When one person tells another something good or shows off something they like the other person will often say "nice".

For example, "Check out my new car it has so many bells and whistles" -Person one "Nice" -Person two.

It seems this is relatively new as I don't remember everything good being "nice" 15-20 years ago. Am I correct that "nice" is a new phenomenon and if so, when and where did it start?

  • 3
    15-20 years ago it was "sweet," wasn't it?--which was, if anything, worse. Then before that there was the Wayne-and-Garth (and Bill-and-Ted) "excellent." Fashions change. Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 14:53
  • Actually Ngram shows that in 1980 'nice' overtakes 'sweet' in usage.
    – user66974
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 15:00
  • 2
    @Josh61 Maybe in written English, and maybe as a part of longer sentences, but Ngram doesn't tell you anything about the usage OP is talking about. Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 15:21
  • Yeah , just a curious coincidence!!
    – user66974
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 15:24
  • 1
    Interesting reading material about the Recency Illusion, when things seem to have cropped up in recent years when in fact it's just us that are noticing them. Commented Jul 23, 2014 at 6:26

3 Answers 3


I don't know when the usage of the word "nice" started, but I think I have a formulation of how.

"That's a nice house." In this sentence, nice means having class or looking good.

"You look nice." This sentence may refer to looking good, so nice has taken up the meaning of good at this point.

"Nice work!" This sentence shows that the work has been done in a manner that was above acceptable terms.

"Nice!" This is basically the shortened version of the previous sentence.

Please note that this is only a formulation based on previous knowledge and connections between words and phrases. I have no websites to back this up but it makes a lot of sense to me.

-Sarah J.


Weirdly enough, I have a vivid memory of seeing an LP cover in record stores many years ago that adopted this particular use of "nice." It was for an album called "Get a Whiff a This," released in 1971 by a British rock band called Juicy Lucy. On the cover, a horned, shirtless, vaguely ogreish cartoon figure in checked pants says "GET A WHIFF A THIS _" and an obscure object that looks something like a crooked, unclothed knee responds "NICE."

This has no bearing on the question of why "nice" as an approving response has become suddenly much more popular in recent years (supposing that it has), but it does indicate that the precise usage of "nice" that the OP has in mind has been present in popular culture for at least 43 years.


It is normally preferred that one should use the word 'nice' because it is considered as an informal word. The word is not to be used in formal conversations. For many people it shows how poor your vocabulary is, even young children use the word 'nice'.

  • 2
    This is both nonsensical and not an answer to the question. There's nothing inherently informal about the word nice. Commented Jul 14, 2014 at 8:34

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