Definition of nelly in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈnɛli/
(also nellie)

noun (plural nellies)

1A silly person.
Example sentences
  • The inability of these nervous nellies to hold their peace for a couple of months and save their moaning for the appropriate ALP forum is seriously hampering the ALP's chances of victory on November 10.
  • Is it any wonder that he gets impatient with the nervous nellies from the old nations who think they have a bit more experience with wars designed to bring peace to the world, and are reluctant to jump into yet another one.
  • We're raising a generation of nervous nellies.
2 offensive An effeminate homosexual man.
Example sentences
  • Straight Eye for the Queer Guy - five ‘real men’ teach a nelly how to play Sports.
  • Are we all supposed to be limp-wristed nellies?


not on your nelly

British informal Certainly not: Charlie shook his head vigorously. ‘Not on your nelly, mate.’
Originally as not on your Nelly Duff, rhyming slang for 'puff' (i.e. breath of life); modelled on the phrase not on your life
More example sentences
  • Frankie Howerd was the man with the catchphrases ‘titter ye not’, ‘shut yer face’ and ‘not on your nelly’.
  • Surely this would make her a heroine, a whistle-blower, someone who was being bullied and discriminated against, an all-round good girl with priceless victim credentials - but no, not on your nelly.
  • Generating incremental sales commissions through a low-cost distribution channel like the website its passengers use - not on your nelly!


1930s: from the given name Nelly.

  • The expression not on your nelly was originally used in the form not on your Nelly Duff. In the 19th century Nelly Duff was rhyming slang for ‘puff’ (meaning ‘breath of life’), and so the phrase is roughly equivalent to not on your life. Nobody now knows who Nelly was, if indeed she was ever a real person.

Words that rhyme with nelly

belly, Botticelli, casus belli, Corelli, Delhi, deli, Ellie, Grappelli, jelly, Kelly, lamellae, Machiavelli, Mahaweli, Schiaparelli, Shelley, shelly, smelly, tagliatelle, telly, Torricelli, vermicelli, welly, Zeffirelli

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: nelly

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