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I've recently encountered the phrase "Night Night," which piqued my curiosity. I understand it's used as a form of saying goodnight, but I'm interested in delving deeper into its meaning and usage. Specifically, I would like to know:

What is the exact meaning and connotation of "Night Night"? Does it differ in any way from a simple "Goodnight"?

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  • This does not seem like a history question, nor do I think that you should ask about both meaning and history in the same question.
    – Laurel
    Jan 19 at 15:25

4 Answers 4

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The expression night-night is an example of the linguistic phenomenon reduplication. Wikipedia has a page dedicated to it

Reduplication is used in inflections to convey a grammatical function, such as plurality, intensification, etc., and in lexical derivation to create new words. It is often used when a speaker adopts a tone more "expressive" or figurative than ordinary speech and is also often, but not exclusively, iconic in meaning.

Exact reduplications: Ack ack, aye-aye, back-to-back, blah-blah, boo-boo, bye-bye, chin-chin, […] night-night, no-no, papa, pee-pee, […] ta-ta, there-there, tut-tut, tutu, wah-wah, wee-wee, yo-yo. While in many forms of English, exact reduplications can also be used to emphasise the strength of a word ("He wants it now now"),[…].

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    As others have pointed out, a lot of these expressions are 'baby-talk'. You would say "night-night" to a child, or to an adult only in informal and/or intimate circumstances. Jan 19 at 9:51
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    Right, although "bye-bye" graduated to adult use, although still very informal. @KateBunting
    – Barmar
    Jan 19 at 14:56
  • @Barmar: Yes yes. Very very. Ha ha...
    – user21820
    Jan 20 at 10:37
  • While good info, this does not appear to answer the actual question (meaning and connotation).
    – fectin
    Jan 21 at 16:46
  • @fectin “It is often used when a speaker adopts a tone more "expressive" or figurative than ordinary speech“ The OP also asked: I'm interested in delving deeper into its meaning and usage.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 21 at 17:08
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My impression is that it is a child-friendly expression, something that would especially be used within the home. Perhaps by a small child who is not yet able to form complex phrases. A playful variant is "Nighty Night". Merriam-Webster agrees.

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    I've also heard young children (or their parents) use the phrase, "Go night night", meaning, "Go to sleep". Jan 19 at 20:31
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Compared to a simple "Goodnight," I think "Night Night" is generally more affectionate and conveys warmth and closeness. It's often used among friends, family members, or romantic partners to express a sense of intimacy and caring.

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  • Do you have any sources to support your answer?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 19 at 7:57
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    My usage agrees with your answer. Additionally I would almost always use "Night night" at bed-time, while I might use "Good night" to colleagues at the end of a late shift or to strangers when leaving somewhere late at night.
    – Peter
    Jan 19 at 9:18
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    As a native British English speaker, this fits my experience. It’s certainly not just used with children as nschneid’s answer suggests — it’s common within families, or between close friends in somewhat intimate settings — but it is definitely restricted to intimate/affectionate contexts, compared with “Good night”.
    – PLL
    Jan 19 at 12:56
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    @PLL In contrast, I'm a native Canadian English speaker, and to me "night night" sounds exclusively childish. I would only use it with friends if I was being goofy (playful) and instead I would use "g'night" or just "night".
    – wjandrea
    Jan 20 at 3:09
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I use “nighty night” as a variation of “goodnight” to sound more friendly, casual, or colloquial. I often shorten this to “night night”. It has a subtle tongue-in-cheek feeling of irony or humor, yet sincere kindness. It passes off as “nighty night”, but it sounds slightly absurd, since I guess it has the background connotation of imperfect grammar or small-child talk.

If you would like a rule of thumb for usage, I would simply place them on a spectrum of neutral-formal-standard to personal-idiosyncratic-colloquial-personable: Goodnight < Nighty night < Night night.

You can continue this theme of friendly, ironic small-child talk by adding something like “Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”

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