The Joy of Language Learning

Nebulous or Nuanced

Did you know: Latin nebula (mist or fog), Sanskrit nabhas- (cloud, mists, sky) and Greek nephos (cloud) all come from the same root word. Sanaskrit nabhas- later evolved into nabh (नभ) in Hindi, used, for instance, in these famous lines from Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s Madhushala (मधुशाला)

तारक मणियों से सज्जित नभ बन जाए मधु का प्याला
सीधा करके भर दी जाए उसमें सागरजल हाला

Nebula is nowadays used in English to refer to the interstellar cloud of dust and gases such as hydrogen and helium (you may want to know more about them here) and the related adjective gives us terms such as Nebular hypothesis.

Rosette Nebula
Rosette Nebulla, part of our Milky Way galaxy, is about 5000 light-years from Earth (Photo Credit:

Nebuliser on the other hand is a device that converts liquids (paints, medication etc.)  into a fine mist – it is however most commonly used these days to refer to a medical device to administer medication in the form of a mist, inhaled into the lungs for asthma or other conditions.

A related word is nebulous – used in phrases such as ‘it was surrounded by a large mass of nebulous light’ ‘(hazy or cloudy) and his ideas are still quite nebulous (not well defined, vague). See an example here.

Nuance (a slight or subtle difference; in meaning, expression, sound etc.) used in sentences such as ‘Making art helps one develop a more nuanced appreciation of that art form’ comes from French, in which it originally referred to slight difference or shade of colour (from French nuer, to shade; which is in turn related to Latin nubes meaning mist or cloud).

What made you look up the word/s in this post? Did you find the explanations here useful or interesting? Do share by leaving a reply below! Or you could also learn more about the Word Origin Stories or the Birth of Languages.

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