verb (used with object), nipped, nip·ping.
  1. to squeeze or compress tightly between two surfaces or points; pinch; bite.
  2. to take off by pinching, biting, or snipping (usually followed by off): He nipped off a piece of steak and gave it to the dog.
  3. to check in growth or development.
  4. to affect sharply and painfully or injuriously, as a very cold temperature: a cold wind that nips the fingers.
  5. Informal. to snatch away suddenly.
  6. Informal. to defeat (an opponent) by a very close margin; edge.
  7. Informal. to steal or pilfer.
  8. Nautical.
    1. (of ice) to press (a ship) from opposite sides.
    2. to seize (a taut rope) to another rope.
verb (used without object), nipped, nip·ping.
  1. Chiefly British Slang. to leave stealthily; sneak away; flee (often followed by away).
  1. an act of nipping; a pinch or small bite: The dog took several nips at our heels.
  2. a biting quality, as in cold or frosty air: There's a nip in the air this morning.
  3. sharp cold; a sharp touch of frost: The trees had felt the first nip of winter.
  4. a sharp or biting remark.
  5. a biting taste or tang, especially in some cheese.
  6. a small bit or quantity of anything: a nip of bread to stave off hunger.
  7. Nautical.
    1. an abrupt turn or twist in a rope.
    2. a part of a rope or chain bound by a seizing or nipper.
  8. Usually nips. nipper(def 2).
  1. nip and tuck, with each competitor equaling or closely contesting the speed, scoring, or efforts of the other: It was nip and tuck as to which sailboat would reach port first.
  2. nip in the bud. bud1(def 13).

Origin of nip

1350–1400; Middle English nyppe to pinch < Old Norse hnippa to poke, thrust

Synonyms for nip


  1. a small drink of alcoholic liquor; sip: a person who relishes an occasional nip.
  2. Chiefly British. split(def 27).
verb (used with or without object), nipped, nip·ping.
  1. to drink (alcoholic liquor) in small sips, especially repeatedly.

Origin of nip

1690–1700; < Dutch nippen to sip; in def. 2, short for earlier nipperkin vessel holding half-pint or less


noun, adjective Slang: Extremely Disparaging and Offensive.
  1. a contemptuous term used to refer to a Japanese person.

Origin of Nip

First recorded in 1942; short for Nipponese

Usage note

This term, patterned on the earlier term Jap , was first used in English shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for nips

Contemporary Examples of nips

  • The Senate Finance spokesperson, Scott Moorehauser, dismisses the whole subject of nips and tucks as a “ total non-starter.”

    The Daily Beast logo
    Are These Breasts Deductible?

    Sandra McElwaine

    July 30, 2009

Historical Examples of nips

British Dictionary definitions for nips


  1. slang a derogatory word for a Japanese

Word Origin for Nip

C20: short for Nipponese


verb nips, nipping or nipped (mainly tr)
  1. to catch or tightly compress, as between a finger and the thumb; pinch
  2. (often foll by off) to remove by clipping, biting, etc
  3. (when intr, often foll by at) to give a small sharp bite (to)the dog nipped at his heels
  4. (esp of the cold) to affect with a stinging sensation
  5. to harm through coldthe frost nipped the young plants
  6. to check or destroy the growth of (esp in the phrase nip in the bud)
  7. slang to steal
  8. (intr; foll by along, up, out, etc) British informal to hurry; dart
  9. slang, mainly US and Canadian to snatch
  1. the act of nipping; a pinch, snip, etc
    1. a frosty or chilly quality
    2. severe frost or coldthe first nip of winter
  2. a small piece or quantityhe went out for a nip of fresh air
  3. a sharp flavour or tang
  4. archaic a taunting remark
  5. nip and tuck
    1. mainly US and Canadianneck and neck
    2. informalplastic surgery performed for cosmetic reasons
  6. put the nips in Australian and NZ slang to exert pressure on someone, esp in order to extort money

Word Origin for nip

C14: of Scandinavian origin; compare Old Norse hnippa to prod


  1. a small drink of spirits; dram
  2. mainly British a measure of spirits usually equal to one sixth of a gill
verb nips, nipping or nipped
  1. to drink (spirits), esp habitually in small amounts

Word Origin for nip

C18: shortened from nipperkin a vessel holding a half-pint or less, of uncertain origin; compare Dutch nippen to sip
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 nips



"a pinch; a sharp bite," 1540s, from nip (v.). Meaning "a chill in the weather" is from 1610s, probably so called for its effect on vegetation. Nip and tuck "a close thing" is recorded from 1832, perhaps from sailing or tailoring.



"to pinch sharply; to bite suddenly," late 14c., related to Middle Low German nipen "to nip, to pinch," Middle Dutch nipen "to pinch," Dutch nijpen, Old Norse hnippa "to prod," but the exact evolution of the stem is obscure. Related: Nipped; nipping. To nip (something) in the bud in the figurative sense is first recorded c.1600.



"small measure of spirits," 1796, shortening of nipperkin (1670s) "quantity of liquor of a half pint or less," possibly of Dutch or Low German origin and related to nip (v.). Reinforced by nip (n.2) on notion of "fragment or bit pinched off" (c.1600).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper