Nothing Words

I have developed the habit over the years of spewing words that mean “nothing” when I am frustrated at the lack of something. Here are the words I use and their background:

Zero: the arithmetical quantity of nothing. The Online Etymology Dictionary says the word originated in English around 1600, derived from French zéro or directly from Italian zero, from Medieval Latin zephirum, from Arabic sifr “cipher,” translation of Sanskrit sunya-m “empty place, desert, naught.”

Zilch: As I reported in an earlier post, Merriam-Webster defines the word as meaning zero or nil. According to the Online Etymological Dictionary, the word, meaning “nothing,” originated in 1957, but its meaning of “insignificant person” goes back to 1933, “from use of Zilch as a generic comical-sounding surname for an insignificant person (especially Joe Zilch). There was a Mr. Zilch (1931), comic character in the magazine ‘Ballyhoo,’ and the use perhaps originated around 1922 in U.S. college or theater slang. Probably a nonsense syllable, suggestive of the end of the alphabet, but Zilch is an actual German surname of Slavic origin.”

Nada: a state of nonexistence. The Online Etymology Dictionary says it first appeared in Ernest Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” set in a Spanish café, borrowed from the Spanish nada, meaning “nothing.” The Spanish nada derives from Latin (res) nata—a small, insignificant thing, literally “(thing) born,” from natus, past participle of nasci—to be born, which in turn is from Old Latin gnasci), meaning give birth, beget.

Niente: the Italian word for “nothing.”

Nulla: another Italian word for “nothing.”

Nichts: the German word for “nothing.”

Rien: the French words for “nothing.”

I have nothing to add.

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