[reading] vox nihili: our word for June


The Guvnor
Staff member
vox nihili, n.
[‘A word, or word form, which does not really exist, often being the result of an editorial misreading, scribal mistake, printing error, etc.’]
Pronunciation: Brit. /ˌvɒks ˈnʌɪ(h)ᵻli/, /ˌvɒks ˈniː(h)ᵻli/, /ˌvɒks ˈnɪhᵻli/, U.S. /ˌvɑks ˈnaɪəli/, /ˌvɑks ˈniəli/, /ˌvɑks ˈnɪhᵻli/
Origin: A borrowing from Latin. Etymon: Latin vox nihili.
Etymology: < post-classical Latin vox nihili (1535 or earlier) < classical Latin vōx voice n. + nihilī, genitive of nihil nothing (see nihil n.).
1. A word, or word form, which does not really exist, often being the result of an editorial misreading, scribal mistake, printing error, etc.
1637 P. Heylyn Antidotum Lincolniense iii. ix. 4 A judicious and learned Mathematician, as you seem to be, would have considered with Xylander, that διοπτικὰ, is vox nihili, no word at all, a mistake meerly of the transcripts.
1684 J. Turner Middle Way betwixt Necessity & Freedom: Pt. 2 sig. gg5v What is the signification of his name? the Masoreth points it Ijob, which is Vox nihili, which signifies just nothing at all.
1829 S. T. Bloomfield in tr. Thucydides History II. iii. cviii. 184 For λοχωδὲς (which is a vox nihili) read from our author λοχμωδὲς.
1884 Sat. Rev. 16 Feb. 227/1 Now and again, a merevox nihili of earlier dictionary-makers..has been run down to its original error and exploded.
1951 Classical Rev. New Ser. 1 140 First tuta was misread as tutu and this vox nihili was taken to betutum written in suspension.
2015 J. Barnes Mantissa xiv. 255 The Coislinianusoffers ‘Gaiatianus’, a name which does not and could not exist. The manuscripts of Photius offer ‘Gaitianus’, another vox nihili.
2. In extended use: a word or phrase which is used to denote an abstract concept or concepts, and whose meaning is deemed to be indistinct when analysed. Now somewhat rare.
1832 ‘Lambda’ in Gentleman's Mag. Mar. 217/1 Impracticable, applied to a morass, is vox nihili; we might as well term a wall, in which we are unable to make a breach, or a man, on whose passions we cannot work, impracticable.
1916 H. W. B. Joseph Introd. to Logic(ed. 2) xix. 404 Words like agency or power, on this view, are voces nihili; we think we mean something more by them than habitual sequence, but we do not.
1924 Spectator 5 July 20/2 His [sc. Herbert Palmer's] poetic conscience is easy: curiosa felicitas is vox nihilito him.
1933 Mind 42 170 That they [sc. actions] cannot be right merely as causes of effects..I have already proved, if I have proved that ‘rightness’ in this sense is a vox nihili or a mere synonym for ‘causality’.
1960 Analysis 21 10 ‘Inductive inference’ is a vox nihili, unless used—as it is sometimes confusingly used—to denote the concrete factual predictions and retrodictions that the mechanic, the seedsman, the palaeontologist and the astronomer make.