Nihil and Nīl

Basic Uses of Nihil

Nihil is among “the indeclinable nouns used only as nominative and accusative singular.” (AG, 103a)

Nīl is a contraction of nihil and is likewise indeclinable

Both should be translated nothing

  • I gave him nothing: nihil eō dedī.
  • She gave me nothing: nīl mihi dedit.
  • Nothing is needed: nihil necesse est.

Declined Uses of Nihil

The genitive nihilī or nīlī and ablative nihilō are rare constructions, from an imagined noun nihilum

Nihilī and nīlī appear in statements that describe a genitive of value

Their use is colloquial, and rare

  • O, that I cared nothing for this being done by you: utinam ego istuc abs tē factum nīlī penderem.
  • Out of nothing comes nothing: ex nihilō nihil fit.

The Essential AG: 103a

Famous Phrase: omnia mutāntur, nihil interit (everything changes, nothing perishes)

[Ovid, Metamorphoses, XV.165]