If someone told you they were feeling a bit nesh, would you know what they meant?

Nesh [nɛʃ] means “sensitive to the cold” and “timid or cowardly”, according to, and is apparently used in in northern and Midlands English dialects. Although I grew up in the northwest of England, I’d never heard it before a friend mentioned it yesterday.

According to Wiktionary it means:

  • Soft, tender, sensitive, yielding
  • Delicate, weak, poor-spirited, susceptible to cold weather, harsh conditions etc
  • Soft, friable, crumbly

As a verb it means “to make soft, tender or weak”, or “to act timidly”.

It comes from the Middle English nesh/nesch/nesche, from the Old English hnesċe/ hnysċe/hnæsċe (soft, tender, mild; weak, delicate; slack, negligent; effeminate, wanton), from the Proto-West Germanic *hnaskwī (soft), from the Proto-Germanic *hnaskuz (soft, tender), from the Proto-Indo-European *knēs-/*kenes- (to scratch, scrape, rub).

Related words include:

  • neshen = to make tender or soft, to mollify
  • neshness = the condition of being nesh

Chocolate Beetroot Brownies

From the same roots we get the German word naschen (to nibble, to eat sweets on the sly), and the English word nosh (food, a light meal or snack, to eat), via the Yiddish word נאַשן‎ (nashn – to snack, eat) [source].

One thought on “Neshness

  1. I am not sure if I am “nesh” or not. I am not overly sensitive to the cold. That’s good, because it can get pretty cold in Michigan’s winters, though a really good down jacket is a lifesaver at times. For me, my “neshness” comes in being overly sensitive to what the temperature is. At home, the normal indoor temperature is 72° F or 22.2°C. But I can feel slightly chilly if it’s 71.5°F, or 21.9°C. How can I tell the difference? How can such a small change even MAKE a difference? I have no idea why, but it does. It’s quite annoying, too, requiring me to fiddle with the thermostat all the time.

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