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Etymology 1[edit]

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.

Alternative forms[edit]

  • nish (Newfoundland English)


nesh (comparative nesher, superlative neshest)

  1. (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
  2. (now Britain dialectal) Delicate; weak; poor-spirited; susceptible to cold weather, harsh conditions etc.
  3. (now Britain dialectal) Soft; friable; crumbly.
Usage notes[edit]
  • This is a fairly widespread dialect term throughout Northern England, North Wales and the Midlands.
Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

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.


nesh (third-person singular simple present neshes, present participle neshing, simple past and past participle neshed)

  1. (transitive) To make soft, tender, or weak.
  2. (intransitive, dialectal, Northern England) To act timidly.