'A-why,' says he, 'I was out a-hunting today, and I got away to a place in the wood I'd never seen before. And there was an old chalk-pit. And I heard a kind of a sort of humming. So I got off my hobby, and I went right quiet to the pit, and I looked down. Well, what should there be but the funniest little black thing you ever set eyes on. And what was that doing, but that had a little spinning-wheel, and that was spinning wonderful fast, and twirling that's tail. And as that span that sang:

Nimmy nimmy not. My name's Tom Tit Tot.'

This content is from "Tom Tit Tot" in English fairy tales.

What's the meaning of "nimmy"?

  • 3
    If I had to guess, it's nonsense - likely designed to rhyme with "Tom Tit Tot". Lots of songs have nonsense words in them like "Tra-la-la"... they're just syllables to sing on. – Catija May 18 '16 at 18:58
  • Although I agree with Catija that for most modern speakers it would be nonsense, nimmy nimmy not could be an archaism meaning "catch me, catch me not". – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 18 '16 at 19:46
  • 2
    "Nimmy-nimmy nick nack" was apparently a guessing game: books.google.com/… Nimmy on it's own may have meant "whimsical." books.google.com/… I have never heard this word used except in the Tomtittot story, so you may not want to put a whole lot of effort into memorizing it. :-) – Adam May 18 '16 at 21:04
  • @Catija - Nimmy may be a nonsense word, but it doesn't rhyme with Tom Tim Tot. – nnnnnn May 19 '16 at 6:07
  • @nnnnnn ... No... But "not" does. My statement was unclear. – Catija May 19 '16 at 13:32

I suspect that this is a reference to the North of England dialect term 'Nimmy nimmy nack' A simple guessing game: "Nimmy nimmy nack, Which hand will tha tak' ? The rector the left, Or the bonny bord's heft?" - The English dialect dictionary 1898

This is the most likely explanation as, for those that don't know, the story of Tom Tit Tot is pretty much identical to the better known Grimm fairy story of Rumpelstiltskin. The excerpt quoted is from the point where the title character is overheard gloating that the young queen has failed to guess that his name is ...

Answered as community wiki as @Adam has already referenced most of this in comments

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