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verb (used without object), napped, nap·ping.
  1. to sleep for a short time; doze.
  2. to be off one's guard: The question caught him napping.
verb (used with object), napped, nap·ping.
  1. to sleep or doze through (a period of time, an activity, etc.) (usually followed by away): I napped the afternoon away. He naps away most of his classes.
  1. a brief period of sleep, especially one taken during daytime: Has the baby had her nap?

Origin of nap1

before 900; Middle English nappen (v.), nap (noun), Old English hnappian to sleep; cognate with Middle High German napfen


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1. nod, rest, catnap.


  1. the short fuzzy ends of fibers on the surface of cloth, drawn up in napping.
  2. any downy coating, as on plants.
verb (used with object), napped, nap·ping.
  1. to raise a nap on.

Origin of nap2

1400–50; late Middle English noppe, Old English -hnoppa (as in wullknoppa, mistake for *wullhnoppa tuft of wool), cognate with Middle Dutch, Middle Low German noppe; akin to Old English hnoppian to pluck
Related formsnap·less, adjectivenap·less·ness, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for napping

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • "My son seems to have caught us napping," said Lady Coryston, rather grimly.

    The Coryston Family

    Mrs. Humphry Ward

  • How is it you know there is an ambuscade laid to catch us napping?

  • You cannot catch them napping, and you cannot turn their flank.

    Ireland as It Is

    Robert John Buckley (AKA R.J.B.)

  • But I was aft, looking after the steering, and she did not catch me napping that time.

    A Set of Six

    Joseph Conrad

  • They have made a mistake indeed, if they think that they will catch us napping.

    At Aboukir and Acre

    George Alfred Henty

British Dictionary definitions for napping


verb naps, napping or napped (intr)
  1. to sleep for a short while; doze
  2. to be unaware or inattentive; be off guard (esp in the phrase catch someone napping)
  1. a short light sleep; doze

Word Origin

Old English hnappian; related to Middle High German napfen


    1. the raised fibres of velvet or similar cloth
    2. the direction in which these fibres lie when smoothed down
  1. any similar downy coating
  2. Australian informal blankets, bedding
verb naps, napping or napped
  1. (tr) to raise the nap of (cloth, esp velvet) by brushing or similar treatment

Word Origin

C15: probably from Middle Dutch noppe; related to Old English hnoppian to pluck


  1. Also called: napoleon a card game similar to whist, usually played for stakes
  2. a call in this card game, undertaking to win all five tricks
  3. horse racing a tipster's choice for an almost certain winner
  4. go nap
    1. to undertake to win all five tricks at nap
    2. to risk everything on one chance
  5. not to go nap on Australian slang to hold in disfavour
  6. nap hand a position in which there is a very good chance of success if a risk is taken
verb naps, napping or napped
  1. (tr) horse racing to name (a horse) as likely to win a race

Word Origin

C19: short for napoleon, the original name of the card game
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for napping


"action of sleeping," Old English hneappunge, verbal noun from nap (v.).



"downy surface of cloth," mid-15c., from Middle Dutch or Middle Low German noppe "nap, tuft of wool," probably introduced by Flemish cloth-workers. Cognate with Old English hnoppian "to pluck," ahneopan "pluck off," Old Swedish niupa "to pinch," Gothic dis-hniupan "to tear."



Old English hnappian "to doze, sleep lightly," of unknown origin, apparently related to Old High German hnaffezan, German dialectal nafzen, Norwegian napp. Related: Napped; napping.



"short spell of sleep," c.1300, from nap (v.). With take (v.) from c.1400.



"to furnish with a nap, raise the nap of," 1610s, from nap (n.1).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with napping


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

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