N is for noted, nautical and nerd.
Nacelle – the structure on an airplane wing that contains the engine. Or, on a starship.
“Captain!” Scotty shouted. “The starboard nacelles have sustained a direct hit! I’ll have to route the antimatter thingamajig to the whatzit to bypass the doohickey or we’ll be blown to bits!”
Nave – the big room in a church where the congregation sits.
Image: Adam Bishop / Wikimedia Commons
Necropsy – post-mortem, or autopsy. Usually when it’s done on people, it’s referred to as an autopsy, and when animals or other non-human creatures are examined, it’s called a necropsy. I have no idea why, except that auto– means self. Technically they’re the same thing, but I don’t suppose we think of animals as being ourselves.
Nebbish – a pitiful person, not effective in his work. A weak, wishy-washy person. From the Yiddish nebekh, unfortunate.
Ngorongoro Crater – the vast, ancient caldera of an extinct volcano in Tanzania, Africa. The crater’s floor is now a vast plain that is populated by wildebeests, zebras, lions, and flamingos that hang out in the lake in the center. Ngorongoro is a national conservation area that attracts many tourists with its scenery and varied wildlife.
Image: G. Heilmann / Wikimedia Commons
Nictitating – to nictate is to wink or blink. In birds, sharks and some animals, there is a nictitating membrane, or a third eyelid, that blinks across the eye to protect it. Typically it’s transparent, so the animal can retain visibility while moistening the eye. I first came upon this term when reading about sharks in National Geographic as a kid.
Nihilism – a philosophy that denies any meaning in reality and considers all values baseless.
AllAboutPhilosophy.com defines nihilism with Shakespeare’s famous passage from Macbeth:
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
A character who considers him/herself a nihilist would be interesting to read or write.
Nostrum – a quack medicine or treatment.
“What’s a nostrum?” Buffy asked.
“Many people believe chiropractic is a nostrum,” Giles told her.
“Oh,” she said. “I thought it was a demon’s nose hole. Thanks for clearing that up.”
Nosebag – a food bag that hangs over a horse’s head, so he can eat on the go.
Image: Mattes / Wikimedia Commons
Numismatics – the study of coins.
Nutria – a 10-pound, ratlike rodent from South America. Also found in US Gulf Coast wetlands, it is destructive due to its feeding habits. Some people trap and eat the animals as a means of control.
Image: K. Retzlaff / Wikimedia Commons
Nymphomania – popular term for a psychosexual disorder in women, characterized by an abnormal and excessive desire for sexual activity, often with multiple partners. Think this would be fun? Read this. And this.
Nyctophobia – fear of the dark.