from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Pleasing and agreeable in nature.
  • adjective Having a pleasant or attractive appearance.
  • adjective Exhibiting courtesy and politeness.
  • adjective Of good character and reputation; respectable.
  • adjective Overdelicate or fastidious; fussy.
  • adjective Showing or requiring great precision or sensitive discernment; subtle.
  • adjective Done with delicacy and skill.
  • adjective Used as an intensive with and.
  • adjective Wanton; profligate.
  • adjective Affectedly modest; coy.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Ignorant; weak; foolish.
  • Trivial; unimportant.
  • Fastidious; very particular or scrupulous; dainty; difficult to please or satisfy; exacting; squeamish.
  • Discriminating; critical; discerning; acute.
  • Characterized by exactness, accuracy, or precision; formed or performed with precision or minuteness and exactness of detail; accurate; exact; precise: as, nice proportions; nice calculations or workmanship.
  • Fine; delicate; involving or demanding scrupulous care or consideration; subtle; difficult to treat or settle.
  • Delicate; soft; tender to excess; hence, easily influenced or injured.
  • Modest; coy; reserved.
  • Pleasant or agreeable to the senses; delicate; tender; sweet; delicious; dainty; as, a nice bit; a nice tint.
  • Pleasing or agreeable in general.
  • Agreeable; pleasant; good: applied to persons.
  • [Nice in this sense is very common in colloquial use as a general epithet of approbation applicable to anything that pleases.]
  • Synonyms Nice., Dainty, Fastidious, Squeamish, finical, delicate, exquisite, effeminate, fussy. Nice is the most general of the first four words; it suggests careful choice: as, he is nice in his language and in his dress; it is rarely used of overwrought delicacy. Dainty is stronger than nice, and ranges from a commendable particularity to fastidiousness: as, to be dainty in one's choice of clothes or company; a dainty virtue. Fastidious almost always means a somewhat proud or haughty particularity; a fastidious person is hard to please, because he objects to minute points or to some point in almost everything. Squeamish is founded upon the notion of feeling nausea; hence it means fastidious to an extreme, absurdly particular.
  • Definite, rigorous, strict.
  • Accurate, Correct, Exact, etc. See accurate.
  • Luscious, savory, palatable.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective obsolete Foolish; silly; simple; ignorant; also, weak; effeminate.
  • adjective obsolete Of trifling moment; unimportant; trivial.
  • adjective Overscrupulous or exacting; hard to please or satisfy; fastidious in small matters.
  • adjective Delicate; refined; dainty; pure.
  • adjective Apprehending slight differences or delicate distinctions; distinguishing accurately or minutely; carefully discriminating.
  • adjective Done or made with careful labor; suited to excite admiration on account of exactness; evidencing great skill; exact; fine; finished; ; exactly or fastidiously discriminated; requiring close discrimination.
  • adjective Loosely & Colloquially Pleasing; agreeable; gratifying; delightful; good
  • adjective Pleasant; kind.
  • adjective Well-mannered; well-behaved.
  • adjective [Obs.] to be scrupulous about.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • verb transitive, computing, Unix To run a process with a specified (usually lower) priority.
  • adverb colloquial Nicely.
  • interjection Used to signify a job well done.
  • interjection Used to signify approval.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adjective socially or conventionally correct; refined or virtuous
  • adjective done with delicacy and skill
  • noun a city in southeastern France on the Mediterranean; the leading resort on the French Riviera
  • adjective pleasant or pleasing or agreeable in nature or appearance
  • adjective excessively fastidious and easily disgusted
  • adjective exhibiting courtesy and politeness


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English, foolish, from Old French, from Latin nescius, ignorant, from nescīre, to be ignorant; see nescience.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Name of a Unix program used to invoke a script or program with a specified priority, with the implication that running at a lower priority is "nice" (kind, etc.) because it leaves more resources for others.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English nice, nyce, nys, from Old French nice, niche, nisce ("simple, foolish, ignorant"), from Latin nescius ("ignorant, not knowing"); compare nescire ("to know not, be ignorant of"), from ne ("not") + scire ("to know").


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word nice.



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

  • An insidious and dismissive word.

    December 11, 2006

  • If you don't think about it, this is a nice word. See?

    But if you do think about it, ugh. It's like The Stepford Wives or something. The shallowest and most deceptive compliment known to man. Evil to the core.

    December 11, 2006

  • a fascinating word etymologically: Its meaning has turned almost 180 degrees and constantly -consistently- wa(i)vers depending on its contextual usage. It puts the "tack" in tacky

    June 22, 2007

  • Oh, nice encompasses all the characteristics a boy requires to date your friend. I don't care about the Stepford Wives, although I would like to know how to use italics (hint hint). Girl talk simply cannot survive without nice.

    June 22, 2007

  • Old-school italics: <i>text goes here</i>

    New-school italics: <em>text goes here</em>

    They both look the same, but the second one is XHTML compliant, so that's what I use. Both should work on this site though.

    Having never spoken girl talk, my outsider's opinion is that all y'all must be awfully shallow and catty to one another if you depend on the word nice to have conversation.

    June 22, 2007

  • Italics is a nice word too. ;-)

    June 22, 2007

  • One of the attributes of nice is knowing when to keep your mouth shut. :P

    June 22, 2007

  • Good thing I'm not interested in being nice, then. What are the attributes of freaking awesome? :-)

    June 22, 2007

  • ...we exchanged books with them,-- a practice very common among ships in foreign ports, by which you get rid of the books you have read and re-read, and a supply of new ones in their stead, and Jack is not very nice as to their comparative value.

    - Richard Henry Dana Jr., Two Years Before the Mast, ch. 25

    September 9, 2008

  • I prefer to make a nice distinction.

    October 3, 2008

  • a word which describes the accurate prophecies of Agnes Nutter

    May 23, 2009

  • from the old French meaning silly or stupid: in the 18th century it meant delightful and agreeable that is a meaning almost the opposite: The compass needle of its meaning gyrates wildly: see my comment below from two years ago

    September 8, 2009

  • I suppose I'm really not supposed to be here. Although it looks rather... uh, nice.

    December 21, 2009

  • It is nice. Though you could always try somewhere nicer.

    December 21, 2009

  • "4. Squeamish; nice."

    --from the Century Dictionary definition for ungodly

    March 20, 2011

  • I keep running into people for whom there's a big difference between being "nice" and being "kind." I think the theory is that being "nice" just means being polite, but being "kind" means saying hard truths that might seem rude but are somehow better for you.

    August 20, 2012

  • Maybe it's like freshly baked white bread, and wholegrain. Both are pleasant but the latter has more nutrients.

    August 20, 2012

  • There's a bit of danger involved with the "somehow better for you" bit, though. Here's a link to a New York Times Magazine article about the need for critics: The author, Dwight Garner, says, "I’m a professional book critic, someone who is paid, week in and week out, to take some of those shots. It’s a job that mostly suits my temperament. I like people — artists and civilians — who aren’t rude or censorious but who aren’t mush-mouthed either. Since childhood I’ve been a loather of America’s feel-good, everyone-on-tiptoes culture. Give me some straight talk. Give me a little humor. Give me something real. Above all, give me an argument." (I'm not entirely sure, but that argument is probably a logical or philisophical argument, rather than a fight.) So, sure, it's possible to criticize something in such a way that it's "better for you" because maybe you can fix some flaws. But sometimes that sort of kindness seems mean. My hometown newspaper used to have a critic who'd review children's dance and theater productions. He was often right about how poor the productions were, but I can't help but wonder how many kids just stopped trying after reading his brutal reviews.

    August 21, 2012

  • Writing in the late 1940s, Thomas Merton in his first memoir, The Seven-Storey Mountain, described his Aunt Maud as follows:

    "Nice, in the strict sense, and in the broad colloquial sense, was a word made for her: she was a very nice person. In a way, her pointed nose and her thin smiling lips eve suggested the expression of one who had just finished pronouncing that word. 'How nice!'"

    I'm not sure what he means by "the strict sense" - perhaps "respectable", perhaps "fastidious"; by "the broad colloquial sense", he almost certainly means "pleasant and agreeable", the way most of us use the word today.

    October 4, 2015