nigger, n. and adj.
α. 15– niger (now nonstandard and regional), 16 nigor, 17 nigre, 19– nigar (Caribbean).
β. 16 niggor, 16– nigger, 18 niggur, 18– nigga , 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:
Probably an alteration of , after classical Latin niger
(see ); compare earlier ,
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 ).
Some early examples of the form niger
(especially in learned use) may perhaps represent a direct reborrowing of classical Latin niger
black (see ).
Forms in -gg-
(see ) 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 , , , and ); compare quot. . Compare
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 ). In standard English usage the word
had already become the usual neutral term by the end of the 17th cent.
For coincidence of the word in some dialects with
compare γ forms and etymological note at that entry.
With the phrase to work like a nigger
(see ) compare French travailler comme un nègre
(1811). The phrase nigger in the woodpile
(see ) 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.
A. n. I.
Senses referring to people.
A dark-skinned person of sub-Saharan African origin or descent; = .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 , , and ). 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.
b. Used by people who are not black as a hostile term of abuse or contempt.
1775 in F. Moore
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
The rest of the world—niggers and what not.
1818 H. B. Fearon 46
The bad conduct and inferior nature of niggars (negroes).
a1849 H. Coleridge
A similar error has turned Othello..into a rank woolly-pated, thick-lipped nigger.
1861 H. A. Jacobs vii. 59
Do you suppose that I will have you tending my children with the children of that nigger?
1931 D. L. Sayers i. 11
Waters,..like all Englishmen, was ready enough to admire and praise all foreigners except dagoes and niggers.
1936 M. Mitchell 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 i. i. 3
I hate the place. I hate the people. I hate the bloody niggers. Mustn't call 'em that you know.
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 7 June 4/1
If a white guy gonna call me a nigger, he wants to fight.
2001 6 Aug. 21/1
Farther back in the crowd, William..heard a cop say, ‘We'll beat the hell out of you niggers.’
c. Used by black people (esp. African Americans) as a neutral or favourable term.
1831 H. J. Finn 88
‘You be right dere,’ observed Sambo, ‘..else what fur he go more 'mong niggers den de white trash?’
1838 R. M. Bird 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 ii. i. 225
For sixteen—seventeen year, dis nigga watch his time.
1884 ‘M. Twain’ viii. 72
Dey wuz a nigger name' Bob, dat had ketched a wood-flat.
c1937 in N. R. Yetman 257
A nigger by name o' Enoch Golden married us.
1949 B. A. Botkin 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 170
Mr. Walter knocked that nigger just as flat, and that nigger knocked Mr. Walter just as flat.
1987 ‘Schoolly D’ Sat. Night
in L. A. Stanley
He rapped so hard that the nigger saw smoke He lit up a cheeba and they both took a toke.
2000 ‘DMX’ in 13 Apr. 90/1
I wasn't the biggest nigga in the world. I couldn't beat everybody, but..my rep superseded me.
d. Used by black people (esp. African Americans) as a depreciatory term.
1834 F. Lieber 90
A negro boy under my window calls a lad of the same race, by way of reproach, ‘nigger’.
1866 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 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 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 Apr. 56
Who the hell you think, nigger?
1998 8 Dec. 51/1
My son was killed by seven black-ass niggers!
b. Any person whose behaviour is regarded as reprehensible. derogatory.
1840 W. G. Simms 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
Abe Lincoln..goddam you..you are nothing but a goddam Black nigger.]
1884 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 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 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 19 May 64/2
Like I could tell Mr. Rudy Giuliani, ‘Yo, bitch, fucking bitch-ass nigger.’
1994 G. Smitherman 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 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.
b. Australian (offensive). An Aborigine.
1845 G. de C. Lefroy in C. T. Stannage
It is shocking..to see a fine young fellow cut off by the odious detestable niggers.
1891 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 99
‘Find a nigger,’ said our bushman..‘and you'll get water.’
1941 I. L. Idriess xxii. 169
The cranky nigger who was on the job broke the only shovel.
1959 E. Webb 14
No one else called me a farting nigger; at least, not to my face.
1986 Jan. 76/3
The Duncans have enjoyed so much success they have earned the epithet ‘uptown niggers’ from other Aboriginal people.
c. New Zealand (offensive). A Maori.
1858 A. S. Atkinson in
We heard that Bishop Selwyn..thinks there is a fair chance of collision with the ‘niggers’.
1868 R. Taylor 111
The Maori is constantly being called a nigger and a black fellow to his face, and viewed as an inferior being.
1911 7 Jan. 1
Heavens above, we filch the nigger's land and then we make an alien of him.
1984 28 Mar. 7
Later a girl by the campfire said ‘why don't you niggers do a haka and...off’[ellipsis in text].
8. British regional
b. The blackish larva of a ladybird. Now rare.
1855 J. C. Morton II. 120
Nigger, the name of lady-bird larvæ in hop grounds.
1975 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.
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
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 68
Holothuria forskali delle Chiaje, 1841. Nigger, Cotton-spinner.
b. A device used to hold and turn logs in a sawmill.
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 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 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 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 80
Nigger, a fast-moving power arm on the log carriage in a sawmill that turned a log for sawing.
P1. colloquial (orig. U.S.). to work like a nigger and variants: to work exceptionally hard.
[1803 J. Davis 383
I..worked like a new negur.]
1836 C. Gilman Recoll. Southern Matron in 23 July 186/1
I have toiled night and day, I've worked like a nigger, and more than any nigger.
1861 ‘G. Eliot’ 13 Apr.
Charles..will..work like a nigger at his music.
1880 ‘M. Twain’ iii. 40
He laid into his work like a nigger.
1888 ‘R. Boldrewood’ xxvi
All four used to work like niggers.
1902 J. Mathew 90
The next to sing was Dick the digger, A man who ‘grafted’ like a nigger.
1920 R. Fry 20 June
I have worked like a nigger to arrange it [sc. an exhibition] well.
1939 (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’ 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 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.’
P2. a. U.S.
nigger in the fence n. = .
1850 4 Sept. 2/6
The majority of the papers, however, think that there ‘is a nigger in the fence’ somewhere.
1888 B. Harte 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 xi. 286
He's always looking for a nigger in the fence.
1923 J. Conrad 3 Jan.
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.
nigger in the woodpile n.
[see etymological note]
a concealed motive or unknown factor affecting a situation in an adverse way.
[1843 D. Emmett
Nigger on de wood-pile barkin like a dog.]
No ‘nigger in the wood pile’ here..; white men are at the bottom of this speculation.
1876 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 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 11 Aug. 944
If you go through the schedules you will find some nigger in every wood pile.
1930 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 xii. 109
Well now, let's have your point of view. Who's the nigger in the woodpile? The G.I. husband?
1960 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 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’.
All of these compounds are offensive
One niggor Boy.
1825 J. Neal III. 207
Nobody there, I guess, but a nigger boy.
1899 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 i. vi. 51
Nobody ever needed a diploma for carpentry or bricklaying..nigger-boy vocational-school shit like that.
?1850 T. Carlyle in Apr. 302
‘Sweet, blighted lilies’,—as the American epitaph on the nigger child has it.
1878 Oct. 778/2
Tom Terrell had to endure many a gibe as to his daughter having become a teacher of ‘nigger children’.
1947 25 272/1
Do you know how that man made his money? He made it with broken-down mules and nigger children.
13 June c2
Someone at a mall pointed to her mother and said ‘look at her with those nigger children.’
1970 J. B. Cole in A. Chapman
When blacks refer to ‘Nigger culture’, they often very explicitly speak of soul and style.
19 Feb. 1
Jazz-dancing is the product of the dirty low nigger culture of America.
1834 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
That ‘comical nigger “dialect”’ that has been laughed at, denied, ignored, or ‘improved’ so.
† nigger emancipation n. Obsolete
1833 9 June 53/1
The planter's scheme for ‘Nigger’ Emancipation.
a1881 T. Carlyle in
Their universal suffrages, their nigger emancipations, sluggard and scoundrel protection societies.
† nigger funeral n. Obsolete rare
1834 3 135/3
When a slave runs away..a party is made up for a nigger hunt.
1882 in P. O'Farrell
The only incidents that occur are ‘nigger hunts’.
1961 26 478/2
The Notting Hill Riots, in which nine young white Britons went on a ‘nigger-hunt’ that triggered mob violence.
1834 R. H. Froude
Niggerland is a poor substitute for the limen Apostolorum.
1893 ‘J. Flynt’ in Nov. 99/2
His [sc. Barcas] South was all that remained below his equatorial line, but the eastern part of it he nicknamed Niggerland.
3 Oct. 13/1
At the beach..boys drew a line in the sand and designated it the border between Southie and ‘Niggerland’.
1919 J. Joyce Ulysses x. [Wandering Rocks] in June 37
From the hoardings Mr Eugene Stratton grinned with thick niggerlips at Father Conmee.
They'd say..she was ugly. They'd say she had nigger lips or she looked too Jewish.
[1766 in 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.]
My nigger man John now in Wm. Graves's possession.
1894 ‘M. Twain’ 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 x. 206
The way you scream, I thought it was a nigger-man.
† nigger melody n. Obsolete
1837 5 Feb. 461/3
That ‘beautiful nigger melody’, Jim Crow, owes some at least of its notoriety to fashionable patronage.
1857 J. D. Borthwick xii. 212
My entertainers, producing two violins, favoured me with a selection of Nigger melodies.
1894 G. Du Maurier I. iii. 219
He..can even scream with laughter at..a nigger melody.
1920 J. Joyce Ulysses Nausicca in July 47
The dark one [sc. girl] with the mop head and the nigger mouth.
5 Mar. j13
[She] told her to get the fancy French words out of her ‘nigger mouth’.
1846 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 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 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 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’.
nigger quarter n.
(also nigger quarters)
1856 F. L. Olmsted 61
You'll see some nigger-quarters.
1894 ‘M. Twain’ iii. 48
She..lef' her own chile layin' aroun', en tuck en toted de queen's chile home to de nigger-quarter.
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 C. E. De Long in
Went to a nigger show.
1909 R. E. Knowles xiii. 156
They'll be flaunting that Uncle Tom's Cabin nigger show under your noses.
2004 E. Bonilla-Silva in R. D. Coates 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?’
1832 30 Sept. 630/2
Braham's nigger song, in the Padlock had great humour.
1879 J. R. Planché ii. iv. 253
A nigger song to this tune..was extremely popular at that date.
28 Dec. 20
Blacks are expressing outrage that a group of drunken firefighters are caught on videotape singing a ‘nigger song’.
1845 F. Douglass ix. 57
All of this added weight to his reputation as a ‘nigger-breaker’.
1899 C. W. Chesnutt 96
Dey ain' nebber be'n no nigger-breaker lack you roun' heah befo'.
1986 No. 27. 305
Douglass, an ‘uppity’ slave, is hired out to Covey, a ‘nigger-breaker’, to have his spirit curbed.
† nigger-dealer n. Obsolete
1853 F. W. Thomas 285
You know Robinson the nigger-dealer, who has the pen down town.
1833 J. Neal I. 70
When the nigger-drivers falls out among themselves.
1891 C. Roberts 198
I never came across such a beast of a nigger driver as this fellow Cole.
1941 H. J. Massingham iii. 87
We have treated the soil as dirt, as a nigger-driver treated a plantation slave.
1855 C. G. Parsons 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.
8 Aug. j1/2
Police search the neighboring house..posted as ‘Nazi Nigger Hunter Headquarters’.
1834 3 135/3
In Kentucky..nigger-hunting is a favourite sport.
1958 Dec. 4/2
They had then armed themselves,..and had gone on what they described..as a ‘nigger-hunting expedition’.
1856 F. L. Olmsted 108
If a man does not provide well for his slaves..he gets the name of a ‘nigger killer’.
17 Aug. b1
The trigger-happy ‘nigger-killers’ who are the men who actually set the pattern for race relations in the South.
1856 in E. W. Fornell
A wiseacre and a nigger lover.
1866 W. Reid 240
Nearly all of them fell readily enough into the current abuse of niggers and nigger-lovers.
1881 35 303/2
Only those would apply for admission who could endure the reproach of being called ‘nigger lovers’.
1909 R. E. Knowles 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 iv. 83
If I am speaking about racial equality, it is because ‘kikes are nigger-lovers’.
1839 R. M. Bird I. xxv. 181
I was ‘a kidnapper, a Georgeye nigger-stealer’.
18 Dec. (Baylife section) 1
‘It's horse thieves I'm after,’ said Jones... ‘And nigger-stealers. And murderers.’
1850 Sept. 326
Johnny come down de hollow. Oh, hollow! De nigger-trader got he.
1884 ‘M. Twain’ viii. 69
But I noticed dey wuz a nigger trader roun' de place considable, lately, en I begin to git oneasy.
11 Feb. 20
Then if they had bad ones, they'd sell them to the nigger traders..An' they'd ship them down south.
1855 3 June 4/4
Old Garrison, of Boston, the great chief of nigger worship and nigger worshippers.
1933 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 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 3 June 4/4
Old Garrison, of Boston, the great chief of nigger worship and nigger worshippers.
1901 W. Churchill i. ix. 78
The Black Republican Party, made up of old fools and young Anarchists, of Dutchmen and nigger-worshippers.
2000 R. Hendrickson 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).
1836 C. G. F. Gore III. xiv. 216
The Duke of Spalding was occupied in promoting the dignities of his nigger-driving nephew-in-law.
1900 H. Lawson 12
You'll never make money, except by hard graft—hard, bullocking nigger-driving graft.
1839 13 Jan. 12/2
The insane mode of government of their nigger-loving Governor.
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 i. 3
Mrs. Zapp was too conscientiously dolorous to be much cheered by the sympathy of a nigger-lovin' Yankee.
12 July 24
A group of young men started shouting at me: ‘Nigger-loving whore’.
Parasynthetic and similative.
1970 W. Ford in O. Coombs 43
I would tell of being Black and Proud and Black and Loud and Black and Bowed and Black and niggerdead.
† nigger-faced adj. Obsolete
1864 6 Aug. 2/5
He is an old shrivelled up nigger-faced, crooked-back little specimen of Southern chivalry.
† nigger-looking adj. Obsolete
1837 J. C. Maitland
He has a half-caste, dropsical wife, and a sickly nigger-looking child.
1938 S. Spender 16
The gross-lipped fawn-eyed nigger-skinned Hook-nosed intellectual Petra.
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 . Now rare (offensive).
1915 2 Jan. 11/1
1922 D. H. Lawrence 116
She was wearing a wide hat of grey straw, and a loose, swinging dress of nigger-grey velvet.
1930 J. Dos Passos i. 124
On each table there were niggerpink and vermilion paper flowers.
1960 V. Williams 89
A dry-goods store showed a dress of ‘nigger-pink’.
1983 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
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’.
niggerball n. South African 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
Ag Daddy how we miss Niggerballs and liquorice, Pepsi-cola, ginger-beer and Canada Dry.
Niggerballs! By golly, haven't seen those gob stoppers for years.
† nigger caterpillar n. Obsolete = sense .
1850 J. C. Loudon
The black jack, or nigger caterpillar, being the larva of Athalia centifoliæ.
nigger chaser n. U.S. (offensive now hist.) a kind of firework.
1883 G. W. Peck 22
I had a lot of rockets and Roman candles, and six pin-wheels, and a lot of nigger chasers.
1921 C. E. Mulford 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
He buys fireworks called ‘nigger chasers’.
nigger cloth n. now hist. any hard-wearing, durable cloth designed to be worn by black slaves (cf. ).
1857 3 Jan. 3/2
The garments of..copper-coloured nigger cloth.
1860 J. G. Holland iv. 61
You see he sells some of his nigger cloth for goods.
1955 W. Foster-Harris i. 38
Typically the cloth was linsey-woolsey... ‘Nigger cloth’ it was called. It had been much used for slaves' garments, [etc.].
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 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 June 233/1
In the ‘nigger corner’ sat Chambers.
2000 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.
nigger dog n. U.S. rare (offensive) = .
1877 J. M. Beard 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 122
I think I heared the nigger dogs and somebody on horseback.
nigger duck n. U.S. now rare (offensive) the North American black duck, Anas rubripes.
1876 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 No. 13. 9
Black Duck... Niggerduck.
niggerfish n. North American now rare (offensive) the coney, Epinephelus fulvus (cf. ); (formerly also) the winter flounder, Pseudopleuronectes americanus.
1876 G. B. Goode 60
The red form corresponds to Terranus ouatalibe, and is known as the Nigger-fish.
1888 G. B. Goode 321
Next in importance to the Plaice, comes the Flat Fish, Pseudopleuronectes Americanus... New York anglers call it the ‘Nigger Fish’.
Epinephelidae—The groupers... Cephalopholis fulvus punctatus—Coney; Niggerfish.
nigger goose n. U.S. regional (offensive now rare) a cormorant; esp. the double-crested cormorant, Phalacrocorax auritus.
1909 9 309
Phalacrocorax auritus... Double-crested cormorant... Local name: Nigger Goose.
1941 R. Faherty 313
You can eat curlew, or kill duck or coot or niggergoose if they come flying out yonder.
1984 E. Hoagland in
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.
niggerhair n. U.S. regional (offensive now rare) a red alga, Polysiphonia harveyi.
1852 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
P[olysiphonia] harveyi... Called locally niggerhair.
nigger heel n. Nautical (offensive) an inward curve in the leech of a sail.
1901 12 302/2
The after leech would take an incurve or ‘nigger heel’, as sailmakers call it.
nigger-heeled adj. (of a sail) having such a curved leech.
1922 C. G. Davis
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 150
Niggerheeled, said of the leech of a sail that curves inward of a line from peak to clew, and is therefore not roached.
† nigger jockey n. Obsolete U.S. slang a person who deals in black slaves (in quot. in extended use).
1838 T. C. Haliburton 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 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.’
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 11 Sept. 6/7
The iron weed with its deep color, and..great clumps of ‘nigger lice’.
1946 2 Oct. 12/3
When I spoke the other day of ‘nigger lice’, I was referring to the tick trefoil, its scientific name.
[Maryland] Nigger lice.
nigger luck n. U.S. slang (offensive) exceptionally good luck (in later use also ironic).
1851 R. Glisan
I occasionally made him a little envious by my nigger-luck, as he is pleased to term it.
1914 1 Aug. 6
Just nigger luck!..That busher won't get another hit off me all season.
1994 C. Major 322
Nigger luck, a term used ironically referring to good luck; putting the best face on a bad, if not tragic, situation.
nigger minstrel n. now hist. = .
1844 9 June 6/1
The ‘Nigger’ Minstrels continue to attract good audiences.
1858 W. J. Hoppin i. i. 13
One doesn't hear such an imitation as that every day. It beats the nigger minstrels.
1936 A. B. Paterson 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.
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.
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 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 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 179
Now you're rich, Billy said. Nigger-rich, said Boyd.
nigger-shooter n. U.S. slang (offensive now rare) a catapult.
1876 E. W. Heap Diary 26 Feb. in
I had a job on hand making Nigger shooters for Dr's children.
1901 G. Ade 172
All you wanted to do was to tear out with those Toughs and kill Birds with Nigger-Shooters.
18 Jan. 2 a
The slingshot in those days had a nickname that was decidedly not politically correct..it was a nigger-shooter.
nigger stick n. U.S. slang (offensive) a stick or truncheon carried by a police officer, prison guard, etc.
1971 15 Sept. 36
1971 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’.
24 Apr. a38
The weapon of choice is a truncheon with a 90-degree handle for increased leverage..a ‘nigger stick’.
nigger toe n. U.S. slang (offensive)
†(a) a variety of potato (obsolete);
(b) a Brazil nut.
Some of the more approved [kinds of potatoes] are..the Niggertoe, the Meshannock, the Cumberland Kempt.
1896 1 421
Nigger toes: for Brazil nuts.
1946 H. L. Mencken in W. S. Knickerbocker 149
Niggertoe..was once used to designate a variety of potato.
6 July a7
She asks to buy nuts from the display case. ‘You want some of these nigger toes?’ asks the woman.
U.S. slang (now offensive) a neighbourhood with predominantly black residents.
1892 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 xv. 333
She was always around that little house in Niggertown where they live.
1997 43 No. 2. 12
In the mid-1950s, Tulsa was a segregated city, with an industrial zone separating ‘Niggertown’ from the rest of the city.
Niggerville n. U.S. slang (now offensive) =
1857 H. R. Helper 18
Like all other niggervilles in our disreputable part of the confederacy, the commercial emporium of South Carolina is sick and impoverished.
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.
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This entry has been updated (OED Third Edition, September 2003).
In this entry:
- My entries(1)
- niggardize, v.1606
- niggardliness, n.1556
- niggardling, n. and ...1654
- niggardly, adj.1560
- niggardly, adv.?1529
- niggardness, n.c1487
- niggardous, adj.a1492
- niggardship, n.?a1439
- niggardy, n.c1390
- nigger, n. and adj.1577
- nigger, v.a1813
- niggerality, n.a1612
- niggerati, n.1932
- nigger baby, n.1833
- niggerdom, n.1855
- niggergram, n.1957
- niggerhead, n.1843
- nigger heaven, n.1875
- niggering, n.a1813
- niggerish, adj.1825
- niggerism, n.1844
- niggerize, v.1857
- niggerkin, n.1853
- niggerling, n.1842
- nigger-rig, v.1977
- nigger-rigged, adj.1965
- niggers, n. (and int.)1633
- nigger's-head, n.1921
- niggery, adj.1855
- nigget, n.1713
- niggie, n.1868
- nigging, n.11699
- nigging, n.21849
- niggish, adj.1519
- niggishness, n.1519
- niggle, n.1834
- niggle, v.11567
- niggle, v.21599
- niggled, adj.1863
- niggledigée, n.1755