Definition of nominal in English:



  • 1(of a role or status) existing in name only.

    ‘Thailand retained nominal independence under Japanese military occupation’
    • ‘His role, however, was nominal, and the group was actually managed by professionals.’
    • ‘But we seem to have evidence that virtually everything at the site - even the stuff that was nailed down - was taken while it was under our nominal control.’
    • ‘One story goes that every time Yul Brynner - who as the nominal star was always in the centre of the shot - opened his mouth, McQueen, in the background, would fiddle ostentatiously with his hat.’
    • ‘If the resolution is passed, the UN's role will be reduced to a purely nominal one.’
    • ‘Whatever their nominal service rank, they are the ones who deservedly carry the public's trust.’
    • ‘Whilst he is the nominal main character, it is in fact on Mrs Loyer on whom the play depends.’
    • ‘Personal freedom is a right those of us living in nominal democracies often take for granted, but from time to time a film like Aimée & Jaguar can force us to take account of our privileges.’
    • ‘Right now, though the intelligence director has nominal authority, the Pentagon largely controls the budgets and personnel of these two crucial spy agencies.’
    • ‘Jenny and I went to pick up a carload of pizzas and other teenage food half an hour or so ago, leaving Jenny's best friend Sue and her partner Paul in nominal charge of the party.’
    • ‘Even though the Rising was carried out by a group of people involved in a conspiracy within a conspiracy, and who lied to the nominal leaders in the course of its preparation, public sympathy for the cause began to grow after the executions.’
    • ‘It controlled Cuba even after its nominal independence from 1902, and gained sovereignty over the Panama Canal in 1903.’
    • ‘The government plays a nominal role in dictating policy because it cannot monitor local fisheries or enforce fisheries regulations.’
    • ‘It was rather a ‘federal’ approach, a compact between indigenous lords and their nominal superiors.’
    • ‘In 1822, assisted by the British, he sent an expedition to Mombasa, whose rulers, the Mazrui family, owed him nominal allegiance, but who were seeking independence.’
    • ‘Blake responded that his role at the school board was nominal, and that he actually had very little to do with what goes on at the central school board office located right next door to his own.’
    • ‘For a number of reasons, my grandmother has never come to explicit faith in Christ (although like many people of her generation in New Zealand, she is a nominal Anglican).’
    • ‘The sacking will also dent the reputations of most of the nominal Liberal and National sitting councillors for future council or state contests.’
    • ‘There was a retreat from direct colonial rule, as nominal independence was granted to various bourgeois national governments.’
    • ‘The picture remains a pastoral scene with a nominal biblical context: a celebration of landscape immersed in vague wistful reverie.’
    • ‘Already ‘wage slaves’, they will increasingly sacrifice their nominal freedom for state controls that guarantee social security and pagan hedonism.’
    • ‘There are then individuals for whom religion plays only a nominal role in constructing a sense of self and of group membership.’
    • ‘During the criminal proceeding, the accuser's name and most of her history received the nominal protection of Colorado's Rape Shield Law.’
    in name only, in title only, titular, formal, official, ceremonial
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    1. 1.1 Relating to or consisting of names.
      ‘the streets have names like Third Avenue, but the resemblance to Manhattan is only nominal’
      ‘a nominal roll of the Grenadier Company shows a total of 86 men’
      • ‘A nominal roll of all participants will be included.’
      • ‘This was made possible by the Department of Veteran's decision to construct a nominal roll of all who served in the Australian Forces during World War Two.’
      • ‘The detailed breakdown of the force contained in a nominal roll for 1882 clearly shows the change that had taken place.’
      • ‘Of particular interest, a nominal roll of all participants (including non-Australian contingents), will be included as an appendix.’
      • ‘First, check that your name is on the nominal roll.’
  • 2(of a price or charge) very small; far below the real value or cost.

    ‘they charge a nominal fee for the service’
    • ‘Our guides will be available at a nominal charge fixed beforehand.’
    • ‘For the nominal charge, individual cubicle rooms are provided as well as three substantial meals a day.’
    • ‘Even the introduction of the mildest sanction - a nominal, barely enforced fine - seems to persuade citizens to turn out.’
    • ‘Office space will be rented out at nominal prices to IT firms.’
    • ‘Valet parking service is available at the main entrance to the hotel for a nominal charge.’
    • ‘There is a nominal charge of €3 for non-members at the door - all are welcome.’
    • ‘It will also be free to all existing members with a current card with only a nominal fee charged to those joining up after the opening.’
    • ‘Drop fees can range from a nominal charge to hundreds, even thousands of dollars.’
    • ‘While the charges are nominal at government health establishments, often the cost of the medicine they prescribe is steep, especially for the poor.’
    • ‘The businessman is proposing to sell the property to KDA for the nominal price of €1, or to lease the land on a 99-year lease term for €1.’
    • ‘The local jeweler will do it either free or for a nominal charge while you wait.’
    • ‘The hospital does not levy any charge for the donor cornea but charges a very nominal cost only for the surgical procedure.’
    • ‘There will be a nominal charge of £10 per participant.’
    • ‘In that case, BMW could demand repayment of the £500m loan it granted to keep MG Rover going, when Towers and his colleagues bought it for a nominal £10.’
    • ‘‘Provided the charge was nominal I don't think this would kill the scheme but I imagine it would affect it,’ she said.’
    • ‘Also, almost half of those surveyed said they would be willing to pay a nominal charge for countryside access.’
    • ‘It is expected that there will be a nominal charge.’
    • ‘Please note that there is a nominal charge of €10 for non-members at the door, with a special offer of 3 people for the price of 2 at this event.’
    • ‘The government provides electricity, gas, water, and bread at a nominal charge.’
    • ‘If a nominal charge was introduced to defray the cost, I don't think too many people would complain.’
    token, symbolic, emblematic, peppercorn
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  • 3(of a quantity or dimension) stated or expressed but not necessarily corresponding exactly to the real value.

    ‘EU legislation allowed variation around the nominal weight (that printed on each packet)’
    • ‘The Heiner screw box and its original tap are for threads of two-inch nominal diameter with two and a half threads per inch.’
    • ‘Using the Friction Loss Chart as described above, the minimum nominal size of the main line is 3/4 inch.’
    • ‘A nominal measure is, for example, 1,435 meters.’
    • ‘However, some problems can arise when making wooden threads with a nominal diameter larger than about one inch.’
    • ‘All of these are nominal dimensions and we have to remember that there are always some tolerance spreads in brass.’
    • ‘If the ambient temperature exceeds 20 degrees, the nominal length of the beam is longer than when calibrated in the laboratory.’
    • ‘For threads in wood larger than about one-inch nominal diameter, it is difficult to avoid incorrect threading, especially at the start of the helix.’
    • ‘We agree that the road runs straight as it passes through the scene and has a nominal width of around 6 metres.’
    • ‘All the piers had nominal diameter of 13 inches and were 25 feet deep.’
    1. 3.1Economics Expressed in terms of current prices or figures, without making allowance for changes over time.
      ‘the nominal exchange rate’
      • ‘The dollar amounts are nominal, but inflation is low here.’
      • ‘But, that really comes later in the cycle, when the spread between real and nominal rates narrows.’
      • ‘During the transition, inflation would lower real rates; nominal rates would adjust incompletely.’
      • ‘This is borne out by several studies that concur in stating real and nominal rates ‘are leading indicators of future output.’’
      • ‘In spite of the existing low nominal interest rates, the real interest rates in the economy are still high, and also the credit off-take is low.’
  • 4Grammar
    Relating to or functioning as a noun.

    ‘a nominal group’
    • ‘Indeed, the nominal part of this prepositional phrase is not in the nominative case.’
    • ‘It is however a noun and ‘after’ clauses are nominal.’
    • ‘One tends to think of participants in a process as nominal entities designated by noun phrases.’
    • ‘Similar are sentences in which a pronoun or noun phrase with general reference is used instead of the nominal relative clause.’
    • ‘However, this sort of construction seems to be quite rare, and I haven't been able to find any similar examples involving conjoined nominal heads.’
  • 5informal (chiefly in the context of space travel) functioning normally or acceptably.

    • ‘Received telemetry data confirmed the initial phases of the mission to be nominal.’
    • ‘But from the data we are receiving on Channel B, we can say that all of the instruments are nominal.’
    • ‘Since injection into orbit the spacecraft's behaviour has been nominal.’
    • ‘Spacecraft operations engineers take control of the satellite after it separates from the launch vehicle up to the time when the satellite is safely positioned in its final nominal orbit.’
    • ‘They are supplying ‘mission control’ with a steady stream of valuable data and all systems are nominal.’


Late 15th century (as a term in grammar): from Latin nominalis, from nomen, nomin- ‘name’.