the current nonce-word "green," he proposes to deal with problems of industry and business from the standpoint of reducing costs and respecting the reality of "finite resources."

    Memphis Flyer

  • Within a sesquifortnight (nonce-word, invented for this nonce), Mr. Crawford received an equally courteous reply from Oxford, over the signature of John Simpson, Co-Editor, Oxford English Dictionary.

    VERBATIM: The Language Quarterly Vol XX No 2

  • Other of Caxton's loanwords have not fared so well: for example, exsidion ` extirpation '(a nonce-word), exercite ` army,' magistration

    VERBATIM: The Language Quarterly Vol X No 2

  • ‘uprist’ — not by any means a nonce-word, but a genuine

    The Complete Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley

  • ‘uprest’ (“Revolt of Islam”, 3 21 5), which has been described as a nonce-word deliberately coined by Shelley ‘on no better warrant than the exigency of the rhyme.’

    The Complete Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley

Wordnik is becoming a not-for-profit! Read our announcement here.


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • That's the one I spotted, too… then I had to give up.

    December 3, 2008

  • The least nonce among the first 200 is buttless.

    December 3, 2008

  • Thanks, sarra! I'd searched "nonce-word" and found only 30 items. "Nonce-wd" returns 3130!

    December 3, 2008

  • *has a look*

    Good grief, the OED full text results for "nonce-wd" are an utter joy. I recommend a look yourselves.

    December 3, 2008

  • I wonder what word that the OED labels as a nonce-word has been most widely adopted.

    December 3, 2008

  • I think astuteb may be on to something.

    December 3, 2008

  • I personally suspect this was made up by the OED editors because they were bored and because they could get away with it.

    I mean, who's a bigger authority that can call them on it?

    December 3, 2008

  • A word occurring, used, or made only once or for a special occasion.

    May 13, 2008