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nonplussed

[ non-pluhst ]
/ nɒnˈplʌst /
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adjective
completely puzzled or perplexed by something unexpected: She blows a hole in the wall and escapes, and the nonplussed aliens are left wondering what happened.
Nonstandard. not dismayed; indifferent or unexcited; calm: I hadn’t yet told my girlfriend I was leaving—I didn't want to risk being crushed by a nonplussed response to the news.
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Sometimes non·plused .

Origin of nonplussed

First recorded in 1600–10; nonplus + -ed2

usage note for nonplussed

In correct usage, nonplussed means “puzzled or perplexed”: Her odd choice of words left me somewhat nonplussed. However, there is a more recent, generally unfamiliar usage, meaning “not dismayed; indifferent or unexcited”: He imitated the nonplussed expression of the character Spock on Star Trek. This newer meaning can be ambiguous, since it is almost the opposite of the original meaning. Partly for this reason, it is not accepted as standard usage and should generally be avoided.
One explanation for the nonstandard meaning is the analysis of nonplussed as non- “not” + plussed, misinterpreted as “not puzzled or perplexed,” possibly on analogy with other words having a negative prefix and similar meaning, such as nonchalant. However, plussed has no real meaning in English. Rather, the adjective nonplussed was formed from the less common verb nonplus “to puzzle or perplex,” originally a noun meaning “a state of utter perplexity,” borrowed from the Latin phrase nōn plūs “not more; no further.” A state of perplexity is one in which no more can be said or done.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

MORE ABOUT NONPLUSSED

what does nonplussed mean?

Nonplussed means totally perplexed, puzzled, or confused, often to the point of not knowing what to do or say.

Nonplussed is primarily used as an adjective, but it can also be the past tense of the verb nonplus, meaning to perplex, puzzle, or utterly confuse someone.

Sometimes, people use nonplussed to mean something like “nonchalant” or “unbothered” (as if the plussed part meant “bothered”), which is just about the opposite of the original meaning of nonplussed. But there is no adjective plussed. You’ll be a lot less nonplussed about all this after you read the origin of the word below.

Example: When his parents told him that they were moving the family across the country to start a skunk farm, Sam just sat there nonplussed, completely unable to process any of it.

Where does nonplussed come from?

The first records of nonplussed as an adjective come from around 1600. The word nonplus was originally used as a noun, and it comes from the Latin phrase nōn plūs, literally translating as “not more” and meaning “no further,” referring to a state in which nothing more can be done—a standstill. (The English word plus also comes from the Latin word plūs, meaning “more.”) Nonplus came to be used as a verb meaning “to bring to a standstill” and then “to perplex.”

Someone who’s nonplussed is at a loss, with “no more” to think, say, or do. They may be speechless from hearing shocking news, being tricked, or being asked a bizarre question. The same thing is implied by the word dumbfounded. A person who’s nonplussed isn’t just a little confused. They’re completely perplexed, puzzled, baffled, and bewildered—and they’re probably bothered by it.

The first records of the nonstandard use of nonplussed to mean “unfazed,” “nonchalant,” or “unimpressed” come from the 1960s, and it has become even more common since then. It’s often used in a way that’s just about the opposite of its original meaning, as in I’m nonplussed by all the attention—it doesn’t bother me at all. It most likely comes from the misconception that the non part is the common prefix non- meaning “not,” resulting in “not plussed.” But plussed does not mean “fazed” and it is not used by itself. (By contrast, you can be gruntled.)

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to nonplussed?

What are some synonyms for nonplussed?

What are some words that share a root or word element with nonplussed

What are some words that often get used in discussing nonplussed?

 

How is nonplussed used in real life?

Nonplussed meaning “unfazed” is probably used just about as much as nonplussed meaning “perplexed,” and there’s nothing you can do about it.

 

 

Try using nonplussed!

Is nonplussed used correctly in the following sentence?

The question left him completely nonplussed, and he just stood there with his mouth open.

How to use nonplussed in a sentence

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