November 7th, 2021

words 6
  • sallymn

Sunday Word: Nonpareil

nonpareil [non-puh-rel]

having no match or equal; unrivalled
1 an unrivalled or matchless person or thing
2 a - a decorative confectionery of tiny balls made with sugar and starch, traditionally an opaque white but now available in many colors
2 b - (US) a flat round confection made of chocolate covered with white sugar sprinkles
3 in printing, an old type size equal to six points (larger than ruby)


From the quote book of late, great friend and outdoor writer nonpareil, John Higley: "I don't know if I love fishing, or just love being in the places where you find fish." (Henry Miller, Hang your hat on these outdoors 'pearls of wisdom', Patch, October 2021)

Nonchalant about going grey or his girth, offhand both in intensity and underplay, Sanjeev Kumar stands nonpareil even three decades after his demise. (Farhana Farook, After his break up with Hema Malini, Sanjeev Kumar didn't want to marry says Hanif Zaveri, Taipei Times, November 2021)

Spooky mini cupcakes are sold with a hammer. When smashed, they reveal goodies inside — mini pretzels and nonpareils. (Sarah Salvadore, This Mercer Co Store Is Churning Out Spooky Treats For Halloween, Patch, October 2021)

But Arabella’s highhanded treatment of the Nonpareil decides him it would be a hum to make her the most sought after female in London - and he proceeds to do so. (Judy, How I Fell Back in Love…with Georgette Heyer, Library Buzz Blog, October 2020)

Yes, that's right, lad - make much of me - I'm a nonpareil: there's nothing like me in the common herd. (Charlotte Bronte, The Professor)


mid-15c, non-parail, 'having no equal,' from Old French nonpareil 'not equal, unequaled, peerless,' from non- 'not' + pareil 'equal' (from Latin par 'equal'). The noun meaning 'an unequaled person or thing' is from 1590s; first applied to a kind of candy 1690s. As the name of a printing type (6 point size) it is attested from 1640s. (Online Etymology Dictionary)

Trace 'nonpareil' back to its Middle French origins and you'll find that it comes from a term meaning 'not equal.' Pareil itself comes from a Vulgar Latin form of par, which means 'equal.' Nonpareil has served as an English adjective since the 15th century, and since the late 16th century it has also functioned as a noun describing an individual of unequaled excellence. In 1612, Captain John Smith used the term in that noun sense (but with a now-archaic spelling): 'Pocahontas, Powhatan's daughter... was the very Nomparell of his kingdome, and at most not past 13 or 14 years of age.' And as you may know, 'nonpareil' is also the name of a chocolate candy covered with white sugar pellets. (Merriam-Webster)