Here is the containing paragraph:

Disruption also attracts attention: disruptors are people who look for trouble and find it. Disruptive kids get sent to the principal’s office. Disruptive companies often pick fights they can’t win. Think of Napster: the name itself meant trouble. What kinds of things can one “nap”? Music … Kids … and perhaps not much else. Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker, Napster’s then-teenage founders, credibly threatened to disrupt the powerful music recording industry in 1999. The next year, they made the cover of Time magazine. A year and a half after that, they ended up in bankruptcy court.

What does the verb "nap" mean here? I've looked at many dictionaries but couldn't find any suitable meaning.

  • 1
    Your confusion is understandable. You may not be getting any answers here, because one cannot "nap" music, so I have no idea what he's talking about. I suspect that, honestly, the usage is poor enough to basically be meaningless. I'd love to be proven wrong, though.
    – Ben I.
    May 19, 2017 at 19:41
  • 1
    I think the reference is to the verb kidnap.
    – TimR
    May 19, 2017 at 19:43

3 Answers 3


The author is making a play on the word "kidnap", since Napster was accused of misappropriating music the way a kidnapper might abduct a child.


The reference to


is a red herring and meaningless. The name


is a childhood nickname for the founder Shawn Fanning.

The author of your article is assuming that


is being used as a suffix to nap in the same way that gang-ster, huck-ster, and trick-ster is.
Though this is an incorrect assumption.

  • The only possible verb I can imagine is a slangy derivation from the adjective "nappy" to mean to become "frizzy" or "kinky". It still doesn't fit the context.
    – Andrew
    May 19, 2017 at 22:19
  • If you read the article, Shawn Fanning's hair was "nappy".
    – Peter
    May 20, 2017 at 0:16

The other answers are badly incomplete, or badly wrong, because this usage of "nap" is archaic. It originates from the Old English word "hnappian", which shorted "nap" by the 1600's. It means "to seize or steal". This usage of "nap" almost entirely dead. Modern English speakers will not recognize it, except perhaps as a fragment of the word "kidnap".

Source: Origin of the the word Kidnap at word-detective.com

Note: The name Napster originates from the founder's childhood nickname - he had nappy hair. However the author of the text that you quoted was clearly referring to "nap" as it is used in "kidnap". It is likely that the author was unaware of the origin of "Napster", and unaware of the archaic usage of "Nap". The author most likely simply extracted "nap" from the word "kidnap", and he was probably just just making up assumptions and conclusions that sounded good. I would say the author was engaging in word-play, not a deep or meaningful analysis.

  • I think it's clear the writer is making a joke, rather than being stupid. The morpheme "nap" is used with children (kidnapping), pets (dognapping, etc), and not much else. Hence it makes sense to say you can only "nap" a small number of things, which is the author's point.
    – Stuart F
    Jul 6, 2022 at 13:36

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