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Definition: intelligence, common sense

Pronunciation: NOOWS


This is a 17th century slang word originating from the Greek nous and moreover- the specifically Attic noos, meaning mind or intellect. Nous is first seen in 1670’s English philosophy readings.

Why this word?

Not entirely sure why denoted as slang, nous is mainly prevalent in the UK and les so in other speaking counties. With that being said, I can quote the March 2nd Daily Mail edition reading “A lengthy period of profound inaction by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a seeming lack of political nous in Obama’s White House, is resulting in robotic government”.

So, if we see this word in the newspaper and press, what makes it slang you ask? Good question! Actually, it is the word’s history that made it into 17th century slang.

When first adopted by English philosophers, nous was a huge word to describe huge minds. Where’s the joke? They used to the Greek alphabet to write it. No a great-Greek-reading-mind won’t be able to read it. By the 19th century however, it became a common word in all British households.

The north Americas? Less so. So let’s start now!

How to use the word nous in a sentence?

Well, as we saw, you can use this word to describe a great mind, and a not so great mind. The only thing that would really make a difference here, would be your tone…

“If he had any nous at all- he’d change his mind about animal rights”

“Modern nous is in no way comparable to past times. The deterioration of human thought is evident wherever we go” .


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Written by Victoria Sheinkin

Victoria Sheinkin is a writer, content editor, translator and chief editor for Speaking three and a half languages, she holds two BAs from the Tel Aviv university- Communication and jounalism, English literature and linguistics.


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