Definition of nicety in US English:



usually niceties
  • 1A fine detail or distinction, especially one regarded as intricate and fussy.

    ‘she was never interested in the niceties of Greek and Latin’
    • ‘This may sound a technical nicety, but notice that this activity is the primary activity on derivatives markets.’
    • ‘Without entering into the niceties of Hume's distinctions between the direct and indirect or the calm and violent passions, I think that the following points should be accepted.’
    • ‘The women brushed aside legal niceties - such as the fact the Scottish parliament has no powers to intervene on immigration and the granting of visas.’
    • ‘But why be squeamish about fine points and legal niceties when we're at war?’
    • ‘The armies of the Axis, Italy and Germany, generally observed the niceties of international law when fighting against western powers.’
    • ‘Disregard the niceties of the terms vandalism and anti-social behaviour.’
    • ‘Fry's displaced neighbors may not have known it, but their financial future hung on a legal nicety - the distinction between real estate and personal property or, in legal terms, chattel.’
    • ‘Why should such niceties matter, as long as a dangerous terrorist is no longer at large?’
    • ‘But behind the niceties of the legal arguments, most observers believe that the real agenda is the property play of this very valuable site.’
    • ‘But the autumn of 1945 was not a time noted for sensitivity to the legal niceties of high treason.’
    • ‘And they will hire the finest lawyers and planners to navigate their private fortunes safely through the arcane niceties of the tax code.’
    • ‘The reply skated over the nicety that he has the right to censor key aspects of ISC reports on security grounds, and so will see the text before it is technically presented to him.’
    • ‘If there is no significance, why do you think such niceties as the Chief Justice has described are observed?’
    • ‘This, in other words, was not a time to get hung up on legal niceties.’
    • ‘But over the border its Iberian cousin observes no such narrow territorial niceties.’
    • ‘Careful observance of procedural niceties will impede any speedy response to an unfolding massacre.’
    • ‘However, this is likely to become the definitive English version of Proust, and the endless arguments about the niceties of translation are perhaps of real concern only to very few.’
    • ‘Legal niceties matter only when the interests of enemies are at stake.’
    • ‘But such technical niceties were never likely to win the day last week.’
    • ‘Parents will feed their children no matter what the niceties of your laws are.’
    fine point, subtlety, nuance, fine distinction, shade, refinement, detail
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    1. 1.1 Accuracy or precision.
      ‘she prided herself on her nicety of pronunciation’
      • ‘Nevertheless, the book is rich in historical nicety culled from scholarly sources, and the avid fan of cultural folklore and the role of fraternal societies will experience it as a tough but rewarding nut to crack.’
      • ‘These sub-heads, which are not all very clearly phrased, should accordingly be construed according to their general sense and without too much nicety of language.’
      • ‘When asked who would be a good model woman writer she responded, ‘I know of no one better than Miss Jewett to study for technique and nicety of construction.’’
      • ‘This confluence happens 100 yards behind Bath railway station, and matches the city's nicety of line.’
      • ‘Last year, Porto brushed aside Monaco; the previous year Milan won on penalties after a match that was long on tactical nicety but short on excitement for the neutral.’
      precision, accuracy, exactness, meticulousness, rigour, rigorousness
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    2. 1.2 A minor aspect of polite social behavior; a detail of etiquette.
      ‘we were brought up to observe the niceties’
      • ‘I know it's not polite of me to jump over the social niceties like this, but I really don't care that much right now.’
      • ‘Anyone suffering guilt for the rebellion against all social niceties would have kept up the pretence that she didn't want any water, at least until I had left the building.’
      • ‘The seasons turn, the social niceties are maintained and those who remember the last war refuse to contemplate a second global conflict.’
      • ‘We were so busy we didn't have time for social niceties.’
      • ‘She was beyond social niceties or circumspection or the deliberate creation of an effect and yet nothing she said contradicted what her life had always told us she was.’
      • ‘You don't have to follow the rules of social decorum or the niceties of society because you are privileged.’
      • ‘However, he soon finds the laconic Charlotte to be more than he bargained for, as she shreds every assumption or attempt at social niceties that he makes.’
      • ‘In a world of coded language and social niceties, Willis has no qualms about expressing his loves, hates, fears and passions in the bluntest possible terms.’
      • ‘That's fine, it's no big deal, and it's said as much as a social nicety than with any intent to actually do it.’
      • ‘All five sit down and begin an overly polite conversation covering such social niceties as the weather.’
      • ‘Though the young couple arrives with good intentions, social niceties are smashed as the foursome gets trashed.’
      • ‘She would not mince her words or thoughts and never subscribed to social niceties of polite but fallacious and insincere expressions.’
      • ‘Too many parents are willing to turn over the teaching of morals and social niceties to schools.’
      • ‘At the outset she zips through the social niceties and plunges into a concentrated burst of questions and note-taking.’
      • ‘They are to be wed in an hour, but a confidence is overheard and suddenly madness ensues, but it must kept within the confines of social niceties.’
      • ‘For them it is a religious duty to do so, and it does not recognise social niceties and common courtesies.’
      • ‘Me, well, I couldn't wait to get out of the place fast enough, shamelessly avoiding pointless class photos whenever possible and keeping the social niceties to the bare minimum.’
      • ‘A stickler for etiquette and social niceties, this is the sign more than any other that is likely to have nightmares over the phrasing of invitations!’
      • ‘The outside, or biruni, is by contrast a public space where social niceties must be observed.’
      • ‘Many on the estate blame the council's letting policy, which meant young people with no idea of social niceties, and drug addicts, managed to get flats.’


  • to a nicety

    • Precisely.

      • ‘She accepted that the Secretary of State is not able to judge local factors to a nicety.’
      • ‘The nature of the application with which I am concerned means that I do not need to weigh the variety of competing factors to a nicety.’
      • ‘Where there has been an attack so that defence is reasonably necessary, it should be recognised that a person defending himself cannot weight to a nicety the exact measure of necessary defensive action.’
      • ‘Dawson and Wilkinson have played so much together as to have the ploy down to a nicety which, at the crunch, as the World Cup final so graphically illustrated, can be just the ticket.’
      • ‘The Kiwi settled in Australia, however, timed his challenge to a nicety and with Naren encountering problems with his car, Warren began to consolidate his lead.’
      • ‘He tested out long-time rival Arup Basak's game plan to a nicety and though Basak took the first game of the final at 11-8, it was Raman who had come out stronger.’
      • ‘The ‘portsider’ as lefthanders in bowling parlance are called, hooked his strikes to a nicety with great regularity and even exhibited his uncanny knack of clearing the ‘splits’ with consistency.’
      • ‘Come the next election and these guys were beginning to suspect that the populace had them sussed to a nicety and, lacking any other credible platform, began to play the nationalist card.’
      • ‘Each is provided with an eight-inch cylinder, which may be made to revolve by a delicate system of clockwork so finely regulated that both instruments work together to a nicety.’
      • ‘Tactically clever and daringly innovative, Hiddink had tuned his wards to a nicety.’
      accurately, exactly, carefully, to a nicety
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Middle English (in the sense ‘foolish conduct’): from Old French nicete, based on Latin nescius ‘ignorant’ (see nice).