nice

Definitions

General English

  • adjective pleasant, enjoyable
  • adjective pleasant, polite

Food

Medical

  • acronym forNational Institute for Clinical Excellence
    (written as NICE)
  • noun an organisation in the UK which produces recommendations for treatments based on clinical evidence and cost-effectiveness.

Origin & History of “nice”

Nice is one of the more celebrated examples in English of a word changing its meaning out of all recognition over the centuries – in this case, from ‘stupid’ to ‘pleasant’. Its ultimate source was Latin nescius ‘ignorant’, a compound adjective formed from the negative particle ne- and the base of the verb scīre ‘know’ (source of English science). This passed into English via Old French nice with minimal change of meaning, but from then on a slow but sure semantic transformation took place, from ‘foolish’ via ‘shy’, ‘fastidious’, and ‘refined’ to on the one hand ‘minutely accurate or discriminating’ (as in a ‘nice distinction’) and on the other ‘pleasant, agreeable’ (first recorded in the second half of the 18th century).
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