ne'er-do-well

This is the full read-only archive of the "Ask the Wordwizard" section of the original Wordwizard site. The responses to the questions originate from Jonathon Green, the compiler of the Cassell Dictionary of Slang and numerous other dictionaries.
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ne'er-do-well

Post by Archived Topic » Tue Feb 09, 1999 12:00 am

ne'er-do-well (?)

I just needed to know the origin of the word! I found it in Act 1 page 4 of the play/book/movie/ The Crucible by Arthur Miller. Thank you very much...
Submitted by Matt Hazel (montgomery - U.S.A.)
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ne'er-do-well

Post by Jonathon Green » Fri Feb 12, 1999 8:00 am

The word, which is no more than an elided form of 'never do well', was originally northern English and Scottish dialect. It emerged, at least in print, sometime during the 18C.
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