nook

Once a precise term of English land measurement for a small field (“Two Fardells of Land make a Nooke, and two Nookes make halfe a Yard of Land”), nook is now a more elastic term applied lyrically and affectionately to a small, secluded place somewhat closed in by trees or rocks, offering peace and retreat. The connection between a sylvan nook and the interior corner space also called nook (the inglenook by a fireplace, for example) seems to be that the original scrap of farm field called a nook was often triangular in shape. The triangular shape may also explain a now almost obsolete meaning of nook—as a promontory of land jutting into the sea and terminating in a point. (Note that such a promontory is now sometimes called a hook.) While the sheltered nook in a given landscape is a small, even tiny, spot, the word nook can also be used to refer to any place on the planet that is deemed remote, even if it is a very large area; thus Cotton Mather could once say of some visitors that they were “as genteel persons as most that ever visited these nooks of America.”

Emily Hiestand