the present, or immediate, occasion or purpose (usually used in the phrase for the nonce).


(of a word or phrase) coined and used only for a particular occasion: nonce forms such as “paintrix,” meaning “a female painter.”

Origin of nonce

1150–1200; Middle English nones, in phrase for the nones, by faulty division of for then ones for the once (Middle English then dative singular of the1; ones once) Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for nonce

Historical Examples of nonce

  • The "Nonce" said that you caught him up in a line he had misquoted.'

    Gerald Fitzgerald

    Charles James Lever

British Dictionary definitions for nonce




the present time or occasion (now only in the phrase for the nonce)

Word Origin for nonce

C12: from the phrase for the nonce, a mistaken division of for then anes, literally: for the once, from then dative singular of the + anes once




prison slang a rapist or child molester; a sexual offender

Word Origin for nonce

C20: of unknown origin
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 nonce

abstracted from phrase for þe naness (c.1200) "for a special occasion, for a particular purpose," itself a misdivision (see N for other examples) of for þan anes "for the one," in reference to a particular occasion or purpose, the þan being from Middle English dative definite article þam (see the). The phrase used from early 14c. as an empty filler in metrical composition. As an adjective from 1884.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper