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nigger, n. and adj.

Keywords:
Quotations:
Forms: 

α. 15– niger (now nonstandard and regional), 16 nigor, 17 nigre, 19– nigar (Caribbean).

β. 16 niggor, 16– nigger, 18 niggur, 18– nigga

U.S. /ˈnɪɡə/
, 18– niggah, 18– niggar, 19– niggaz (plural), 19– nigguh.

(Show Less)
Frequency (in current use): 
Origin: Probably a variant or alteration of another lexical item; modelled on a Latin lexical item. Etymon: neger n.
Etymology: Probably an alteration of neger n., after classical Latin niger (see niger n.1); compare earlier Nigro n., Nigrite n.1   Compare post-classical Latin niger   black person (1582 in a Spanish colonial source). Compare also Swedish †niger   (1758), probably a borrowing from English (although this may perhaps represent a borrowing of neger n.).
Some early examples of the form niger   (especially in learned use) may perhaps represent a direct reborrowing of classical Latin niger   black (see niger n.1).
 
Forms in -gg-   (see β. forms) are rare before the 19th cent., and the prevalence of a pronunciation with /ɪ/ in the first syllable is therefore hard to establish. However, it seems likely that the form niger   (the preferred form up to the end of the 18th cent.) is intended to represent the same pronunciation (as sporadic later examples of this form clearly are).
 
The resurgence of the form nigga   (plural often niggaz  ) and other forms without final -r   in late 20th-cent. use (especially in representations of urban African-American speech) is probably due to its deliberate adoption by some speakers as a distinct word, associated with neutral or positive senses (especially senses A. 1c, A. 4, A. 5, and A. 7); compare quot. 2001 at sense A. 7. Compare gangsta n. and adj.  
 
The word was initially used as a neutral term, and only began to acquire a derogatory connotation from the mid 18th cent. onwards (compare sense A. 1b). In standard English usage the word Negro n.   had already become the usual neutral term by the end of the 17th cent.
 
For coincidence of the word in some dialects with niggard n.   compare γ forms and etymological note at that entry.
 
With the phrase to work like a nigger   (see Phrases 1) compare French travailler comme un nègre   (1811). The phrase nigger in the woodpile   (see Phrases 2b) is said to derive from an incident in the U.S. in the time before the American Civil War when a group of escaped slaves who had been conveyed along the Underground Railroad to Pultneyville, New York State, with a view to crossing Lake Ontario into Canada were enabled to make the final stage from a warehouse in which they were hidden to a boat by means of woodpiles set up across the wharf through which a concealed passage had been constructed (see further N.Y. Folklore Q. (1958) 14 16–25).
 A. n.
 I. Senses referring to people.
 1. A dark-skinned person of sub-Saharan African origin or descent; = Negro n. 1a.This term is strongly racially offensive when used by a white person in reference to a black person. In written Black English and written representations of spoken Black English, however, there are usually not the same negative connotations. Recently the term has been reclaimed by some black speakers and used with positive connotations in various senses (esp. in the form nigga: see note in etymology, and senses A. 1c, A. 4, and A. 5). However, even among black speakers, use of the word is problematic because of its potential to give offence, as is clear from the following, from a black speaker:
1995   N.Y. Times 14 Jan. i. 7   The prosecutor, his voice trembling, added that the ‘N-word’ was so vile that he would not utter it. ‘It's the filthiest, dirtiest, nastiest word in the English language,’ Mr. Darden said.
See also N-word n.

 a. Used by people who are not black as a relatively neutral (or occasionally positive) term, with no specifically hostile intent.Quots. 1608, 1788, etc., expressing patronizing views, reflect underlying attitudes rather than a hostile use of the word itself.

1577   E. Hellowes tr. A. de Guevara Familiar Epist. (new ed.) 389   The Massagetes bordering vpon the Indians, and the Nigers of Aethiop [Sp. los negros en Ethiopia], bearing witnesse.
1584   R. Scot Discouerie Witchcraft vii. xv. 153   A skin like a Niger.
1608   A. Marlowe Let. 22 June in E. India Co. Factory Rec. (1896) I. 10   The King and People [of ‘Serro Leona’] Niggers, simple and harmless.
1636   W. Pitt & J. Downham Let. 16 Sept. in Eng. Factories in India 1634–6 (1911) 292   Have granted passages to a Moor and three ‘nigors’.
1656   Duchess of Newcastle Assaulted & Pursued Chastity 237   The Priest which came to fetch him forth, saw him thus drest, never seeing hair before, for they had none but wooll, and very short as Nigers have.
1676   S. Sewall Diary 1 July (1973) I. 18   Jethro, his Niger, was then taken.
a1704   T. Brown Lett. from Dead (new ed.) in Wks. (1707) II. ii. 121   A manner that discover'd he had an ascendency over the rest of the immortal Nigres.
1760   G. Wallace Princ. Law Scotl. in Ann. Reg. (1760) ii. 265/1   Set the Nigers free, and, in a few generations, this vast and fertile continent would be crouded with inhabitants.
1787   R. Burns Ordination iv, in Poems & Songs (1971) 171   How graceless Ham leugh at his Dad, Which made Canaan a niger [rhyme vigour, rigour, tiger].
1788   S. Low Politician Out-witted iii. i. 27   Toupee. By gar, I get de satisfaction! Humphry. He talks as crooked as a Guinea niger.
1833   C. Williams Fall River 184   Some say poor niger hab no shoule. Vel dat I dont know, but dis I know, I got something in my body make me feel tumfortable.
1867   H. Latham Black & White 127   Niggers (they are not ‘coloured persons’ yet in the South) are most artful flatterers.
1897   Outing 29 333/1   What is wanted is a genuine nigger—not a colored person, or an Afro-American, or a darkey—and one who has been there before [i.e. game fishing in Florida].
1931   Good Housek. (U.S. ed.) Dec. 126/1   You might think it funny for me, a white man, to say a nigger is the best preacher I ever heard.
1948   G. Greene Heart of Matter ii. i. 179   A clerk knocked and said, ‘There's a nigger for you, Wilson, with a note.’
1980   R. Rhodes Last Safari i. i. 20   The Kaffir whore and the half-breed toto and the faithful nigger.
1993   in Dict. Amer. Regional Eng. (1996) III. 789/2   I've heard livestock men speak in admiration of a black cowboy and noted rider in the Jordan Valley country simply as ‘Nigger Bill’.

1577—1993(Hide quotations)

 

 b. Used by people who are not black as a hostile term of abuse or contempt.

1775   in F. Moore Songs & Ballads Amer. Revol. (1856) 101   The rebel clowns, oh! what a sight! Too awkward was their figure. 'Twas yonder stood a pious wight, And here and there a nigger.
1811   Byron in Mem. F. Hodgson (1878) I. 195   The rest of the world—niggers and what not.
1818   H. B. Fearon Sketches Amer. 46   The bad conduct and inferior nature of niggars (negroes).
a1849   H. Coleridge Ess. & Marginalia (1851) I. 164   A similar error has turned Othello..into a rank woolly-pated, thick-lipped nigger.
1861   H. A. Jacobs Incidents Life Slave Girl vii. 59   Do you suppose that I will have you tending my children with the children of that nigger?
1931   D. L. Sayers Five Red Herrings i. 11   Waters,..like all Englishmen, was ready enough to admire and praise all foreigners except dagoes and niggers.
1936   M. Mitchell Gone with the Wind 401   ‘You're a fool nigger, and the worst day's work Pa ever did was to buy you,’ said Scarlett slowly... There, she thought, I've said ‘nigger’ and Mother wouldn't like that at all.
1948   G. Greene Heart of Matter i. i. 3   I hate the place. I hate the people. I hate the bloody niggers. Mustn't call 'em that you know.
1989   Washington Post (Nexis) 16 July d1   A belligerent [police] officer..snarling at me..‘I don't care who you are, nigga, get the hell out of here or I'll arrest you.’
1992   Boston Globe Mag. 7 June 4/1   If a white guy gonna call me a nigger, he wants to fight.
2001   Nation (N.Y.) 6 Aug. 21/1   Farther back in the crowd, William..heard a cop say, ‘We'll beat the hell out of you niggers.’

1775—2001(Hide quotations)

 
 

 c. Used by black people (esp. African Americans) as a neutral or favourable term.

1831   H. J. Finn Amer. Comic Ann. 88   ‘You be right dere,’ observed Sambo, ‘..else what fur he go more 'mong niggers den de white trash?’
1838   R. M. Bird Peter Pilgrim I. 238   Wanted to run, massa, but no more run than a barn-door; stuck fast in the mud—could'nt move—all over with niggah!
1848   G. Lippard Paul Ardenheim ii. i. 225   For sixteen—seventeen year, dis nigga watch his time.
1884   ‘M. Twain’ Adventures Huckleberry Finn viii. 72   Dey wuz a nigger name' Bob, dat had ketched a wood-flat.
c1937   in N. R. Yetman Voices from Slavery 257   A nigger by name o' Enoch Golden married us.
1949   B. A. Botkin Treasury Southern Folklore p. xxiii   In turning his laughter on himself as well as the whites, the Negro has taken over the objectionable word ‘nigger’ (though not ‘darky’) and made it a term of praise or blame.
1971   G. Mitchell Blow my Blues Away 170   Mr. Walter knocked that nigger just as flat, and that nigger knocked Mr. Walter just as flat.
1987   ‘Schoolly D’ Sat. Night (song) in L. A. Stanley Rap: the Lyrics (1992) 280   He rapped so hard that the nigger saw smoke He lit up a cheeba and they both took a toke.
2000   ‘DMX’ in Rolling Stone 13 Apr. 90/1   I wasn't the biggest nigga in the world. I couldn't beat everybody, but..my rep superseded me.

1831—2000(Hide quotations)

 
 

 d. Used by black people (esp. African Americans) as a depreciatory term.

1834   F. Lieber Lett. to Gent. in Germany 90   A negro boy under my window calls a lad of the same race, by way of reproach, ‘nigger’.
1866   Atlantic Monthly July 79   When they call each other ‘nigger’, the familiar term of opprobrium is applied with all the malice of a sting.
1926   C. Van Vechten Nigger Heaven 26   I'm..tired to death of all these Niggers downstairs. [Note] While this informal epithet is freely used by Negroes among themselves, not only as a term of opprobrium, but also actually as a term of endearment, its employment by a white person is always fiercely resented.
1952   J. Lait & L. Mortimer U.S.A. Confidential i. viii. 61   They are outcasts, unwanted even by other Negroes who came before them. These citified blacks resent the new influx and call them ‘niggers’.
1971   Black World Apr. 56   Who the hell you think, nigger?
1998   Village Voice 8 Dec. 51/1   My son was killed by seven black-ass niggers!

1834—1998(Hide quotations)

 
 2.

 a. A person who does menial labour; any person considered to be of low social status. derogatory. Cf. (and earliest in) white nigger n.

1835   R. M. Bird Hawks of Hawk-hollow I. xi. 154   Wa' to been married soon, but faw the white nigga Gilbert, what cut the Colonel's throat!
1871   E. Eggleston Hoosier School-master iv. 52   ‘Ole Miss Meanses' white nigger’, as some of them called her, in allusion to her slavish life.
1883   Cent. Mag. Aug. 571/1   I wasn't born to make a nigger of myself in a free country.
1922   C. T. Campion tr. A. Schweitzer On Edge of Primeval Forest x. 164   Without this safeguard he [sc. the missionary] is soon in danger of becoming a nigger, as it is called here.
1974   J. Willwerth Jones: Portrait of Mugger xii. vii. 177   A nigger around here don't mean a black dude, you dig? It's a low-class dude who ain't going' [sic] nowhere—that's the true meaning of the word.
1977   R. P. Rettig et al. Manny vii. 176   Rettig: Somebody has to wash clothes. Manny: You're right! Society..needs niggers, and they'll take 'em where they find 'em, regardless of color.

1835—1977(Hide quotations)

 

 b. Any person whose behaviour is regarded as reprehensible. derogatory.

1840   W. G. Simms Border Beagles xxv   They're [sc. white officers of justice] afraid of me, the niggers, and you see I ain't afraid of them.
[1861   A. G. Frick Let. 14 Feb. in H. Holzer Dear Mr. Lincoln (1993) x. 341   Abe Lincoln..goddam you..you are nothing but a goddam Black nigger.]
1884   Chicago Tribune 1 Dec. 8/1   When the ‘jigger’ [sc. a police officer] does come along the ‘niggers’, as the railroad men call their tormentors irrespective of color, are perched upon the fence like the rail birds, ready to call names and throw stones or fight him face to face.
1942   Z. N. Hurston Dust Tracks 49   ‘Don't be a nigger,’ he would say to me over and over. ‘Niggers lie and lie.’ [Note] The word Nigger used in this sense does not mean race. It means a weak, contemptible person of any race.
1989   Rolling Stone 10 Aug. 44/3   Let's start with one of the verses [of the song ‘One in a Million’], ‘Police and niggers, that's right/Get outta my way.’.. I [sc. W. Axl Rose, songwriter] used the word nigger because it's a word to describe somebody that is basically a pain in your life, a problem. The word nigger doesn't necessarily mean black.
1994   ‘Nas’ in Rolling Stone 19 May 64/2   Like I could tell Mr. Rudy Giuliani, ‘Yo, bitch, fucking bitch-ass nigger.’
1994   G. Smitherman Black Talk 167   ‘A group of Brothas was buggin out, drinkin the forty ounce, goin the nigga route,’ a clearly negative use of the word, meaning, Some Black males were on the street, partying, getting drunk off malt liquor, and acting the loud, vulgar stereotype of a nigga.
1997   C. Rock Rock This! i. 17   The niggers have got to go. Everytime black people want to have a good time, niggers mess it up. You can't do anything without some ignorant-ass niggers fucking it up... Can't go to a movie the first week it opens. Why? Because niggers are shooting at the screen... I love black people, but I hate niggers.

1840—1997(Hide quotations)

 
 3.

 a. A dark-skinned person of any origin. In early U.S. use usually with reference to American Indians. Usually offensive.

1843   T. C. Haliburton Attaché (1846) 180   Heathen Indgean niggers.
1857   Ld. Dufferin Lett. from High Latitudes 251   This relationship with Polynesian Niggers, the native genealogists would probably scout with indignation.
1869   P. A. Taylor Colony of Queensland 11   What can you supply me a hundred niggers [sc. Kanakas] for?
1899   in J. M. Merrill Uncommon Valor 251   We came here [i.e. in the Philippines] to lick the niggers.
1919   P. B. Kyne Capt. Scraggs 119   On the island o' Aranuka, right under the Hakatuea volcano. There was some strappin' big buck native niggers there that would fetch $300 a head.
1934   G. B. Shaw On the Rocks ii. 70   Pandranath: you are only a silly nigger pretending to be an English gentleman.
1992   N. Morris Brothel Boy 9   He's trying to suck up to Veraswami for some reason... He must know we can't let niggers in.
1994   Vanity Fair (N.Y.) June 164/2   The tawny sailing bums who frequent the international yachting circuit are known derisively as ‘boat niggers’.

1843—1994(Hide quotations)

 

 b. Austral. (offensive). An Aborigine.

1845   G. de C. Lefroy in C. T. Stannage New Hist. W. Austral. (1981) 95   It is shocking..to see a fine young fellow cut off by the odious detestable niggers.
1891   Argus (Melbourne) 7 Nov. 13/5   The natives of Queensland are nearly always spoken of as ‘niggers’ by those who are brought most directly in contact with them.
1915   N. Duncan Austral. Byways 99   ‘Find a nigger,’ said our bushman..‘and you'll get water.’
1941   I. L. Idriess Great Boomerang xxii. 169   The cranky nigger who was on the job broke the only shovel.
1959   E. Webb Mark of Sun 14   No one else called me a farting nigger; at least, not to my face.
1986   Austral. Geogr. Jan. 76/3   The Duncans have enjoyed so much success they have earned the epithet ‘uptown niggers’ from other Aboriginal people.

1845—1986(Hide quotations)

 

 c. New Zealand (offensive). A Maori.

1858   A. S. Atkinson in Richmond–Atkinson Papers (1960) I. 175   We heard that Bishop Selwyn..thinks there is a fair chance of collision with the ‘niggers’.
1868   R. Taylor Past & Present N.Z. 111   The Maori is constantly being called a nigger and a black fellow to his face, and viewed as an inferior being.
1911   N.Z. Truth 7 Jan. 1   Heavens above, we filch the nigger's land and then we make an alien of him.
1984   Dominion (Wellington, N.Z.) 28 Mar. 7   Later a girl by the campfire said ‘why don't you niggers do a haka and...off’[ellipsis in text].

1858—1984(Hide quotations)

 

 4. Now chiefly in African-American usage: a person, a fellow (regardless of skin colour).Recent use has developed from a conscious, politically motivated reclamation of the term among black Americans, and as such does not usually carry negative connotations, although it may be considered offensive when used by white people in imitation of this usage.
 
The following examples show use of the word in reference to white people; examples showing neutral or positive use in reference to black people are at senses A. 1a, A. 1c.

1848   G. F. A. Ruxton Life in Far West v, in Blackwood's Edinb. Mag. Oct. 434/1   What does the niggur say?
1850   L. H. Garrard Wah-to-Yah 161   They..pick up a beaver trap to ask what it is—just shows whar the niggurs had their bringin' up.
1851   M. Reid Scalp Hunters II. viii. 119   Oncet on a time, this niggur [sc. the speaker] chawed a varmint that wan't much sweeter.
1925   L. R. Harris in A. Dundes Mother Wit (1973) 563/2   Howdy niggahs,..how's you all dis mawnin'.
1964   K. Kesey Sometimes Great Notion 92   The old nigger don't hear so clear.
1995   P. Bourgois In Search of Respect i. 42   You're a good nigga'. See you tomorrow.
2000   P. Beatty Tuff xiii. 171   Look at Ben Franklin. Tuffy, holding a starched one-hundred-dollar bill up to his face, was scrutinizing the old statesman's portrait. Nigger look upset.

1848—2000(Hide quotations)

 

 5. In African-American usage: (with possessive adjective) a close (usually black) friend, a comrade, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a spouse.

[1884   J. C. Harris in Cent. Mag. Nov. 121/1   I say ter myse'f, maybe my nigger man mought be some'rs 'roun'.]
1884   J. A. Harrison Negro Eng. in Anglia 7 266   To tu'n er nigger right loose, to give a man free play.
1937   C. B. Himes Night's for Cryin' in Esquire Jan. 64/3   A passing brownskin answered to the call of ‘Babe’, paused before her ‘nigger’ in saddle-backed stance, arms akimbo.
1960   J. A. Williams Angry Ones (1996) xxi 163   Obie, I got to be with you, you know that. You know you're my nigger, man.
1965   C. Brown Manchild in Promised Land 140   This is my main nigger, my number one nigger, and anybody who fucks wit him, it's just as well as if they'd came and fucked wit me.
1995   ‘Q-Tip’ in ‘Mobb Deep’ Drink away Pain (Situations) (transcribed from song) in Infamous   Tommy Hil [sc. Tommy Hilfiger, a white fashion designer] was my nigga And others couldn't figure How me and Hilfiger used to move through with vigor.
1999   FEDS Mag. 2 v. 66/1   Kim is my nigga, she's just so understanding.
2001   Sports Illustr. 23 Apr. 62/1   He told me his friends had pulled him out [of the fight], he hadn't done nothin'. ‘They didn't want me gettin' in no trouble,’ he said. ‘They my niggas.’

1884—2001(Hide quotations)

 

 6. Esp. U.S. A person who is socially, politically, or economically disadvantaged or exploited; a victim of prejudice likened to that endured by African Americans.In this use usually with awareness of the word's offensive connotations, but without intention to cause offence, to identify a group regarded as similarly disadvantaged or exploited.
 
In quot. 1963, the editor explains:
1997   D. Brinkley in H. S. Thompson Proud Highway 411 (note)    After reading Norman Mailer's The White Negro, Thompson developed a theory that all working-class people were niggers.

1941   W. Lewis Vulgar Streak 137   Since there are no niggers here, they had to create niggers. The poor are the niggers in this country.
1963   H. S. Thompson Let. 6 Nov. in Proud Highway (1997) 411   My earlier concept of The Nigger.
1972   J. Lennon & Y. Ono (song)    Woman is the nigger of the world.
1979   W. Kennedy Ironweed v. 120   It was the church where the Italians went to preserve their souls in a city where Italians were the niggers and micks of a new day.
1987   R. Doyle Commitments 9   The Irish are the niggers of Europe, lads... An' Dubliners are the niggers of Ireland. The culchies [sc. rural residents] have fuckin' everythin'. An' the northside Dubliners are the niggers o' Dublin.
1998   J. Bosso Hit is Hit (HBO TV shooting script) 28 in Sopranos 1st Ser. (O.E.D. Archive)    You're talking to the wrong white man my friend. My people [sc. Jewish people] were the white man's nigger when yours [sc. black people] were still painting their faces and chasing zebras.

1941—1998(Hide quotations)

 

 7. U.S. Any person who behaves in a manner associated with urban African Americans; a person who identifies with urban African-American culture as opposed to middle-class white culture.

[1965   C. Brown Manchild in Promised Land iv. 137   As far as I'm concerned, that paddy boy is twice the nigger any of you cats might think you are or might ever try to be.]
1970   R. D. Abrahams Positively Black vi. 135   Hippies and other recent Bohemian groups have openly proclaimed themselves ‘white niggers’ by which they seem to mean that, like blacks, they represent an alternative to the life style of majority-group American culture.
1977   G. Smitherman Talkin & Testifyin iii. 62   Nigguh... Sometimes it means culturally black, identifying with and sharing the values and experiences of black people.
1977   G. Smitherman Talkin & Testifyin iii. 62   At a black rally, when the Sister shouted out, ‘Nigguhs is beautiful, baby,’ she was referring to ‘shonuff nigguhs’, as contrasted to Negroes, who aspire to white middle-class values.
1992   R. Gooden & O. Brackens Mnniiggaah (song) in L. A. Stanley Rap: The Lyrics (1992) 143   I'm a nigga But that is just the way I choose to act It ain't got nothin' to do with bein' black... Where I'm from there's a lot of white niggas.
2000   Essence Nov. 194/1   If you're [sc. a black woman] walking down a dark street at night,..who do you want by your side: an African-American or a nigga?
2001   Washington Monthly Apr. 51/2   In private conversations among blacks, Clinton is ghetto, a nigga (not nigger, mind you)—terms that say: He is one of us.

1970—2001(Hide quotations)

 
 II. Other senses.
 8. Brit. regional.

 a. The black caterpillar of the turnip sawfly, Athalia rosae. Now rare.

1840   E. Blyth et al. Cuvier's Animal Kingdom 584   Athalia centifoliæ is extremely destructive to turnips, its larva being known under the name of the Nigger, or Black Jack.
1844   H. Stephens Bk. of Farm III. 774   The larvæ are known in different parts of the country by the names of black caterpillar, blacks, nigger, canker, etc.
1874   J. Lubbock Orig. & Metamorphoses Insects i. 7   To this group belongs the nigger, or black caterpillar of the turnip.
1932   E. Step Bees, Wasps, Ants & Allied Insects 197   The young larvæ are at first whitish with two black spots on the head; but when nearing full size their upper parts become black, which earned for them among garden folk the name of ‘Nigger’ and ‘Black Jack’.

1840—1932(Hide quotations)

 

 b. The blackish larva of a ladybird. Now rare.

1855   J. C. Morton Cycl. Agric. II. 120   Nigger, the name of lady-bird larvæ in hop grounds.
1975   Country Gentlemen's Mag. Sept. 480/1   Have you seen any Subcoccinella Vigintiquatuor Puntata lately? Most gardeners call them niggers..these are the scientific and popular names of the tiny ladybird larvae.

1855—1975(Hide quotations)

 

 c. A black or blackish sea cucumber, Holothuria forskali, common off rocky shores on the west coast of Britain and Ireland. Now rare.

1855   J. Ogilvie Suppl. Imperial Dict.   Nigger, a species of holothuria, so called by the Cornish fishermen. It is very common in deep water off the Deadmen.
1993   B. E. Picton Field Guide Shallow-water Echinoderms Brit. Isles 68   Holothuria forskali delle Chiaje, 1841. Nigger, Cotton-spinner.

1855—1993(Hide quotations)

 
 9. U.S.

 a. A steam-driven capstan used on some riverboats; a steam engine used to drive such a capstan (also more fully nigger engine). Now rare.

1867   J. A. Hosmer Trip to States by Yellowstone & Missouri 58   The boat..struck the bar; they then began to work with the spars and nigger, and at two o'clock we got off.
a1877   E. H. Knight Pract. Dict. Mech. II. 1526/2   Nigger (Steam-engine), a steam-engine employed in hoisting; especially on shipboard and on the Western and Southern rivers.
1878   J. H. Beadle Western Wilds 378   Then oaths, spars, ‘nigger-engine’ and all the other available machinery were set in operation.
1882   Harper's Mag. Jan. 175/2   One of the ‘nigger’ engines is suddenly called into service to tighten a two-inch rope, or wind up a discarded cable.
1942   R. A. Hereford Old Man River 114   The other end of the rope was secured to the capstan,..which was operated by a small engine called the ‘nigger’.

1867—1942(Hide quotations)

 

 b. A device used to hold and turn logs in a sawmill.

1890   Cent. Dict.   Nigger,..a strong iron-bound timber with sharp teeth or spikes protruding from its front face, forming part of the machinery of a sawmill.
1900   Atlantic Monthly 85 103/2   ‘Carriages’, bright with red and green lanterns..rush to and fro, seizing the logs as they come from the ‘kickers’ and ‘niggers’.
1910   S. E. White Rules of Game i. v. 32   When the car had flown back to its starting-point, the ‘nigger’ rose from obscurity to turn the log half-way round.
1929   Encycl. Brit. XIV. 482/1   A steam or air ‘nigger’ (mechanically operated steel arms) helps to place the log in the proper position.
1969   L. G. Sorden Lumberjack Lingo 80   Nigger, a fast-moving power arm on the log carriage in a sawmill that turned a log for sawing.

1890—1969(Hide quotations)

 

10. U.S. A fault, a defect. Obsolete. rare.In quot. 1886   used of a flaw in the insulating covering of an electrical conductor.

1886   Sci. Amer. 15 May 308   The consequence of neglect might be that what the workmen call ‘a nigger’ would get into the armature, and burn it so as to destroy its service.

1886—1886(Hide quotations)

 

 11. A dark brown colour. Cf. Compounds 3. Now rare (offensive).

1914   Lady's Pictorial 4 July p. v (advt.)    Soft Taffeta Hat..In Black,..Nigger, Mole, and White.
1917   Home Chat 3 Nov. 139/2   Nigger or, as it is now called, ‘Zulu’, is also to be seen.
1929   D. Drage Rug Making 20   The brown-red background, with nigger and navy outlines, a deep cream ground in the border, and small swastikas.

1914—1929(Hide quotations)

 

 12. Film and Television. A screen or mask used to deflect or conceal unwanted light, to cast shadows, etc.

1925   Los Angeles Times 29 Nov. b6   Nigger, a composition board on a rack placed between the lights and the camera so as to keep the light from striking the lens.
1934   Tit-bits 31 Mar. 12/1   The film world has a colourful compilation of expressions unlike those in other walks of life. ‘Niggers’ are not men of colour, but blackboards used to ‘kill’ unwanted reflections from the powerful lights.
1937   A. Buchanan Film Making iii. 52   ‘Niggers’ are wooden oblong screens used to ‘nigger-off’ or shield light from faces, or shadows on walls, and so ‘Her face needs a nigger’ is not such an alarming statement as it sounds to the uninitiated.
1960   O. Skilbeck ABC of Film & TV 89   Nigger, an adjustable Mask on a stand, used on the Floor to shield the camera from, or to achieve effects with, lights.
1976   B. Armstrong Gloss. TV Terms 64   Nigger, a form of flag.

1925—1976(Hide quotations)

 

 13. Austral. The luderick (fish), Girella tricuspidata.

1927   A. Wright Squatter's Secret 38   The big catch of lively ‘niggers’ splashing in a rock-bound pool behind him.
1948   F. D. Marshall Let's go Fishing 65   The ‘darkie’ or ‘nigger’..is a most worthy opponent.
1962   ‘N. Culotta’ Gone Fishin' 76   We were fishing for niggers. The official name for niggers, or blackfish, is ‘luderick’. They are listed as luderick on the monthly returns, but fishermen call them niggers.
1983   Sun (Sydney) 30 Sept. 28/4   Brisbane Water has been best of the estuaries, with bream, niggers and mullet.

1927—1983(Hide quotations)

 
 B. adj. (attributive).

 1. Being a dark-skinned person of sub-Saharan African origin or descent; belonging or relating to dark-skinned people of sub-Saharan African origin or descent. Also (occasionally) designating any dark-skinned person (see quot. 1946). See also nigger boy n. at Compounds 1. Now usually offensive (see note at sense A. 1).In extended use in quot. a1845.

1689   in Amer. Speech (1967) 42 160   One niggor Boy.
1825   J. Neal Brother Jonathan I. xiii. 413   ‘I'm proud of it, our Edith.’—‘Proud of it, cousin!’—Aye; there's no nigger blood, in us.
1833   J. Neal Down-easters I. 66   If there's a drop of nigger-blood in 'em, they'll always show it in their temper.
1836   D. Crockett Exploits & Adv. vii. 97   Nigger women are knocked down by the auctioneer, and knocked up by the purchaser.
a1845   R. H. Barham Brothers of Birchington in Ingoldsby Legends (1847) 3rd Ser. 263   Their nigger inhabitants [sc. devils] shook in their hoofs.
1926   H. Crane Let. 8 July (1965) 265   A dozen odd sick and wailing nigger females below decks.
1946   K. Tennant Lost Haven (1947) Prol. 6   No grandson of mine,..is going to be brought up by them thieving, godless, nigger Detwinters.
1970   J. Cortez in O. Coombs We speak as Liberators 17   Love Lives And I wanta taste myself inside Mmmmmmmm that pure nigguh pain.
1975   C. Dennis Somebody just grabbed Annie! 208   You haven't been listening to this nigger bitch all day. I have!
1994   P. Baker Blood Posse xvi. 186   Well. If it ain't my friend the nigger supercop, Mr Riley.

1689—1994(Hide quotations)

 

 2. Chiefly U.S. slang (derogatory and offensive). Supposedly used by, characteristic of, or suitable for black people; contemptible, disreputable, or despicable; inferior; peculiar; bogus.

1859   M. Pattison in Fraser's Mag. Jan. 119/2   It is in perpetual conflict with the rules of good Latinity,..partly from the addle-headed understanding of the characters supposed to write this nigger Latin.
1901   in S. Dennison Scandalize my Name (1982) 408   But I saw when you came in you was blin' from niggah gin.
1921   in H. Cannon Cowboy Poetry (1985) 19   I was suckled by a grizzly and was weaned on nigger gin.
1930   W. Faulkner As I lay Dying 190   She would maybe buy a cheap comb or a bottle of nigger toilet water.
1953   Sun (Baltimore) 15 Aug. (B ed.) 10/6   John Kissel..received a nigger offer from the Ottawa Rough Riders, and accepted it.
1978   J. Updike Coup (1979) vii. 258   In my student need across the seas I had held a variety of lowly jobs—‘nigger work’, in the friendly phrase of the lily-white elite of Franchise.
1988   in Dict. Amer. Regional Eng. (1996) III. 790/1   I heard the phrase ‘nigger brick’ from a Houston heart surgeon who was showing me an old post office, the exterior of which was finished in tin painted to look like brick.

1859—1988(Hide quotations)

 

Phrases

Now offensive.

 P1. colloq. (orig. U.S.). to work like a nigger and variants: to work exceptionally hard.

[1803   J. Davis Trav. U.S.A. 383   I..worked like a new negur.]
1836   C. Gilman Recoll. Southern Matron in Southern Rose 23 July 186/1   I have toiled night and day, I've worked like a nigger, and more than any nigger.
1861   ‘G. Eliot’ Let. 13 Apr. (1954) III. 404   Charles..will..work like a nigger at his music.
1880   ‘M. Twain’ Tramp Abroad iii. 40   He laid into his work like a nigger.
1888   ‘R. Boldrewood’ Robbery under Arms xxvi   All four used to work like niggers.
1902   J. Mathew Austral. Echoes 90   The next to sing was Dick the digger, A man who ‘grafted’ like a nigger.
1920   R. Fry Let. 20 June (1972) II. 481   I have worked like a nigger to arrange it [sc. an exhibition] well.
1939   These are our Lives (Federal Writers' Project, U.S.) 5   The next year I worked like a nigger and that fall John bought me a coat suit.
1955   ‘Miss Read’ Village School xv. 101   If this was the way to get to Caxley High School with its untold joys..why, then she'd work like a nigger and get there!
1997   Transition No. 73. 86   [He] upbraided a journalist who had asked him to work harder with the rhetorical question, ‘Do you expect me to work like a nigger? I am not a Negro.’

1836—1997(Hide quotations)

 
 P2.
 a. U.S. Now rare.
1850   California Courier (San Francisco) 4 Sept. 2/6   The majority of the papers, however, think that there ‘is a nigger in the fence’ somewhere.
1888   B. Harte Phyllis of Sierras i. iii. 90   Ef he aint scooped up by Jenny Bradley he'll guess there's a nigger in the fence somewhere.
1911   H. Quick Yellowstone Nights xi. 286   He's always looking for a nigger in the fence.
1923   J. Conrad Let. 3 Jan. (2008) VIII. 6   May it [sc. a ray of light] not be extinguished by the poisonous breath of the well-known ‘nigger in the fence’ who has been the curse of my existence for years.

1850—1923(Hide quotations)

 
 b. orig. U.S.

  nigger in the woodpile   n. (and variants)  [see etymological note] a concealed motive or unknown factor affecting a situation in an adverse way.

[1843   D. Emmett 'Twill nebber do to gib it up So! (sheet music) 2   Nigger on de wood-pile barkin like a dog.]
1852   in Kansas Hist. Q. (1942) 11 235   No ‘nigger in the wood pile’ here..; white men are at the bottom of this speculation.
1876   Congress. Rec. 4 Aug. 5153/1   If some one should say..that there was some ‘nigger in the wood-pile’, some ‘cat in the bag’, some motive to actuate me.
1897   Congress. Rec. 18 Feb. App. 61/1   Like a great many others ignorant of facts, he finds ‘a nigger in the wood pile’ where there is neither wood pile nor nigger.
1911   W. Wilson in Outlook 11 Aug. 944   If you go through the schedules you will find some nigger in every wood pile.
1930   Cambr. Daily News 24 Sept. 7/6   Unless..there is a nigger in the wood pile,..the shares ought to be worth a mild flutter at round 8s. 6d.
1952   A. Christie They do it with Mirrors xii. 109   Well now, let's have your point of view. Who's the nigger in the woodpile? The G.I. husband?
1960   Daily Tel. 16 Jan. 8   This seems to be the nigger in the woodpile—the woodpile being an industrial recovery and activity remarkable by any standard.
1990   N.Y. Times 11 Jan. b1/1   He suggested to a racially mixed audience in Brooklyn that critics of government were ‘always looking for a nigger in the woodpile’.

1852—1990(Hide quotations)

 

Compounds

All of these compounds are offensive.
 C1. General attributive.

  nigger boy   n.

1689   in Amer. Speech (1967) 42 160   One niggor Boy.
1825   J. Neal Brother Jonathan III. 207   Nobody there, I guess, but a nigger boy.
1899   Overland Monthly Nov. 436/1   I seed it wid my own eyes, how you go flirtin' en' flouncin' en' coopein' 'round dem nigger boys at dat meetin'-house las' Sunday night.
1990   J. C. Oates Because it is Bitter i. vi. 51   Nobody ever needed a diploma for carpentry or bricklaying..nigger-boy vocational-school shit like that.

1689—1990(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger child   n.

?1850   T. Carlyle in U.S. Mag. & Democratic Rev. Apr. 302   ‘Sweet, blighted lilies’,—as the American epitaph on the nigger child has it.
1878   Harper's Mag. Oct. 778/2   Tom Terrell had to endure many a gibe as to his daughter having become a teacher of ‘nigger children’.
1947   Social Forces 25 272/1   Do you know how that man made his money? He made it with broken-down mules and nigger children.
1997   South Bend (Indiana) Tribune (Nexis) 13 June c2   Someone at a mall pointed to her mother and said ‘look at her with those nigger children.’

?1850—1997(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger culture   n.

1970   J. B. Cole in A. Chapman New Black Voices (1972) iii. 493   When blacks refer to ‘Nigger culture’, they often very explicitly speak of soul and style.
2002   Irish Times (Nexis) 19 Feb. 1   Jazz-dancing is the product of the dirty low nigger culture of America.

1970—2002(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger dialect   n.

1834   Knickerbocker 3 445   Although mighty smart, and a mighty smart chance, mighty big, and mighty little was excellent ‘nigger’ dialect, yet it was not so refined, as an orator might use.
1979   A. Walker I love myself when I am Laughing 2 in Jrnl. Black Stud. (1982) 12 403   That ‘comical nigger “dialect”’ that has been laughed at, denied, ignored, or ‘improved’ so.

1834—1979(Hide quotations)

 

nigger emancipation   n. Obsolete

1833   Satirist 9 June 53/1 (headline)    The planter's scheme for ‘Nigger’ Emancipation.
a1881   T. Carlyle in Atlantic Monthly (1883) July 132/2   Their universal suffrages, their nigger emancipations, sluggard and scoundrel protection societies.

1833—a1881(Hide quotations)

 

nigger funeral   n. Obsolete rare

1721   S. Sewall Diary 20 Oct. (1973) II. 984   Met a Niger Funeral.

1721—1721(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger hunt   n.

1834   Chambers's Edinb. Jrnl. 3 135/3   When a slave runs away..a party is made up for a nigger hunt.
1882   in P. O'Farrell Lett. from Irish Austral. (1984) 68   The only incidents that occur are ‘nigger hunts’.
1961   Amer. Sociol. Rev. 26 478/2   The Notting Hill Riots, in which nine young white Britons went on a ‘nigger-hunt’ that triggered mob violence.

1834—1961(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger-land   n.

1834   R. H. Froude Remains (1838) I. 380   Niggerland is a poor substitute for the limen Apostolorum.
1893   ‘J. Flynt’ in Cent. Mag. Nov. 99/2   His [sc. Barcas] South was all that remained below his equatorial line, but the eastern part of it he nicknamed Niggerland.
1999   N.Y. Times (Nexis) 3 Oct. 13/1   At the beach..boys drew a line in the sand and designated it the border between Southie and ‘Niggerland’.

1834—1999(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger lips n.

1919   J. Joyce Ulysses x. [Wandering Rocks] in Little Rev. June 37   From the hoardings Mr Eugene Stratton grinned with thick niggerlips at Father Conmee.
1992   Independent on Sunday (Nexis) 30 Sept.   They'd say..she was ugly. They'd say she had nigger lips or she looked too Jewish.

1919—1992(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger man   n.

[1766   in Harper's Mag. Mar. 535/2   I, Governor Cuff of the Niegro's in the province of Connecticut, do resign my Governmentship to John Anderson Niegor man to Governor Skene.]
1813   in William & Mary Q. (1941) 21 263   My nigger man John now in Wm. Graves's possession.
1894   ‘M. Twain’ Pudd'nhead Wilson xviii. 238   I give a nigger man a dollar for dese clo'es, en I ain't be'n in a house sence..till now.
1988   N. Bissoondath Casual Brutality x. 206   The way you scream, I thought it was a nigger-man.

1813—1988(Hide quotations)

 

nigger melody   n. Obsolete

1837   Satirist 5 Feb. 461/3   That ‘beautiful nigger melody’, Jim Crow, owes some at least of its notoriety to fashionable patronage.
1857   J. D. Borthwick Three Years in Calif. xii. 212   My entertainers, producing two violins, favoured me with a selection of Nigger melodies.
1894   G. Du Maurier Trilby I. iii. 219   He..can even scream with laughter at..a nigger melody.

1837—1894(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger mouth   n.

1920   J. Joyce Ulysses Nausicca in Little Rev. July 47   The dark one [sc. girl] with the mop head and the nigger mouth.
1994   Toronto Star (Nexis) 5 Mar. j13   [She] told her to get the fancy French words out of her ‘nigger mouth’.

1920—1994(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger music   n.

1846   Caledonian Mercury 8 Oct. 2/5   These serenaders show that even in nigger music some approach may be made to the plaintive melancholy of a higher order of minstrelsy.
1899   Music Jan. 251   Is it for this that the grand orchestras..exist?—that the people should rather go to hear a brass band play ‘nigger music’ in a beer garden?
1993   Amer. Hist. Rev. 98 896/1   The survival of this music under the Third Reich, where racism led to the disparagement of jazz as ‘nigger music’.
2000   M. T. Bertrand Race, Rock, & Elvis 48   Southern white rock 'n' roll performers and audiences..could..idolize black stars... Yet they could just as easily refer to their new-found heroes as ‘jungle-bunnies’ who played ‘Nigger music’.

1846—2000(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger quarter   n. (also nigger quarters)

1856   F. L. Olmsted Journey Slave States 61   You'll see some nigger-quarters.
1894   ‘M. Twain’ Pudd'nhead Wilson iii. 48   She..lef' her own chile layin' aroun', en tuck en toted de queen's chile home to de nigger-quarter.
2000   Houston Chron. (Nexis) 23 Sept. a33   They refer to (their area of Cleveland) as the ‘nigger quarters’, and just about everybody in Cleveland calls it that still.

1856—2000(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger show   n.

1856   C. E. De Long in Calif. Hist. Soc. Q. (1930) 9 60   Went to a nigger show.
1909   R. E. Knowles Attic Guest xiii. 156   They'll be flaunting that Uncle Tom's Cabin nigger show under your noses.
2004   E. Bonilla-Silva in R. D. Coates Race & Ethnicity 98   While his family was watching black TV shows such as Sanford and Son or The Jeffersons, his father would say things such as ‘Are we gonna watch the nigger shows?’

1856—2004(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger song   n.

1832   Examiner 30 Sept. 630/2   Braham's nigger song, in the Padlock had great humour.
1879   J. R. Planché Good Woman in Wood ii. iv. 253 (note)    A nigger song to this tune..was extremely popular at that date.
1997   Chicago Sun-Times (Nexis) 28 Dec. 20   Blacks are expressing outrage that a group of drunken firefighters are caught on videotape singing a ‘nigger song’.

1832—1997(Hide quotations)

 
 C2.
 a. Objective.
 (a)

  nigger-breaker   n.

1845   F. Douglass Narr. Life F. Douglass ix. 57   All of this added weight to his reputation as a ‘nigger-breaker’.
1899   C. W. Chesnutt Conjure Woman 96   Dey ain' nebber be'n no nigger-breaker lack you roun' heah befo'.
1986   Callaloo No. 27. 305   Douglass, an ‘uppity’ slave, is hired out to Covey, a ‘nigger-breaker’, to have his spirit curbed.

1845—1986(Hide quotations)

 

nigger-dealer   n. Obsolete

1853   F. W. Thomas John Randolph & Other Sketches 285   You know Robinson the nigger-dealer, who has the pen down town.

1853—1853(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger-driver   n.

1833   J. Neal Down-easters I. 70   When the nigger-drivers falls out among themselves.
1891   C. Roberts Adrift in Amer. 198   I never came across such a beast of a nigger driver as this fellow Cole.
1941   H. J. Massingham Fall of Year iii. 87   We have treated the soil as dirt, as a nigger-driver treated a plantation slave.

1833—1941(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger hunter   n.

1855   C. G. Parsons Inside View Slavery 175   Here I found a large crowd of men who had gathered around the bar to receive a ‘treat’ from the ‘nigger hunters’, who always have that kind of glorification when the man is captured alive.
1993   Los Angeles Times (Nexis) 8 Aug. j1/2   Police search the neighboring house..posted as ‘Nazi Nigger Hunter Headquarters’.

1855—1993(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger hunting   n.

1834   Chambers's Edinb. Jrnl. 3 135/3   In Kentucky..nigger-hunting is a favourite sport.
1958   Encounter Dec. 4/2   They had then armed themselves,..and had gone on what they described..as a ‘nigger-hunting expedition’.

1834—1958(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger-killer   n.

1856   F. L. Olmsted Journey Slave States 108   If a man does not provide well for his slaves..he gets the name of a ‘nigger killer’.
1998   Pittsburgh Post-Gaz. (Nexis) 17 Aug. b1   The trigger-happy ‘nigger-killers’ who are the men who actually set the pattern for race relations in the South.

1856—1998(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger-lover   n.

1856   in E. W. Fornell Galveston Era (1961) 173   A wiseacre and a nigger lover.
1866   W. Reid After War 240   Nearly all of them fell readily enough into the current abuse of niggers and nigger-lovers.
1881   Amer. Missionary 35 303/2   Only those would apply for admission who could endure the reproach of being called ‘nigger lovers’.
1909   R. E. Knowles Attic Guest xiii. 178   ‘Then you can take what you deserve, curse you for a nigger-lover,’ I heard the Colonel retort madly.
1991   A. M. Dershowitz Chutzpah iv. 83   If I am speaking about racial equality, it is because ‘kikes are nigger-lovers’.

1856—1991(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger-stealer   n.

1839   R. M. Bird Adventures Robin Day I. xxv. 181   I was ‘a kidnapper, a Georgeye nigger-stealer’.
1994   Tampa (Florida) Tribune (Nexis) 18 Dec. (Baylife section) 1   ‘It's horse thieves I'm after,’ said Jones... ‘And nigger-stealers. And murderers.’

1839—1994(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger trader   n.

1850   De Bow's Rev. Sept. 326   Johnny come down de hollow. Oh, hollow! De nigger-trader got he.
1884   ‘M. Twain’ Adventures Huckleberry Finn viii. 69   But I noticed dey wuz a nigger trader roun' de place considable, lately, en I begin to git oneasy.
1999   Bay State Banner (Boston) (Nexis) 11 Feb. 20   Then if they had bad ones, they'd sell them to the nigger traders..An' they'd ship them down south.

1850—1999(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger-worship   n.

1855   N.Y. Herald 3 June 4/4   Old Garrison, of Boston, the great chief of nigger worship and nigger worshippers.​
1933   Brandon (Manitoba) Daily Sun 28 Dec. 6/3   Coming down through the years from the copper plate of Adalbert Volei, ‘Nigger Worship’, an indictment of the No’th in civil war days.
2005   D. S. Reynolds John Brown, Abolitionist i. 8   Democratic Party propaganda unjustifiably smeared the Republicans with responsibility for Harper’s Ferry. In this view ‘Black Republicanism’ meant not only ‘nigger worship’ but also deep alliance with John Brown.

1855—2005(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger-worshipper   n.

1855   N.Y. Herald 3 June 4/4   Old Garrison, of Boston, the great chief of nigger worship and nigger worshippers.​
1901   W. Churchill Crisis i. ix. 78   The Black Republican Party, made up of old fools and young Anarchists, of Dutchmen and nigger-worshippers.
2000   R. Hendrickson Facts on File Dict. Amer. Regionalisms 112/1   The derogatory term nigger has been used in many expressions, including..nigger worshiper (one who favoured emancipation or one who now supports black political causes).

1855—2000(Hide quotations)

 
 (b)

  nigger-driving adj.

1836   C. G. F. Gore Mrs. Armytage III. xiv. 216   The Duke of Spalding was occupied in promoting the dignities of his nigger-driving nephew-in-law.
1900   H. Lawson Over Sliprails 12   You'll never make money, except by hard graft—hard, bullocking nigger-driving graft.

1836—1900(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger-loving adj.

1839   Satirist 13 Jan. 12/2   The insane mode of government of their nigger-loving Governor.
1869   Supplemental Rep. Joint Comm. Gen. Assembly Louisiana 189   This man then said that..he was a ‘d—d nigger loving son of a b—h, and ought to be killed’.
1914   S. Lewis Our Mr. Wrenn i. 3   Mrs. Zapp was too conscientiously dolorous to be much cheered by the sympathy of a nigger-lovin' Yankee.
2000   Daily Mail (Nexis) 12 July 24   A group of young men started shouting at me: ‘Nigger-loving whore’.

1839—2000(Hide quotations)

 
 b. Parasynthetic and similative.

  nigger-dead adj.

1970   W. Ford in O. Coombs We speak as Liberators 43   I would tell of being Black and Proud and Black and Loud and Black and Bowed and Black and niggerdead.

1970—1970(Hide quotations)

 

nigger-faced adj. Obsolete

1864   Chelsea (Mass.) Telegr. & Pioneer 6 Aug. 2/5   He is an old shrivelled up nigger-faced, crooked-back little specimen of Southern chivalry.

1864—1864(Hide quotations)

 

nigger-looking adj. Obsolete

1837   J. C. Maitland Lett. from Madras (1843) 99   He has a half-caste, dropsical wife, and a sickly nigger-looking child.

1837—1837(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger-skinned adj.

1938   S. Spender Trial of Judge 16   The gross-lipped fawn-eyed nigger-skinned Hook-nosed intellectual Petra.

1938—1938(Hide quotations)

 

 C3. Forming nouns and adjectives denoting or designating a dark shade of a specified colour, as nigger-brown, nigger-grey , nigger-pink, etc. Cf. sense A. 11. Now rare (offensive).

1915   Home Chat 2 Jan. 11/1   Nigger-brown cloth.
1922   D. H. Lawrence England my England 116   She was wearing a wide hat of grey straw, and a loose, swinging dress of nigger-grey velvet.
1930   J. Dos Passos 42nd Parallel i. 124   On each table there were niggerpink and vermilion paper flowers.
1960   V. Williams Walk Egypt 89   A dry-goods store showed a dress of ‘nigger-pink’.
1983   Listener 21 July 4/1   ‘It's a common phrase that is used throughout the land,’ he said. ‘And what about the colour nigger brown?’
2006   K. Atkinson One Good Turn (2007) viii. 69   Graham was dressed in an up-to-the-minute suit in a colour that, when Gloria was a child, everyone had blithely referred to as ‘nigger-brown’.

1915—2006(Hide quotations)

 
 C4.

  niggerball   n. S. Afr. now rare (offensive). a large, spherical, aniseed-flavoured sweet, which is black on the outside, but changes colour in successive layers when sucked.

1960   J. Taylor Ballad of Southern Suburbs (song)    Ag Daddy how we miss Niggerballs and liquorice, Pepsi-cola, ginger-beer and Canada Dry.
1984   Signature (S. Afr.) Jan.–Feb.   Niggerballs! By golly, haven't seen those gob stoppers for years.

1960—1984(Hide quotations)

 

nigger caterpillar   n. Obsolete = sense A. 8a.

1850   J. C. Loudon Encycl. Gardening (ed. 2) 498   The black jack, or nigger caterpillar, being the larva of Athalia centifoliæ.

1850—1850(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger chaser   n. U.S. (offensive now hist.) a kind of firework.

1883   G. W. Peck Peck's Bad Boy 22   I had a lot of rockets and Roman candles, and six pin-wheels, and a lot of nigger chasers.
1921   C. E. Mulford Bar-20 Three xvi. 217   Most likely they'll be nigger-chasers th' way some folks'll be steppin' lively to get out of th' way.
1958   J. M. Lacy in A. Dundes Mother Wit (1973) 597/2   He buys fireworks called ‘nigger chasers’.

1883—1958(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger cloth   n. now hist. any hard-wearing, durable cloth designed to be worn by black slaves (cf. Negro cloth at Negro adj. 3(a)).

1857   Chambers's Jrnl. 3 Jan. 3/2   The garments of..copper-coloured nigger cloth.
1860   J. G. Holland Miss Gilbert's Career iv. 61   You see he sells some of his nigger cloth for goods.
1955   W. Foster-Harris Look of Old West i. 38   Typically the cloth was linsey-woolsey... ‘Nigger cloth’ it was called. It had been much used for slaves' garments, [etc.].

1857—1955(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger corner   n. U.S. (offensive)  (a) that part of a public building in which black people were permitted (obsolete);  (b) an area in which black people live.

1875   Independent (N.Y.) 15 Apr. 15/2   They will hear ‘the same preaching’ from their ‘nigger’ corner, and will ‘receive the same sacraments’, after the whites have supped.
1894   ‘M. Twain’ in Cent. Mag. June 233/1   In the ‘nigger corner’ sat Chambers.
2000   Yale Bull. & Calendar 1 Sept. 5/3   The name of the street in this picture is Blakely Street, but this part of it, which was a dead end, was called Nigger Corner.

1875—2000(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger dog   n. U.S. rare (offensive) = negro dog n. at Negro n. and adj. Compounds 3.

1877   J. M. Beard K.K.K. Sketches 147   Uncle Jack had been the proud proprietor of the largest and best known pack of ‘nigger dogs’ in the ‘Goober State’.
1945   B. A. Botkin Lay my Burden Down 122   I think I heared the nigger dogs and somebody on horseback.

1877—1945(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger duck   n. U.S. now rare (offensive) the North American black duck, Anas rubripes.

1876   Fur, Fin & Feather Sept. 101/2   The gray duck..are obliged to tolerate in their society that..tough, shot-resisting thing which is commonly called ‘nigger duck’.
1923   U.S. Dept. Agric. Misc. Circular No. 13. 9   Black Duck... Niggerduck.

1876—1923(Hide quotations)

 

  niggerfish   n. N. Amer. now rare (offensive) the coney, Epinephelus fulvus (cf. Negro fish n. at Negro n. and adj. Compounds 3); (formerly also) the winter flounder, Pseudopleuronectes americanus.

1876   G. B. Goode Catal. Fishes Bermudas 60   The red form corresponds to Terranus ouatalibe, and is known as the Nigger-fish.
1888   G. B. Goode Amer. Fishes 321   Next in importance to the Plaice, comes the Flat Fish, Pseudopleuronectes Americanus... New York anglers call it the ‘Nigger Fish’.
1933   Guide to John G. Shedd Aquarium 97   Epinephelidae—The groupers... Cephalopholis fulvus punctatus—Coney; Niggerfish.

1876—1933(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger goose   n. U.S. regional (offensive now rare) a cormorant; esp. the double-crested cormorant, Phalacrocorax auritus.

1909   Zool. Ser. Field Mus. Nat. Hist. 9 309   Phalacrocorax auritus... Double-crested cormorant... Local name: Nigger Goose.
1941   R. Faherty Big Old Sun 313   You can eat curlew, or kill duck or coot or niggergoose if they come flying out yonder.
1984   E. Hoagland in Balancing Acts (1992) 319   Cormorants flew over, black, agile diving birds, which old fishermen across the South still like to call ‘nigger geese’ because they're dark and fly like geese.

1909—1984(Hide quotations)

 

  niggerhair   n. U.S. regional (offensive now rare) a red alga, Polysiphonia harveyi.

1852   Smithson. Contrib. Knowl. 5 ii. 41   This plant [sc. Polysiphonia arietina] is common in various places in Long Island Sound... ‘Pooh! that's what we call “nigger-hair”’.
1901   A. F. Arnold Sea-beach at Ebb-tide (ed. 2) 88   P[olysiphonia] harveyi... Called locally niggerhair.

1852—1901(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger heel   n. Nautical (offensive) an inward curve in the leech of a sail.

1901   Rudder 12 302/2   The after leech would take an incurve or ‘nigger heel’, as sailmakers call it.

1901—1901(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger-heeled adj. (of a sail) having such a curved leech.

1922   C. G. Davis How Sails are Made (ed. 2) 63   A double-bighted sail would, if not carefully handled and hauled out too hard on peak and clew, become ‘nigger-heeled’, as a hollow leech was called.
1961   F. H. Burgess Dict. Sailing 150   Niggerheeled, said of the leech of a sail that curves inward of a line from peak to clew, and is therefore not roached.

1922—1961(Hide quotations)

 

nigger jockey   n. Obsolete U.S. slang a person who deals in black slaves (in quot. 1895   in extended use).

1838   T. C. Haliburton Clockmaker 2nd Ser. iii   A nigger-jockey..is a gentleman that trades in niggers,—buys them in one state, and sells them in another, where they arn't known.
1895   O. Wister in Harper's Mag. Nov. 850/2   It was two of our own mounted escort [sic] that she saw out to the right of us... ‘Tell dem nigger jockeys I got no money.’

1838—1895(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger lice   n. U.S. regional (offensive) the prickly burrs of any of various plants, esp. the one-seeded segments of the jointed pods of a tick trefoil (genus Desmodium).

1933   Sun (Baltimore) 11 Sept. 6/7   The iron weed with its deep color, and..great clumps of ‘nigger lice’.
1946   Sun (Baltimore) 2 Oct. 12/3   When I spoke the other day of ‘nigger lice’, I was referring to the tick trefoil, its scientific name.
1968   in Dict. Amer. Regional Eng. (1996) III. 798/1   [Maryland] Nigger lice.

1933—1968(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger luck   n. U.S. slang (offensive) exceptionally good luck (in later use also ironic).

1851   R. Glisan Jrnl. Army Life (1874) 90   I occasionally made him a little envious by my nigger-luck, as he is pleased to term it.
1914   Collier's 1 Aug. 6   Just nigger luck!..That busher won't get another hit off me all season.
1994   C. Major Juba to Jive 322   Nigger luck, a term used ironically referring to good luck; putting the best face on a bad, if not tragic, situation.

1851—1994(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger minstrel   n. now hist. = blackface minstrel at minstrel n. 3a.

1844   Era 9 June 6/1   The ‘Nigger’ Minstrels continue to attract good audiences.
1858   W. J. Hoppin Lady of Bed-chamber i. i. 13   One doesn't hear such an imitation as that every day. It beats the nigger minstrels.
1936   A. B. Paterson Shearer's Colt xiv. 152   I've been away out where the nigger minstrels come from, and I haven't seen a paper or heard a word of news.
1996   Guardian (Nexis) 10 June t12   Back in the inter-war years, when it was still possible to produce a nigger minstrel show, some black people happily did the coon dancing.

1844—1996(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger rich adj. U.S. slang and regional (derogatory and offensive) suddenly and unfamiliarly wealthy; making extravagant or ostentatious use of (esp. newly acquired) wealth.

1930   E. Gowen True Exposé Racketeers 81   In those sections of the South where the old traditions of gentle birth and culture still assert their ancient authority..there is commonly in use a vivid, brutal phrase to describe ostentatious display by the merely vulgar wealthy. The phrase is ‘nigger rich’.
1958   J. M. Brewer Dog Ghosts 77   Dey name hit de silk-stockin' chu'ch 'caze dey ain't nothin' but Nigguh-rich folks what kin b'long to hit.
1994   C. McCarthy Crossing 179   Now you're rich, Billy said. Nigger-rich, said Boyd.

1930—1994(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger-shooter   n. U.S. slang (offensive now rare) a catapult.

1876   E. W. Heap Diary 26 Feb. in Publ. Amer. Dial. Soc. (1969) lii. 53   I had a job on hand making Nigger shooters for Dr's children.
1901   G. Ade 40 Mod. Fables 172   All you wanted to do was to tear out with those Toughs and kill Birds with Nigger-Shooters.
1996   San Antonio (Texas) Express-News (Nexis) 18 Jan. 2 a   The slingshot in those days had a nickname that was decidedly not politically correct..it was a nigger-shooter.

1876—1996(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger stick   n. U.S. slang (offensive) a stick or truncheon carried by a police officer, prison guard, etc.

1971   N.Y. Post 15 Sept. 36   Nigger sticks.
1971   Guardian 18 Sept. 11/7   Conditions inside American prisons... Prisoners live their lives at the end of gun barrels and what are often known as ‘nigger-sticks’.
1994   Newsday (Nexis) 24 Apr. a38   The weapon of choice is a truncheon with a 90-degree handle for increased leverage..a ‘nigger stick’.

1971—1994(Hide quotations)

 

  nigger toe   n. U.S. slang (offensive)  (a) a variety of potato (obsolete);  (b) a Brazil nut.

1853   Trans. Michigan Agric. Soc. (1854) 5 208   Some of the more approved [kinds of potatoes] are..the Niggertoe, the Meshannock, the Cumberland Kempt.
1896   Dial. Notes 1 421   Nigger toes: for Brazil nuts.
1946   H. L. Mencken in W. S. Knickerbocker 20th Cent. Eng. 149   Niggertoe..was once used to designate a variety of potato.
1997   Record (Bergen County, New Jersey) (Nexis) 6 July a7   She asks to buy nuts from the display case. ‘You want some of these nigger toes?’ asks the woman.

1853—1997(Hide quotations)

 

  Niggertown   n. (also niggertown) U.S. slang (now offensive) a neighbourhood with predominantly black residents.

1892   Scribner's Mag. July 12   He asked where I had been, and on telling him that I came fresh from ‘The Dive’, ‘The Bad Lands’, ‘Biler Avenue’, ‘Niggertown’, ‘Chinatown’, etc., he asked if these were not poor enough.
1932   W. Faulkner Light in August xv. 333   She was always around that little house in Niggertown where they live.
1997   Chicago Rev. (Electronic ed.) 22 Mar.   In the mid-1950s, Tulsa was a segregated city, with an industrial zone separating ‘Niggertown’ from the rest of the city.

1892—1997(Hide quotations)

 

  Niggerville   n. U.S. slang (now offensive) = Niggertown n.

1857   H. R. Helper Impending Crisis South 18   Like all other niggervilles in our disreputable part of the confederacy, the commercial emporium of South Carolina is sick and impoverished.
1968   in Dict. Amer. Regional Eng. (1996) III. 801/1   Niggerville.
1998   San Francisco Chron. (Electronic ed.) 30 July a19   Callers..couldn't resist popping off a few monikers for the struggling Peninsula city... The name some East Palo Altans found most objectionable was Niggerville.

1857—1998(Hide quotations)