I could never make sense out of the largely informal and colloquial phrase, no nothing. Minus minus equals plus. So literally, no nothing comes to mean something or anything. But it is almost always used in the opposite sense.

Exams over. No worries, no studies, no nothing!

Why and how was it coined?

Simply nothing serves the job well. Why was it even thought of?

  • 9
    Reduplication lends emphasis. Language isn't algebra. Things don't "cancel out".
    – Dan Bron
    Commented May 7, 2017 at 10:25
  • Note that your question is not valid unless it provides some context/examples of the usage you ask about.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 7, 2017 at 12:56
  • 2
    @SohaFarhinPine The thing with math is you can count on it to act like math -- in fact, that is the distinguishing feature of math. You cannot so count on language. Because negatives negate other negatives in one context is no indication at all that they will do so in another context, no matter how seemingly similar. In fact, in certain languages, to negate something you must use a double negative. The best possible advice is not to try to model language like mathematics, no expect it to act like mathematics, no ball or try to argue with it when it doesn't. It simply does not work that way
    – Dan Bron
    Commented May 7, 2017 at 14:07
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    It usually concludes a list of pessimistic affirmations. “[I have] no job, no house, no car, no nothing.” In other words, the speaker is emphasizing their misfortune. P.S I wouldn't place your "real" age on your profile page, if I were you. It seems you've reached the legal minimum age but that means you were underage when you registered 21 months ago. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/61770/…
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented May 7, 2017 at 17:02
  • 3
    "Minus minus equals plus"- unless it doesn't. This is a matter of negative concord (here promoted by a desire for parallel structure) vs double negation. Some folk would say "I couldn't never make sense out of ..." In Standard English, anything is mandated as the negative polarity item ( no(t) anything), but some dialects are less strict on this matter, and no nothing is an idiomatic example of it in standard English. It wasn't coined, it has existed forever. And it somehow infiltrated Standard English's poorly patrolled encampment. See Wiki- en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_negative
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented May 7, 2017 at 17:07

2 Answers 2


It is an idiomatic expression used to emphasize that you mean nothing at all.

No nothing:


(concluding a list of negatives) nothing at all.

  • ‘how could you solve it with no clues, no witnesses, no nothing?’



However, technically the phrase "I don't have no nothing" would be correct, saying "I have nothing". To say "I don't have nothing" or "I have no nothing" should mean "I have something".

But nowadays this is thrown out of the window.

  • 4
    Was this ever the case? Has there ever been any period in the entire history of English when the phrase "no nothing" would have meant anything. The earliest I can find this phrase in Google books is in 1817, when Lord Byron wrote in a letter "no prose, no verse, no nothing?" Pretty similar to the OP's quote, actually. Commented Jun 6, 2017 at 16:12

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