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Google dictionary shows 18 meanings for way. Among which, we have:

  1. A method, style, or manner of doing something

  2. A person's characteristic or habitual manner of behavior or expression

  3. The typical manner in which something happens or in which someone or something behaves

  4. A specified direction

  5. Used with a verb and adverbial phrase to intensify the force of an action or to denote movement or progress

  6. A particular aspect of something; a respect

  7. A specified condition or state

Which of these is the meaning for the "way" in "no way", the informal term which means absolutely no?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

Any of those, since it's short for in no way.

The phrase is simply an emphatic Negative.

If you won't go there in any way, you won't go there at all.

  • A: He'll be mad at you.
  • B: No way.

A thinks that he'll be mad at B, but B denies that; if there is no way in which he'll be mad at B, then he won't be mad at B at all.


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In the sentence "if there is no way in which he'll be mad at B...", what does the "way" mean? How can we rewrite the sentence without using the word "way"? – Pacerier Jul 19 '12 at 1:15
In no manner, in no situation, under no conditions, ... – John Lawler Jul 19 '12 at 2:18
what do you think of Russel's answer? – Pacerier Jul 19 '12 at 6:08
As I said, any of those senses would work, including the Journey metaphor. – John Lawler Jul 19 '12 at 18:00
oic thanks for the clarification =) – Pacerier Jul 19 '12 at 19:28

The phrase is somewhat idiomatic, so doesn't carry exactly any of the meanings above. Meaning 1 is closest, but closest would be "way" in the sense of a route towards a goal. "No way" is simply a contraction of "there is no way that could be possible" i.e. the speaker is (hyperbolically) suggesting that they simply don't believe the previous speaker's statement is possible.

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It's one of the definitions you didn't offer:

A course of travel or route taken in order to reach a place

In the phrase no way it's used in varying degrees of metaphoricity, from the fairly literal sense of "a path":

"We need to get to the other side of the river."
"[There's] no way [to get there from here]."

...to a more figurative "sequence of events":

"I need you to go out there and draw their fire while I sneak around behind them."
"[There's] no way [you can convince me to do that]."
"Not even for a Scooby Snack?"
"Well... okay." 
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