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See also: non-pareil



From Middle French nonpareil (unparalleled, now obsolete in French), from non- + pareil, although often reborrowed in Italian or quasi-Italian forms in 17th century. The typographic name is usually taken to derive from the attractive type cut by the De Gregori brothers for their 1498 edition of the divine offices in Venice; it was long the smallest-sized type in use.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /nɒnpəˈɹeɪl/, /ˈnɒnp(ə)ɹəl/, /ˈnɒnpəɹl/, /ˈnɒmp(ə)ɹəl/
  • (US) IPA(key): /nɑnpəˈɹɛl/
  • (file)


nonpareil (comparative more nonpareil, superlative most nonpareil)

  1. Unequalled, unrivalled; unique. [from 15th c.]
    • 1996, David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest, Abacus 2013, p. 33:
      A veritable artist, possessed of a deftness nonpareil with cotton swab and evacuation-hypo, the medical attaché is known among the shrinking upper classes of petro-Arab nations as the DeBakey of maxillofacial yeast []


nonpareil (countable and uncountable, plural nonpareils)

  1. A person or thing that has no equal; a paragon. [from 16th c.]
    • c.1599-1601, William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night; or, What You Will,
      My lord and master loves you. O, such love / Could be but recompens'd though you were crown'd / The nonpareil of beauty!
    • 1621, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], The Anatomy of Melancholy, Oxford: Printed by Iohn Lichfield and Iames Short, for Henry Cripps, OCLC 216894069; The Anatomy of Melancholy: [], 2nd corrected and augmented edition, Oxford: Printed by John Lichfield and James Short, for Henry Cripps, 1624, OCLC 54573970, partition III, section 2, member 2, subsection ii:
      King John of France, once prisoner in England, came [] to see the Countess of Salisbury, the nonpareil of those times, and his dear mistress.
    • 1901 - Edmund Selous, Bird Watching, p. 240
      (a wren) crept or crawled, just like a true tree-creeper. I was, as I say, quite close, and watched it most attentively. It certainly—as far as good looking can settle it—did not assist itself with the wings. They remained close against the sides, or, if they moved at all, it was imperceptible to my eyes (which, by the way, are non-pareils).
  2. (cooking, US) A small pellet of colored sugar used as decoration on baked goods and candy.
    Synonyms: hundreds and thousands (UK, Australian, plural only); sprinkles (US)
  3. A small, flat chocolate drop covered with white pellets of sugar, similar to a comfit.
  4. A smaller grade of caper.
  5. (uncountable, dated, printing) The size of type between agate and minion, standardized as 6-point.
    Synonym: nonpareille (Continental contexts)
    • 1881 May 19, Hermann Cohn, Eyes and School-Books, in Popular Science Monthly,
      I believe that letters which are less than a millimetre and a half (1/17 inch) high, will finally prove injurious to the eye. How little attention has hitherto been paid to this important subject is exemplified in the fact that even oculistic journals and books frequently contain nonpareil, or letters only a millimetre (1/25 inch) high.


Further reading[edit]


Middle French[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]


nonpareil m (feminine singular nonpareille, masculine plural nonpareils, feminine plural nonpareilles)

  1. unparallelled; unprecedented