Definitions

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

  • n. The present or particular occasion: "Her tendency to discover a touch of sadness had for the nonce disappeared” ( Theodore Dreiser).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A sex offender, especially of children; a paedophile.
  • n. A stupid or worthless person.
  • n. A datum constructed so as to be unique to a particular message in a stream, in order to prevent replay attacks.
  • n. In a security engineering context, a value used only once.
  • n. The one or single occasion; the present reason or purpose (now only in for the nonce).
  • n. A nonce word.
  • n. A number, usually generated randomly or from the time, used once in a cryptographic protocol, to prevent replay attacks.
  • adj. denoting something occurring once.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The one or single occasion; the present call or purpose; -- chiefly used in the phrase for the nonce, i. e. for the present time.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • A word of no independent status, used only in the following phrases.

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

  • n. the present occasion

Etymologies

From Middle English for the nones, for the occasion, alteration of for then anes : for, for; see for + then : neuter dative sing. of the; see the1 + ones, anes, once; see once.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Unknown – UK criminal slang. Possibly originally from dialectical nonce, nonse ("stupid, worthless individual"), or Nance, nance ("effeminate man"), from Nancy boy. (Wiktionary)
Contraction of number used once (Wiktionary)
From a misdivision in Middle English of þan anes ("the one (occasion, instance)"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • In the United Kingdom and Australia, the term nonce sometimes spelled "nonse" is a slang word used to refer to a sex offender and/or child sexual abuser.

    On a child's view of English

  • Garman for the nonce was the courtier, the artistic idler, the dilettante in the art of luxurious living; and Payne, conscious of his dirt-smudged overalls, envied him the elegance with which he played the rôle.

    The Plunderer

  • Jap cartoons are fcuking weird anyway. true but should you be labelled a nonce for looking at a cartoon Steven:

    Army Rumour Service

  • Jap cartoons are fcuking weird anyway. true but should you be labelled a nonce for looking at a cartoon No victim = no crime?

    Army Rumour Service

  • They might best be called nonce usages, intended for a particular occasion with only a remote or vague connection with the original meaning of the word.

    VERBATIM: The Language Quarterly Vol V No 3

  • ‘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

  • These people are not only in prison, but as convicted child molesters occupy the lowest, most despised niche in prison society - the 'nonce'.

    UK Commentators

  • Hmm, "nonce," "chiaroscuro," and "purlieu" were the only ones I knew -- and I agree with elck that 3 out of 18 definitely equates to duncehood.

    languagehat.com: BEAT THE JUDGE.

  • As I said in my post, these are "words you'll never have a use for," and I'd be outraged if someone used them on an actual vocabulary test in a school, say -- aside from "nonce" and maybe "chiaroscuro," there's no particular reason to know them.

    languagehat.com: BEAT THE JUDGE.

  • Nacherally, I abandons them marital intentions for what you-all might call the "nonce" to sort o 'look over my hand ag'in an' see be I right.

    Wolfville Nights

Comments

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  • "But for the nonce she only stood there, biting her lower lip." From Wizard and Glass by Stephen King.

    January 11, 2011

  • I had this meaning in mind:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nonce_word

    December 9, 2009

  • Oh dear. Yes it does.

    October 1, 2008

  • Brings a whole new, unpleasant meaning to the phrase, "for the nonce".

    October 1, 2008

  • British prison slang. Paedophile or any sex offender.

    June 18, 2008

  • British slang - paedophile.

    March 19, 2008