English Language; Drama & Speech; Social Etiquette. Est. 1986, Hong Kong

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19 February 2016

Six Interesting Ways to Say “No”

You might say that “no” is ”no”, but varying the way you say “no” can really make your writing colourful and interesting.

The origins behind expressions meaning “no” are worth the effort to get to know.

  1. Nix

Originally Victorian slang, nix can be compared with the German nix, which is a colloquial shortened form of nichts (“nothing”).

  1. Nope

The earliest sense of nope was actually another name for the bullfinch, used in the early 17th century – but fast forward to the late 19th century and nope is being used for no, with an apparently arbitrary extension, at around the same time that yep began being used for yes.

  1. Nah

A non-standard spelling of no, nah is often used when representing southern English pronunciation, particularly cockney speech

  1. No way

Though decried as slang by some, no way (for “no”) has a long history, dating back at least as far as the 18th century.

  1. Negative

If you’re writing about a military character, you can say negative instead of no (as opposed to affirmative for yes). This probably started as a way of saying “no”’ over the radio so that it would be clearly understood.

  1. Pigs might fly

Obviously pigs don’t fly, and pigs might fly, pigs have wings, and similar expressions are used to indicate impossibility. Alice’s Adventures of Wonderland was one of the first sources of this expression: ‘‘I’ve a right to think,’ said Alice sharply… ‘Just about as much right,’ said the Duchess, ‘as pigs have to fly.’’