I'm looking for an English word that describes something comfortable: a safe space that one prefers to chill out in quiet solitude, and something that depicts a sentiment of familiarity.

I would like for the word to be informal, as per something you would say to a good friend of yours: 'And this is my little corner here.' 'Little corner' can be a good candidate but I'm looking for a single-word term.

By reading up on the thesaurus and the dictionary, I stumbled upon the word 'nook'.

So, I wonder, is the use of this word by itself appropriate? Or is it unidiomatic? I always used to hear it in the saying 'nook and cranny', and I wonder whether it's uncommon to have only 'nook' in a sentence.

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    Also related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/71444/… – user240918 Oct 20 at 7:22
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  • Thank you for asking. Please edit to add details of research you’ve done. See: “How much research is needed? – EL&U Meta”. Every Stack Exchange question should describe the asker's prior efforts to find an answer, and explain why the results were not adequate to answer the question. Some research is required on every question. This is called our research requirement. The link I gave above has more information about the research requirement. – MetaEd Oct 22 at 21:49

The British National Corpus contains 75 instances of nook (I haven't checked nooks), although they're not all independent. E.g. three of the uses in a name are references to the same play, Rookery Nook.

Of those 75:

  • 25 include the word cranny in close proximity.
  • 17 are in names of houses, pubs, plays, streets, etc.
  • 8 are in poetry (which I categorise apart because it tends to use rare words to fit metre and rhyme).
  • 24 fit none of the above categories, so we could call them "general usage".
  • And since that adds up to 74, I've lost one while I was sorting them into categories.

The Corpus of Contemporary American English has 1088 instances of nook, of which 208 have the word cranny within four words. (I didn't count these manually, but used the collocates feature of the search).

So in both corpora the word nook occurs more commonly without cranny than with.

As to commonality in general, the full frequency distribution of COCA is not available without payment, but the top two lemmata in the sample data are

Position  Word      Frequency
7309      attic     2711
17311     tearful   542

so it is maybe around the 12000th most common word in the corpus, and almost exactly twice as frequent as the perfectly common word tearful.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – MetaEd Oct 22 at 21:45

Yes, you can use nook without the cranny, for nook merely means "a corner or recess, especially one offering seclusion or security." (Oxford Dictionary) See here for sentence examples of nook by itself. As to whether it is common, that is something I wouldn't concern myself with. Commonality, or lack thereof, should not dictate whether something is used or not. Usage of language should be dictated only by communicative qualities; that is, whether the term or word in question adequately and succinctly communicates an idea, regardless of how old or common it is. This is just my opinion, however.

INCIDENTAL ADDENDUM:
My answer and I have been criticized by some, as you can see in the comments, so allow me to clarify: I am speaking solely about words that are in current use and are not considered “obsolete.” I do not think that one should use just any word; one still has to take the time to study the nuances of words. But people are too swayed by how common a word is as opposed to how expressive it is. Language’s sole purpose is for communicating, after all.

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    The comment thread is reserved for helping to improve the post: friendly clarifying questions, suggestions for improving the answer, relevant but transient information, and explanations of your actions. Please avoid discussion or debate. A welcoming place for discussion of posts (or anything else) is our English Language & Usage Chat. – MetaEd Oct 22 at 21:30

Out of curiosity, I searched both of Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings for "nook":

[The cave] seemed quite a fair size, but not too large and mysterious. It had a dry floor and some comfortable nooks. At one end there was room for the ponies; and there they stood (mighty glad of the change) steaming, and champing in their nosebags.

The Hobbit, Chapter 4: Over Hill And Under Hill, p.53

A little later Frodo came out of the study to see how things were going on, and found [Lobelia] still about the place, investigating nooks and corners, and tapping the floors.

The Fellowship of the Rings, Chapter 1: A Long-Expected Party, p. 57

The westering sun was caught into clouds, and night came swiftly. They slept as well as they could for the cold, turn and turn about, in a nook among great jagged pinnacles of weathered rock; at least they were sheltered from the easterly wind.

The Two Towers, Book Two, Chapter 1: The Taming of Sméagol, p. 227

‘We had better try a way back southwards along the line of the cliff, I think,’ said Sam. ‘We might find some nook there, or even a cave or something.’ [...] They did not find the going any easier at the broken feet of the Emyn Muil. Nor did Sam find any nook or hollow to shelter in: only bare stony slopes frowned over by the cliff, which now rose again, higher and more sheer as they went back.

ibid., p. 237

Interestingly, nook and cranny doesn't appear at all. As to whether Tolkien's use of nook is "idiomatic", "appropriate" or "common", I'm not sure. I can say however that you'd be in good company.

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    Tolkien was a master writer and a philologist. If he used “nook” in such a fashion, then it must be a justified use. Glad you found this. – user320354 Oct 20 at 16:16
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    @HeWhoShallNotBeNamed He did use plenty of archaic forms in his writings however. I would agree that these are strictly correct, but I cannot say whether they are idiomatic or common. – isanae Oct 20 at 16:22
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    True, but as an experienced philologist, I’m sure Tolkien had a good idea of what is common or idiomatic. Just because others haven’t used it as he did does not mean that “nook” was used unidiomatically. And in his time, the “forms,” as you called them, were not archaic. To the neophiliac, contemporary reader it might be archaic, but not to me. Paleophobia is too common nowadays. – user320354 Oct 20 at 16:30
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    @HeWhoShallNotBeNamed Tolkien last wrote 50 years ago, modern English hasn't changed that much. I can't go into his use of archaic words (wain) or constructs (helms too they chose) into the comments, but suffice to say that many of his works contained language that was not only considered archaic in his time, but specifically chosen because it was so. I do not however believe nook to be unidiomatic: I merely meant that since English is a second language to me, I cannot confirm it. – isanae Oct 20 at 16:46
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    @HeWhoShallNotBeNamed None taken, a quick look at my profile on sfe.se shows that we both share this same interest. Cheers! – isanae Oct 20 at 16:56

Yes 'nook' without 'cranny' is fine. From OLD:

Nook: a corner or recess, especially one offering seclusion or security.

My cat has currently found himself a comfortable nook in the garden to sleep in.

And, most importantly, the term feels perfectly normal, not unusual or archaic to me, a native English speaker. That's the only real test.

Inglenook is a nice word. It means a recess next to a fireplace (ingle is an old word for fire). It's where people used to put their grannies.

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    It would have been rather more fitting if the nooks were where people put their books, grannies being instead stored in the crannies. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Oct 21 at 20:29
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    @JanusBahsJacquet: As in "Where's the book nook?" "It's right next to the granny cranny." – TonyK Oct 21 at 20:36

I'd say it's not necessarily an everyday word, but it's not uncommon - one might describe what you plan as a cosy nook, for example.

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    -1. You'll notice that the upvoted answers include authoritative explanation and references, as befits a site that aims to "build a library of detailed answers to every question about English language and usage". Personal opinion is ok, but should be backed up with supporting evidence, otherwise it's simply commentary. For further guidance, see How to Answer, and I also recommend taking the site Tour :-) – Chappo Oct 21 at 23:06

The term "breakfast nook", meaning an, usually small, area in a kitchen, used for informal eating. Fairly common in American English usage.

Both nook and cranny don’t appear to be much used in contexts different from the idiomatic expression every nook and cranny according to the following sources:

Everywhere, as in I've searched for it in every nook and cranny, and I still can't find it. This metaphoric idiom pairs nook, which has meant “an out-of-the-way corner” since the mid-1300s, with cranny, which has meant “a crack or crevice” since about 1440. Neither noun is heard much other than in this idiom.

(Dictionary.com)

And also from theidioms.com, every nook and cranny:

The idiom originated in the 14th century and it combines ‘nook’, being used from mid-1300s which means – a distant corner, with ‘cranny’ in usage since 1440 which means – a crack or gap.

The most possible oldest printed record of the idiom can be found in a book named Scottish Scenery by James Cririe, published in 1803.

The other examples of the phrase being used can be traced back to Middle English or Scottish English. The ‘nook’ in the phrase refers to a corner which is out of way and cranny was to point out to any cracks in the walls. These nouns are no longer in popular use apart from being used within this phrase.

Source: theidioms.com

The following Google Books search appears to confirm the above assumptions.

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    The Google Books search is far too restrictive, because it excludes any noun phrase of the form <adjective> nook or <adjective> cranny. If you just search for the combined noun phrase and the two simple nouns you see that nook occurs far more often than nook and cranny. – Peter Taylor Oct 20 at 8:30

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