In a word: Nugatory

November 14, 2011

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar — another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word:


Nothing to do with nougat. Nothing to do with anything significant or important, either.

The word (pronounced NOO-guh-tor-ee) means trifling, of no importance or value, ineffectual, useless, futile.

It is an anglicization of the late Latin nugatorius, which derives from nugari, "to trifle," and nugae, "jests."

Example: From Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One: "Mr. Joyboy was not a handsome man. … But these physical defects were nugatory when set against his moral earnestness and the compelling charm of his softly resonant voice."

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