9

Harry was turning over the wizard coins and looking at them. He had just thought of something that made him feel as though the happy balloon inside him had got a puncture. "Um –– Hagrid?"
   "Mm?" said Hagrid, who was pulling on his huge boots. "I haven't got any money –– and you heard Uncle Vernon last night ... he won't pay for me to go and learn magic."
  
"Don't worry about that," said Hagrid, standing up and scratching his head. "D'yeh think yer parents didn't leave yeh anything?"
   "But if their house was destroyed ––"
   "They didn' keep their gold in the house, boy! Nah, first stop fer us is Gringotts. Wizards' bank. Have a sausage, they're not bad cold –– an' I wouldn' say no teh a bit o' yer birthday cake, neither."
(Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

What does ‘nah’ mean? (If it meant ‘no’, its location would be better in the previous sentence, I think. And so I suspect it might have some other meaning, but to find nothing except ‘no’.)

  • Nah, nope, yup, yep and yeah (and also yuh if you're from around Boston) are all variations of no and yes that occur in casual conversation. There are also uh-uh and m-m for no and uhhuh and mhm for yes. As for where it appears, the conversation boils down to "Do you think your parents didn't leave you anything? No, of course they did. Let's go get it at Gringott's. In other words, he's actually answering his own question. – BobRodes Oct 6 '13 at 5:36
  • But nah, nope, and yep are different from no and yes in ways other than formality. – snailboat Oct 6 '13 at 11:46
14

It does indeed mean no, and this isn't even just "Hagrid-speech"; nah is a common informal way to say "no".

I'm not sure where you mean it should have been placed in the previous sentence, but I'll attempt to explain why it appears where it does.

They didn' keep their gold in the house, boy! Nah, (the) first stop fer us is Gringotts.

There's an implication there in the nah that's based on prior context."The gold isn't in the house; there's no reason to go to the house. No, that's not where we need to go; the first stop for us is Gringotts!"

Basically in this case, the nah is being used to say "No, not that thing you just said. We're doing this." Another example:

Amy: "Did you try that new Italian place on your date last night?"

Mary: "What, and completely ruin my diet? Nah, Mark took me to a sushi place instead."

  • I did not know "nah" existed in English. I used "nah" because it is prevalent in Hindi or Bengali. – Mistu4u Oct 6 '13 at 4:20
  • 1
    @Mistu4u: It's a common informal or dismissive "no". It can sometimes mean "No, because I don't want to", so you should certainly avoid saying "nah" to your boss's requests for you to do something, for instance. If in doubt, use "No". It's always safer :) – Matt Oct 6 '13 at 4:34
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    @Mistu4u: Note that in English, nah is usually pronounced [næ], with the same vowel as hat [hæt], not [na] as in Hindi/Bengali/Gujarati/etc. – Jon Purdy Oct 6 '13 at 8:41
  • @JonPurdy, Wow! Thanks for this information. So basically despite there meaning being same, due to difference in origin their pronunciations are different. – Mistu4u Oct 6 '13 at 8:46
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    @JonPurdy Where I come from (Alabama) and where I am now (Missouri), [næ] and [næʔ] seem to occur only in isolation, like 'nope' (which is actually [noʊ] with emphatically unreleased oral closure). [nɑː] and [nɔː] are what I hear and use in contexts like "No, I'm gonna pass on that". – StoneyB Oct 6 '13 at 10:27
2

@WendiKidd has an excellent answer on the way "Nah" is used to mean "not thing 1, thing 2".

I just wanted to add, since the other answers haven't so far mentioned it, that Nah and Yeah (especially the latter) are more common in British English than the Americanisms Nope and Yep (though those are, as many other Americanisms, becoming more common through their use in American media that we are exposed to over here).

Finally, "nah" tends to a bit dismissive. This can be dismissive because the premise is silly, e.g.:

  • Nah, don't be silly
  • Nah, of course not

as in your example. Or it can be

  • Nah, not really
  • Nah, don't feel like it

In this case it's more similar to "I've thought about it and decided against it". Contrast to "No, not really" which could be an initial response where the speaker hasn't really considered whatever it is.

-3

In Yorkshire my father always said nah (phonetic) night; as my good night send off. Maybe there are other contexts too?

  • 1
    Some people pronounce the phrase "night, night" something along the lines of what you're describing. In the context of this question, however, the word "nah" is definitely an informal version of the word "no". – godel9 Dec 29 '13 at 23:18

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