From Middle English nesh, nesch, nesche, from Old English hnesċe, hnysċe, hnæsċe (“soft, tender, mild; weak, delicate; slack, negligent; effeminate, wanton”), from Proto-West Germanic *hnaskwī, from Proto-Germanic *hnaskuz (“soft, tender”), from Proto-Indo-European *knēs-, *kenes- (“to scratch, scrape, rub”). Cognate with Scots nesch, nesh (“soft, tender, yielding easily to pressure, sensitive”), Dutch nesch, nes (“wet, moist”), Gothic 𐌷𐌽𐌰𐍃𐌵𐌿𐍃 (hnasqus, “soft, tender, delicate”). Compare also nask, nasky, nasty.
- nish (Newfoundland English)
- (now Britain dialectal) Soft; tender; sensitive; yielding.
- 1485, Sir Thomas Malory, chapter XX, in Le Morte Darthur, book XIII:
- haue ye no merueylle sayd the good man therof / for hit semeth wel god loueth yow / for men maye vnderstande a stone is hard of kynde / […] / for thou wylt not leue thy synne for no goodnes that god hath sente the / therfor thou arte more than ony stone / and neuer woldest thow be maade neysshe nor by water nor by fyre
- (now Britain dialectal) Delicate; weak; poor-spirited; susceptible to cold weather, harsh conditions etc.
- (now Britain dialectal) Soft; friable; crumbly.
- This is a fairly widespread dialect term throughout Northern England, North Wales and the Midlands.
From Middle English neschen, from Old English hnesċan, hnesċian (“to make soft, soften; become soft, give way, waver”), from Proto-West Germanic *hnaskwōn (“to make soft”), from Proto-Indo-European *knēs-, *kenes- (“to scratch, scrape, rub”). Cognate with Old High German nascōn ("to nibble at, parasitise, squander"; > German naschen (“to nibble, pinch”)). Doublet of nosh.
- (transitive) To make soft, tender, or weak.
- (intransitive, dialectal, Northern England) To act timidly.