Definition of nick in English:



  • 1A small cut or notch.

    • ‘The prides came right out of the undergrowth and close enough to the vehicle for the researchers to observe the tiny nicks and scratches that help distinguish one animal from another.’
    • ‘They did not see much of any damage, just a few nicks and scrapes on those shuttle tiles.’
    • ‘The picture suffers from numerous source defects, including many nicks and scratches, a generally dirty appearance, and discolored film elements.’
    • ‘The buckles have a nice feel to them, and they're designed in such a way that the excess strap lies between the buckle, and the PC, thus preventing any nicks and scratches.’
    • ‘There are few film defects such as nicks or blemishes to be seen.’
    • ‘Flippers, armpits, backs, and bellies are often covered with bites; some are large, open, and bleeding, but most are just small nicks and scrapes.’
    • ‘Handle silver with care to avoid nicks and heavy scratches; knife blades and other metals can do damage if they come in contact with silverware.’
    • ‘It may be blue-worn and carry a bountiful collection of nicks and scratches, because it hasn't spent much time in the dresser drawer.’
    • ‘If there are any wires or struts for the tail, check them carefully for nicks and chips, and examine the ends, both the top and the bottom, for signs of rust or movement.’
    • ‘Exposure to rain or hail can cause nicks and scratches that dramatically increase the craft's radar signature.’
    • ‘Like the old rifles, the rear sight bears a tiny nick of a sighting notch.’
    • ‘The blade was in perfect condition, no nicks or dents.’
    • ‘Print wear and defects from the source materials are the biggest culprits here, with a fair amount of nicks and blemishes still remaining.’
    • ‘A fair number of nicks and scratches remain as well.’
    • ‘The grips seem to be impervious to most chemicals found on a gun cleaning table and don't show the nicks and gouges of hard use like wood or other materials.’
    • ‘It was marred with dozens of nicks and marks from fighting.’
    • ‘Anyway, this is probably Uncle Scrooge's most precious possession, even though it must have nicks, scratches and is probably very worn.’
    • ‘Most of the nicks, scuffs and gouges that currently mar the work are a result of human carelessness, such as carts and chairs banging into the walls.’
    • ‘Even if those horns manage a gouge here or a nick there, a matador can always depend on antibiotics to stave off serious complications.’
    • ‘We have two tables with black slate tops polished smooth, except for a few nicks and chips perhaps 1/4 inch deep.’
    cut, scratch, abrasion, incision, snick, scrape
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  • 2British informal Prison.

    • ‘Big Mick left after several gigs to serve a few years in the nick, so we got in Metal Ing.’
    • ‘At the height of the demonstrations we were called up from our South London nick to support the Norfolk guys.’
    • ‘Letters Bernie Ebbers shed a tear or two as he was sentenced to 25 years in the nick for his part in the financial disaster that was WorldCom.’
    • ‘And I'm not sure my friend realised that councils have many other ways of getting their council tax and some of them can have far-reaching effects that go beyond a short spell in the nick.’
    • ‘From the soaps we're joined by Kim Medcalf, EastEnders jailbird Sam Mitchell, who escapes Walford nick to perform a classic track.’
    • ‘I turned up a slightly cynical, badly-dressed student and left three days later, after a short spell in Southampton nick, as the blazing-eyed, still badly-dressed eco-bore I am today.’
    • ‘We'll go and put a picket round the 'ville while they're in the nick.’
    jail, penal institution, place of detention, lock-up, place of confinement, guardhouse, detention centre
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    1. 2.1A police station.
      • ‘Always in these movies the defendant looks cooked, until a last minute witness shows up at the nick, spurred on by ingenious detective work.’
      • ‘In order to apply closure to the mayhem, a farmer, driven insane after the loss of his youngest son, arrives in the nick with assorted homemade weapons.’
      • ‘I'm Sergeant Peter Lees and this is PC Lee Peters from Westing nick.’
      • ‘He ought to be retiring to the nick after all the dodgy warrants he signed for Inspector Fiend.’
  • 3The junction between the floor and sidewalls in a court for playing tennis or squash.

    • ‘Easdon would step in and punish with his volley, either for depth or occasionally guided crosscourt into the nick.’
    • ‘The ball sails again and again into the corner, drawn to the nick as if on an invisible thread.’
    • ‘The second semi final was a played at a furious pace with Victor Berg setting the tone of the game hitting the return of serve into the nick to win the first point.’
    • ‘Then, almost in echo of Beachill's earlier performance, he hit a forehand pickup from the nick into the tin.’
    • ‘Ball was up to the challenge and used his low hard drives into the nick to end many rallies of his own.’


  • 1Make a nick or nicks in.

    ‘he had nicked himself while shaving’
    • ‘He had felt the hot sting as the bullet grazed it, and another sting as a piece of broken glass nicked him on the cheek, but paid no attention to the blood as it ran down his face and arm and soaked his clothes.’
    • ‘They were small cuts on her shoulder from when she was training with her brother, he nicked her with his sword, she had forgotten about them until now.’
    • ‘They held their knives in our faces and I was nicked by one just to the left of my left eye.’
    • ‘The fake bills might even be nicked or slightly torn.’
    • ‘And that was ok too, because, who didn't, every once in a while, nick themselves shaving?’
    • ‘Does that mean that Gillette will have to start making blunter razor blades so they will not be culpable if we nick ourselves shaving?’
    • ‘And if he nicked you bad enough to bleed, he'd dab a bit of toilet paper on his tongue and stick it to the wound!’
    • ‘If the epidural needle nicks the covering of the spinal cord, there may be a small leak of fluid from around the cord, which can cause a headache when you sit or stand up.’
    • ‘A bio weapon delivery system could be your next-door neighbor, or the mosquito that nicked you before dinner.’
    • ‘This round though, Clay was more composed as he glided out of the way and began to pump the left jab with enough accuracy to have Cooper nicked by Cooper's right eye.’
    • ‘Instead, Pristine barely dodges it and the sword only nicks her as it comes in between her neck and the strap of her bag, which contains the Crystal of Life.’
    • ‘His mate said ‘it's just a graze - he only nicked you.’’
    • ‘The warehouse windows - the ones that weren't already broken by vandals - exploded outward and a small piece of glass nicked Chris above the eye.’
    • ‘She holds out a crossbow, ‘Don't try anything funny, this arrow is poisoned tipped, if it even nicks you, you will die in a matter of minutes.’’
    • ‘In fact it's a function of rapid blood loss and consequent loss of consciousness, which in turn depends on optimal wound-channel volume and bullet fragmentation - both of which tend to favour nicking a major blood vessel.’
    • ‘Remove the pan from the oven, take off the lid and gently split the bird's legs away from its body, nicking the skin with a knife as you go.’
    • ‘He let himself be pressed back toward the door, barely blocking one blow after another, until finally the knight's sword nicked him in the side.’
    • ‘Readers recall an old friend here or there who nicked himself/herself with a razor blade 10, 15, or 20 years ago.’
    • ‘It appears he was nicked while being cut and it got infected - very badly.’
    • ‘He then swung again in a downward, diagonal strike to the left, nicking the man in the left shoulder.’
    cut, scratch, abrade, incise, snick, scrape
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  • 2North American informal Cheat someone of (something, typically a sum of money)

    ‘he nicked me for fifteen hundred dollars’
    • ‘They nicked me for about $10 when they cashed my check two days before the due date and didn't post it till two days after.’
    • ‘They nicked me for eight grand for a fourteen-month course.’
  • 3British informal Steal.

    ‘he'd had his car nicked by joyriders’
    • ‘With my children in tow, all that ringing doorbells and running away, all that stuffing tennis balls up car exhaust pipes and nicking traffic cones to furnish my bedroom had to end.’
    • ‘And it also raises questions about where Reid gets his story ideas - like all good editors, he nicks many of them from where he can find them.’
    • ‘I feel almost like a tourist - that's why I'm always nicking things from places we go, souvenirs.’
    • ‘Last year, 10,000 mobiles were stolen and two-thirds of those were nicked or robbed from kids.’
    • ‘We first see the hero, Jamie, as a violent 18-year-old Gravesend thug who, having nicked a car, runs off with 15-year-old Lynsey.’
    • ‘The Liverpool supporter, it was announced, couldn't make it because his car had been nicked.’
    • ‘Although it claims it is impossible to say exactly how many mobile phones are being nicked it estimates that 700,000 were stolen last year.’
    • ‘Michael Azzerad nicked the title of his recent book about the American '80s music underground, Our Band Could Be Your Life, from a minutemen song.’
    • ‘A top Navy Officer was hauled before a court martial yesterday after a laptop packed with military secrets was nicked from his car.’
    • ‘In January a Government funded report found that 700,000 phones were nicked last year sparking a crime wave of theft and violence.’
    • ‘By nicking nectar and pollen from the native species they deny those insects the opportunity to perform the function of pollination and as a result some plants do not set seed.’
    • ‘Rather than nicking your car stereo, the thief of 2020 will be after your whole digital persona.’
    • ‘After about four and a half hours of crab ruining my efforts by nicking my bait, I was starting to get a bit anxious as the tide was coming in.’
    • ‘I have no desire to read this book, but if I did, I would definitely nick it, or get one of the local thieves to nick it to order.’
    • ‘Curtain-twitching old grannies call the cops when they see someone nicking your car.’
    • ‘Do you go up to a victim of theft, nick their watch then get annoyed when they get slightly defensive?’
    • ‘Apologies to Tim D for nicking his post title.’
    • ‘The producers then said they wanted all of us out (we were in a house, Big Brother style) and I nicked all of the jewellery they'd given me to wear/promote while I was in the house.’
    • ‘It'll mean that if a fraudster nicks your credit or debit card, it'll be useless practising the signature on it as he'll need to read your mind for the PIN to get anywhere with it.’
    • ‘She didn't have any money stolen, it was only her identity that was nicked - and apparently that's not a crime.’
    1. 3.1Arrest or apprehend (someone)
      ‘I got nicked for burglary’
      • ‘You're nicked: A prisoner's eye view of the custody suit to mark the change in the way offenders are charged.’
      • ‘The officers' racism had some impact on the way that they did their job - one said that he had nicked an Asian man for a traffic offence, but had let off a white woman who had committed the same offence.’
      • ‘So clearly, even under the grotesquely inadequate laws of 2003, the police do not seem to have been significantly impeded in their ability to spot-check ID and nick people.’
      • ‘Surely the notoriously humourless Singapore police would nick us all, cane us publicly - our bare, welted bottoms would be splattered all over the Sun…’
      • ‘But he'd just been nicked for ‘recklessly discharging a firearm’ - surely he'd be inside?’
      • ‘I would have nicked him too but there was no room in the police car.’
      • ‘He was nicked after one of the shop attendants recognised his voice.’
      • ‘Anyone who continued to use the site in search of illegal images, despite repeated warnings, was nicked.’


  • in the nick of time

    • Only just in time.

      • ‘Conveniently, there were other people around, and I was rescued in the nick of time.’
      • ‘I was, though, lucky enough to get into a National Guard unit in the nick of time, about a day before I was drafted.’
      • ‘Devon noted the truck stopped just in the nick of time too.’
      • ‘The upshot is that the error was fixed, in the nick of time.’
      • ‘Roland, meanwhile, lands in the nick of time to beat the enemy Saracen Sarwegur and save the city and all of France.’
      • ‘It wasn't a particularly tricky job, the spare part didn't have to be imported from Outer Mongolia and you weren't extremely lucky he caught it in the nick of time.’
      • ‘The highwayman has been portrayed in films and books as a flamboyant and handsome figure, forever escaping in the nick of time on his trusty steed Black Bess.’
      • ‘Looking back, I think it happened just in the nick of time.’
      • ‘Riding bicycles, Hank's agents rescue Arthur and Hank in the nick of time.’
      • ‘Then, just in the nick of time, I read this… and swiftly reconsidered.’
      just in time, not a moment too soon, almost too late, at the critical moment
      under the wire
      in the godspeed, in the very nick
      View synonyms


Late Middle English: of unknown origin.