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 Dictionary.com, 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
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].