"negative reply," early 13c., from Old English na (adv.) "no, never, not at all," from ne "not, no" + a "ever." First element from Proto-Germanic *ne (cf. Old Norse, Old Frisian, Old High German ne, Gothic ni "not"), from PIE root *ne "no, not" (see un-). Second element from PIE *aiw- "vital force, life, long life, eternity" (see aye (2)).
As an adjective meaning "not any" (c.1200) it is reduced from Old English nan (see none), the final -n omitted first before consonants and then altogether. As a noun from c.1300. Phrase no can do "it is not possible" is attested from 1827, a locution of English-speaking Chinese noted 19c. in China, Australia and West Coast of U.S.
We repeated our advice again and again, but got no answer but a loud horse-laugh, and their national maxim of No can do: Europe fashion no do in China. ["Reminiscences of a Voyage to and from China," in "Paxton's Horticultural Register," London, 1836]Construction no X, no Y attested from 1530s (in no peny no pardon). No problem as an interjection of assurance first attested 1963. No way as an expression meaning "it can't be done" is attested by 1968.
The symbol for the element nobelium.
The symbol for nobelium.
I am unable or unwilling to do that: On that schedule? No can do
[1923+; a phrase in pidgin English probably adopted and disseminated by seamen; popularized in the 1940s by a song having the phrase as a title]
or No-A'mon, the home of Amon, the name of Thebes, the ancient capital of what is called the Middle Empire, in Upper or Southern Egypt. "The multitude of No" (Jer. 46:25) is more correctly rendered, as in the Revised Version, "Amon of No", i.e., No, where Jupiter Amon had his temple. In Ezek. 30:14, 16 it is simply called "No;" but in ver. 15 the name has the Hebrew Hamon prefixed to it, "Hamon No." This prefix is probably the name simply of the god usually styled Amon or Ammon. In Nah. 3:8 the "populous No" of the Authorized Version is in the Revised Version correctly rendered "No-Amon." It was the Diospolis or Thebes of the Greeks, celebrated for its hundred gates and its vast population. It stood on both sides of the Nile, and is by some supposed to have included Karnak and Luxor. In grandeur and extent it can only be compared to Nineveh. It is mentioned only in the prophecies referred to, which point to its total destruction. It was first taken by the Assyrians in the time of Sargon (Isa. 20). It was afterwards "delivered into the hand" of Nebuchadnezzar and Assurbani-pal (Jer. 46:25, 26). Cambyses, king of the Persians (B.C. 525), further laid it waste by fire. Its ruin was completed (B.C. 81) by Ptolemy Lathyrus. The ruins of this city are still among the most notable in the valley of the Nile. They have formed a great storehouse of interesting historic remains for more than two thousand years. "As I wandered day after day with ever-growing amazement amongst these relics of ancient magnificence, I felt that if all the ruins in Europe, classical, Celtic, and medieval, were brought together into one centre, they would fall far short both in extent and grandeur of those of this single Egyptian city." Manning, The Land of the Pharaohs.