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  • IPA(key): /niːf/
    • (file)

Etymology 1[edit]

From Old French [Term?], from Latin nativus (natural). Doublet of naif and native.


nief (plural niefs)

  1. (historical) A serf or bondsman born into servitude.
    • 1886, "The Fight at the Pass of Coleshill", The Red Dragon "Notes and Queries", page 471
      That is, because the girl was his nief, or bondwoman, the daughter of one of his villains
Alternative forms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From Middle English neve, Old Norse hnefi, nefi, of unknown origin.


nief (plural niefs or nieves)

  1. (chiefly Scotland, Ireland, Northern England) A fist. [from 14th c.]
    • 1934, Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Grey Granite, Polygon 2006 (A Scots Quair), p. 597:
      Ake thought if ever he was walking alone on a dark-like night and Jimmy came on him, he with his bare nieves and Jimmy with a knife, he'd stand as much chance of getting home safe as a celluloid cat that had strayed into hell….
    • 1989, Anthony Burgess, The Devil's Mode:
      Nestorius exploded at that and hit out. He roared and dismissed the class, hitting out with his old mottled gnarled niefs.
    • 2004, Jeff Silverman, The Greatest Boxing Stories Ever Told, p. 160:
      "But t' Maister can stop and hit rarely. Happen he'll mak' him joomp when he gets his nief upon him."
Alternative forms[edit]


Middle English[edit]



  1. Alternative form of neve (nephew)

Old Spanish[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]

  • nyef (alternative spelling)



nief f (plural nieues)

  1. Apocopic form of nieue (snow)
    • c. 1250: Alfonso X, Lapidario, f. 5v.
      Et los egiptianos llaman le la nief de acin ¬ eſto es por que a color blanca.
      And the Egyptians called it the snow of Acin, because of its white color.