I've seen that "for the nonce", which doesn't appear very often in the online versions of dictionaries, is just designated as "somewhat formal" in Merriam-Webster and not designated in the Oxford Dictionary at all. But as far as I can see (no native speaker), the word is quite archaic and hardly used in today's media and literature. The examples I've found are often (not always) like

I pursed my lips and set aside my thirst for the nonce.

Her tendency to discover a touch of sadness had for the nonce disappeared.

So would I be right to designate the phrase as "archaic" for example on flashcards?


The OED explains "for the nonce"

a. For the particular purpose; on purpose; expressly. Freq. with infinitive or clause expressing the object or purpose. In quot. 1949: for the purpose of teasing or joking; for its own sake. Now Eng. regional (south.) and Sc.

It is from Old English and there are examples from the 12th century. It is difficult to find any recent examples. The OED claims it is now just a regional expression found in the South of England and, interestingly, in Scotland.

1880 M. A. Courtney W. Cornwall Words in M. A. Courtney & T. Q. Couch Gloss. Words Cornwall 40/1 Nones, Nonce, Nines, on purpose. ‘He didn't do it for the nauns,’, that is on purpose.

1949 in Sc. National Dict. at Nanes, Never mind him: he's only saying it for 'e naince.

It should not be confused with modern British criminal slang, nonce meaning: A sexual deviant; a person convicted of a sexual offence, esp. child abuse. This has been around since the 1970s, origin unknown, though perhaps from nance(y). Its existence may have contributed to the demise of the ancient for the nonce.

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