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As the question implies, I'm interested in only the semantical aspects of the two words I've listed. I've looked up these two words on some online dictionaries. After some searching, I've noticed that the third definition of nexus and the first/second definition of locus are nearly identical in meaning.

Cambridge Dictionary lists the definition of nexus as "an important connection between the parts of a system or a group of things" Whereas locus is defined by the same online dictionary as "the place where something happens or the central area of interest in something being discussed:" Here are some examples to expound my point:

Example 1: For us, the island had become the locus of the struggle.

Times Square is the nexus of the New York subway.

Example 2: The real nexus of the money culture was Wall Street.

The community is a locus of healing, not the hospital or the clinic.

In the two previous examples, my brain's understanding of these two words has led me to perceive them as sharing the definition of "a place or locality as the cause or source of great activity".

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  • I'm not sure if this is discussion is limited only to literary usage, but in math (geometry) the meaning of locus is expanded to "the set of all points that fulfill a given condition"; eg any circle can be described as "the set of all points equidistant from a given point". Thus any region could be regarded as a locus. May 19 at 18:47
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    From your own research, you can see that the definition of nexus emphasises the connection, whereas locus is emphasises the aspect of place.
    – Greybeard
    May 20 at 17:10

2 Answers 2

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Thank you for researching your question so carefully. To the extent that there is a difference between these two words,you can most clearly see the difference by looking to their derivations.

Both are derived from (or simply are) Latin words. The Latin locus means a place. You might think of it as a dot on a map. In Latin nexus is also a noun, meaning a 'bond'. It, in turn, is derived from the verb nectere (past participle nexus) meaning to bind or weave. The point about nectere is the it involves joining things together (threads, pathways, journeys... networks). And yes, it seems that even the word net has the same derivation.

So Time Square in New York, Picadilly Circus in London, Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris are both loci (the plural of second declension locus in Latin) and nexūs (the plural of fourth declension nexus pronounced nexoose, I'm sorry to say, because necto is a third conjugation verb!). That is they are places and they are places where several journeys by car, foot or aeroplane meet. And you can describe the networks themselves as nexūs (but don't worry, no one will stop you from calling them nexuses, just avoid nexi in case some pedant like me is standing nearby ready to judge).

So which of the two words you use is really a matter of which aspect you wish to emphasise, the point location or the intersection of different threads.

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    On the plural of nexus, my view is that English rarely adopts Latin fourth declension noun plurals so uses -uses rather than -ūs (another complication is related Latin adjective plurals often being different)
    – Henry
    May 19 at 11:03
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    That 's right. I had my tongue in my cheek as I wrote that. In fact the only example of the plural provided by Cambridge is 'nexuses'. Collins dictionary thinks the British English plural is 'nexūs', while the American English can be either 'nexūs' or 'nexuses'. To me, both sit uncomfortably on the tongue, the latter because of the repeated sibilants, the latter because of its unfamiliarity.
    – Tuffy
    May 19 at 16:57
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    English rarely adopts any Greek or Latin plurals, and usually gets them wrong when it does... May 19 at 17:02
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    I don't know how long nexus has been an English word, but I'd bet it's plenty long enough to consider it naturalised, and having earned its very own English plural!
    – gidds
    May 19 at 19:31
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    So a nexus could always be described as a locus, but a locus could potentially just be a random point somewhere that is not really a nexus in any meaningful sense. May 19 at 23:30
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From your own research, you can see that the definition of nexus emphasises the connection, whereas locus is emphasises the aspect of place.

OED: Nexus:

1.a. A bond, link, or junction; a means of connection between things or parts; (also) the state of being connected or linked.

1996 N. Davies Europe 359 The Crusades..served to strengthen the nexus between Western Christendom, feudalism, and militarism.

2. A connected group or series; a network.

1988 A. Storr School of Genius vi. 81 The less a person feels himself to be embedded in a family and social nexus, the more he feels that he has to make his mark in individual fashion.

OED: Locus

1.The place in which something is situated or occurs. In later use also: the effective or perceived location of something abstract.

2006 Wired Sept. 178/2 Record labels have always been the center of gravity in the industry—the locus of power, ideas, and money.

I've noticed that the third definition of nexus and the first/second definition of locus are nearly identical in meaning.

If you are looking for differences - and that is your question - do not be distracted by similarities, especially those that might only occur in rare contexts.

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