See more synonyms for nick on
  1. a small notch, groove, chip, or the like, cut into or existing in something.
  2. a hollow place produced in an edge or surface, as of a dish, by breaking, chipping, or the like: I didn't notice those tiny nicks in the vase when I bought it.
  3. a small dent or wound.
  4. a small groove on one side of the shank of a printing type, serving as a guide in setting or to distinguish different types.
  5. Biochemistry. a break in one strand of a double-stranded DNA or RNA molecule.
  6. British Slang. prison.
verb (used with object)
  1. to cut into or through: I nicked my chin while shaving.
  2. to hit or injure slightly.
  3. to make a nick or nicks in (something); notch, groove, or chip.
  4. to record by means of a notch or notches.
  5. to incise certain tendons at the root of (a horse's tail) to give it a higher carrying position; make an incision under the tail of (a horse).
  6. to hit, guess, catch, etc., exactly.
  7. Slang. to trick, cheat, or defraud: How much did they nick you for that suit?
  8. British Slang.
    1. to arrest (a criminal or suspect).
    2. to capture; nab.
    3. to steal: Someone nicked her pocketbook on the bus.
  1. in the nick of time, at the right or vital moment, usually at the last possible moment: The fire engines arrived in the nick of time.

Origin of nick

1475–85; obscurely akin to Old English gehnycned wrinkled, Old Norse hnykla to wrinkle
Related formsun·nicked, adjective


  1. Old Nick.
  2. a male given name, form of Nicholas. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for nick

knock, cut, indent, dent, damage, mark, slit, score, dint, jag, mill, notch, scar

Examples from the Web for nick

Contemporary Examples of nick

Historical Examples of nick

  • Well done Nick, and the divil a betther could it be said if I said it myself.


    Scian Dubh

  • The case of Nick, although sore enough in its way, was not so heartrending as that of Kate.


    Scian Dubh

  • Young Nick's Hattie was forty-five, but she looked much younger.

    Tiverton Tales

    Alice Brown

  • Mr. Cruncher, with some diffidence, explained himself as meaning "Old Nick's."

    A Tale of Two Cities

    Charles Dickens

  • There was a time when Twigger would have replied, ‘Well, Nick!’

British Dictionary definitions for nick


  1. a small notch or indentation on an edge or surface
  2. a groove on the shank of a printing type, used to orientate type and often to distinguish the fount
  3. British a slang word for prison, police station
  4. in good nick informal in good condition
  5. in the nick of time at the last possible moment; at the critical moment
  1. (tr) to chip or cut
  2. (tr) slang, mainly British
    1. to steal
    2. to take into legal custody; arrest
  3. (intr often foll by off) informal to move or depart rapidly
  4. to divide and reset (certain of the tail muscles of a horse) to give the tail a high carriage
  5. (tr) to guess, catch, etc, exactly
  6. (intr) (of breeding stock) to mate satisfactorily
  7. nick someone for US and Canadian slang to defraud someone to the extent of

Word Origin for nick

C15: perhaps changed from C14 nocke nock


  1. computing an alias adopted by a member of a chatroom or forum; nickname

Word Origin for nick

short for nickname
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 nick

"notch, groove, slit," late 15c., nyke, of unknown origin, possibly influenced by Middle French niche (see niche), or from it. Nick of time is first attested 1640s (nick of opportunity is 1610s), possibly from an old custom of recording time as it passed by making notches on a tally stick, though nick in the general sense of "critical moment" is older (1570s, Hanmer, who adds "as commonly we say") than the phrase.


1520s, "to make a notch in," from nick (n.). Sense of "to steal" is from 1869, probably from earlier slang sense of "to catch, take unawares, arrest" (1620s). The precise sense connection is unclear. Related: Nicked; nicking.


masc. proper name, familiar form of Nicholas. As "the devil" by 1640s, but the reason for it is obscure.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with nick


see in the nick of time.

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