N is for Noteworthy

A handwritten love letter on a yellow sticky note.I read (a lot). The fact means I stumble across both good and bad literature. Some books, however, rise above those categories. (Neil Gaiman prefers “like” and “love,” and, I have to admit, I agree with him. Some books are okay, but some sink deep into my soul.)

These books can be thought of as “great.” They gain a spot on my shelves, if not permanent room in my heart. I talk about them with other people, as well as write in the margins.

I even write down particular words, phrases, and sentences in a journal because these books are noteworthy, and I want to record and remember them. They attract my gaze because of “some special excellence,” as the dictionary puts it. I desire to keep the words close, so I write them down.

Things besides books can be noteworthy. Artwork, theatre, dance, the symphony, a handwritten note…all contain the potential for noteworthiness. They demand attention, not in a clamor, but in silence. They need no blustery defense; their innate excellence causes them to shine like a brilliant star on a moonless night.

Noteworthy stands as a good “n” word. Others exist, though, and it’s time to give them the spotlight.


Noun. [From the Middle English nagge; akin to Dutch negge, small horse.] (1400s) HORSE; especially: one that is old or in poor condition.

Verb. [Probably of Scandinavian origin; akin to Old Norse gnaga, to gnaw; akin to Old English gnagan, to gnaw.] (c. 1828) To find fault incessantly: COMPLAIN. To be a continuing source of annoyance. To irritate by constant scolding or urging. BADGER, WORRY.

Noun. (1925) One who nags habitually.

(It’s unfortunate that his sister’s nagging produced no tangible reward, such as the pearl that comes from an oyster worrying over a grain of sand.)


Adverb. [From the Middle English. From the Old Norse nei, from ne, not + ei, ever—more at AYE.] (1100s) NO. Not merely this but also: not only so but <the letter made him happy, ~, ecstatic>.

Noun. (1300s) DENIAL, REFUSAL. A negative reply or vote. One who votes no.

(Although he voted nay in keeping with his party’s request, he secretly hoped the “ayes” would gain the majority.)


Noun. [New Latin.] (1892) Obsession with and usually erotic interest in or stimulation by corpses.

(The count protested he was a man of science, but his curio cabinets suggested a man affiliated with necrophilia, not rationalism.)


Noun. [From the Middle English. From the Old English netel; akin to Old High German nazza, nettle. From the Greek adikē.] (Before 1100s) Any of a genus (Urtica of the family Urticaceae, the nettle family) of chiefly coarse herbs armed with stinging hairs. Any of various prickly or stinging plants other than the true nettles (genus Urtica).

Verb transitive. (1400s) To strike or sting with or as if with nettles. To arouse a sharp but transitory annoyance or anger.

(A younger sibling’s duty is to nettle his more “mature” brothers and sisters.)


Noun. [Probably an alteration of neb.] (1585) BILL, BEAK. The sharpened point of a quill pen. PEN POINT; also: each of the two divisions of a pen point. A small pointed or projecting part.

(You could always tell when Emilia was working on a complex problem by how quickly she drummed her pen’s nib against her notebook.)


Noun. [From the Greek nichts, nothing.] (1789) NOTHING.

Noun. [From the Greek. From the Old High German nihhus; akin to Old English nicor, water monster. From the Greek nizein, to wash.] (1833) A water sprite of Germanic folklore.

Verb transitive. (1903) VETO, REJECT <the court ~ed the merger>.

Adverb. (1909) NO—used to express disagreement or the withholding of permission; often used with on <father said ~ nix on our plan>.

(Despite compelling arguments from the commission, Senate and Congress nixed the organization’s appeal for clemency.)

Noli Me Tangere

Noun. [From the Latin. “Do not touch me.” From Jesus’ words to Mary Magdalene in John 20:17.] (1591) A warning against touching or interference.

(Everyone was stunned when the girl shouted, “Noli me tangere!” However, no one should have been surprised. The orphanage’s warden was known for his accomplishments in Latin and probably muttered phrases while “disciplining” the children.)


Noun. [From the Latin nomenclatura, calling by name, list of names. From nomen + calatus, past participle.] (1610) NAME, DESIGNATION. The act or process or an instance of naming. A system or set of terms or symbols. A system of terms used in a particular science, discipline, or art; especially: an international system of standardized New Latin names used in biology for kinds and groups of kinds of animals and plants.

(Adam, the first man, could be called the originator of nomenclature.)


Adjective. [Non + Latin descriptus, past participle of describere, to describe.] (c. 1806) Belonging or appearing to belong to no particular class or kind: not easily described. Lacking distinctive or interesting qualities: DULL, DRAB.

(His nondescript appearance made him the perfect spy; people rarely noticed or remembered him.)


Adjective. (1300s) Worthy of note: REMARKABLE. DISTINGUISHED, PROMINENT. Archaic: efficient or capable in performance of housewifely duties.

Noun. (1815) A person of note: NOTABILITY. Plural, often capitalized: a group of persons summoned, especially in monarchical France to act as a deliberative body.

(Whenever the king or queen started to evidence a hereditary madness, the Notable convened to discuss, ahem, extreme measures.)


Adjective. (1962) Not likely to give victory, success, or satisfaction: that cannot be won <a ~ situation, a ~ war>.

(He admitted the no-win odds, but he still bet on Old Glory at the track.)


Noun. [From the French. From the Middle French. Shade of color. From nuer, to make shades of color. From nue, cloud. From the Latin nubes; akin to the Greek nythos, dark.] (1781) A subtle distinction or variation. A subtle quality: NICETY. Sensibility to, awareness of, or ability to express delicate shadings <as of meaning, feeling, or value>.

(“If you can’t grasp nuance,” the old man warned the boy, “you’ll get yourself killed at court, and you can forget your revenge.”)


Noun. [From the Middle English notemuge, derivative of Old Provencal noz muscada. From noz, nut (from the Latin nuc-, nux) + muscada, feminine of muscat, musky—more at MUSCAT.] (1300s) An aromatic seed that is used as a spice and is produced by a tree (Myristica fragrans, of the family Myristicaceae, the nutmeg family) native to the Moluccas; also: this tree.

(During November and December, the scent of nutmeg tends to be found almost everywhere, from the kitchen to the store, and from the coffee shop to the bakery.)

Nuts and Bolts

Noun. (1960) The working parts or elements. The practical workings of a machine or enterprise, as opposed to theoretical considerations or speculative possibilities.

(If you want to get a project done, you hire someone who cares about nuts and bolts, not what if’s.)


Noun. [Late Latin.] (1684) NIGHT BLINDNESS.

(She refused to drive at night because of her worsening nyctalopia.)

What are your favorite “n” words? Share them in the comments.

Image: srgpicker (Creative Commons)