I find the word nihilominus remarkable. Like many Spanish or English words, the meaning can sort of be deduced from the meaning of the words making the composite (e.g. paraguas in Spanish, whiteboard in English). As far as my learning of Latin is going, I have not encountered many such composite words in Latin.

Anyway, it came to my mind that nihilominus is actually very similar, in terms of composition and meaning, to the English word "nonetheless" (since nihilo = nothing and minus = less[er]). I cannot find the etymology of the latter though. Are the two words historically related, or both are the mere outcome of an independent linguistic composition process that fortuitously yielded almost identical words, like if one would be the translation of the other?

  • 2
    Good question! I think the word you're looking for is "calque".
    – Draconis
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 16:51

1 Answer 1


Every source I found (Random House, Online Etymology, Wictionary) said that etymologically it is just a contraction of "none the less". However, that doesn't seem very interesting, because it doesn't address your question in a very satisfying way.

What I found more interesting is the fact that such words may date back to Old English as far back as 900 or earlier. A similar word is natheless, whose origin is given in the given in the Collins Dictionary as:

Old English nāthylǣs, from never + thӯ for that + lǣs less

From Merriam-Webster:

Natheless : nevertheless, notwithstanding

You can spell it natheless or nathless. It's been in use (in various forms) for almost a thousand years, and comes from the Old English phrase nā thē lǣs, meaning "not the less."

I also came across the following:

“Are these words really that old?” Arlene said.

“Older, even,” I said. “Especially earlier versions of them such as netheless and natheless, which come from Old English, before the years were in triple digits. The phrases got used adverbially so much that they got treated as single words. We don’t use natheless anymore because we don’t use na anymore, but none and the now-archaic use of never the and never a to mean ‘not’ have taken over.” (Confessions of a Word Lush By James Harbeck)

Since they date so far back in Old English, I think it's doubtful that their etymology could be tied to Latin.

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