neat

Definitions

Agriculture

  • noun an old term meaning a cow or ox

Construction

  • Idiom for exact dimensions, i.e., excavation to the designed width of the footing.
  • A term referring to a process by which a material is prepared for use without addition of any other materials except water. Examples include neat cement or neat plaster.

Food

  • adjective used for describing an alcoholic spirit served undiluted or unmixed

Slang

  • adjective an all-purpose term of approval which became popular among teenagers in the mid-1960s and has survived. It is often ridiculed by sophisticates as evidence of naïve or gushing enthusiasm. The word occurred with this sense in the slang of jazz musicians, the ‘smart set’ and adolescents as long ago as the early 1920s.

Travel

  • adjective with no water or any other liquid added

Origin & History of “neat”

English has two words neat. The older is now virtually obsolete, while the commoner is a comparatively recent introduction. Neat ‘tidy’ (16th c.) was borrowed from French net ‘neat, clean’. this goes back to Latin nitidus ‘elegant, shiny’, a derivative of the verb nītēre ‘shine’. English originally acquired the word in the 14th century as net ‘clean, tidy’ (from which the modern net ‘with deductions’ developed). This had a 16th-century derivative netty, which may be the source of modern English natty (18th c.).

Neat ‘cow, ox’ (OE) is now encountered only in gastronomic contexts, such as ‘neat’s foot jelly’, and even then is an archaism. It goes back to prehistoric Germanic *nautam, a derivative of a base meaning ‘use’, and hence reflects (like cattle itself) the original notion of cattle as ‘useful property’.
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