This is the follow up question of When to use “nugatory”?

So if we look at the Ngram of the word nugatory, it is noticeable that the word has been nugatory throughout the time. The trend starts from 1840, and has never gone up. It is slowing down, but still, there is no sign of coming back. Maybe someday it will become obsolete, like quizzaciously.

I really have no idea to explain it. Any idea? image description

  • It seems its usage is turning up at the end. Who knows?
    – user140086
    Oct 11, 2015 at 9:33
  • Clearly, the word has had its desired effect, and fewer things are nugatory today than used to be the case. Thus, there are fewer opportunities for its use.
    – TimR
    Oct 11, 2015 at 12:07
  • This is due to the natural process of progressive and unrelenting nugratorication. It is explained by the 2nd law of thermodynamics.
    – Drew
    Oct 11, 2015 at 20:56
  • @Drew i don't see any relation to the "entropy will always increase" law. Can you elaborate that?
    – Ooker
    Oct 12, 2015 at 4:31
  • It was a joke. Increasing entropy means increasing noise, decreasing signal/meaning/information.
    – Drew
    Oct 12, 2015 at 14:49

1 Answer 1


Natural selection.

The English language derives from Germanic, French, Greek and Latin roots. This is an explanation for the the many synonyms we have.


Germanic - finger

Latinate - digit

Both of the above survive. We use 'finger' in everyday language. The word 'digit' is used in scientific contexts.

Nugatory has many rival synonyms. Why should it survive? If it is used in a particular context (for example law) then it will survive for that reason. It may be known only within that context -- ordinary people probably never hear it.

If you want to understand in detail how this works, words can be considered to be memes.

Proponents theorize that memes are a viral phenomenon that may evolve by natural selection in a manner analogous to that of biological evolution. Memes do this through the processes of variation, mutation, competition, and inheritance, each of which influences a meme's reproductive success. Memes spread through the behavior that they generate in their hosts. Memes that propagate less prolifically may become extinct.


  • I agree. Predicting a demise of a certain word is prediciting a demise of human beings.
    – user140086
    Oct 11, 2015 at 9:48
  • nice explanation. First time I know that digit = finger. It seems that digit has evolved to something else to avoid the rival of finger
    – Ooker
    Oct 11, 2015 at 9:49
  • But even in the anatomical sense, digit includes toes (and thumbs) as well as fingers, so it's not a pure synonym and still has value. (And of course it's also used to refer to a numeric symbol, or other obscure/obsolete astronomic/geometric meanings.)
    – gidds
    Sep 16, 2022 at 12:05

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