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[nest] /nɛst/
a pocketlike, usually more or less circular structure of twigs, grass, mud, etc., formed by a bird, often high in a tree, as a place in which to lay and incubate its eggs and rear its young; any protected place used by a bird for these purposes.
a place used by insects, fishes, turtles, rabbits, etc., for depositing their eggs or young.
a number of birds, insects, animals, etc., inhabiting one such place.
a snug retreat or refuge; resting place; home.
an assemblage of things lying or set close together, as a series of boxes or trays, that fit within each other:
a nest of tables.
a place where something bad is fostered or flourishes:
a nest of vice; a robber's nest.
the occupants or frequenters of such a place.
verb (used with object)
to settle or place (something) in or as if in a nest:
to nest dishes in straw.
to fit or place one within another:
to nest boxes for more compact storage.
verb (used without object)
to build or have a nest:
The swallows nested under the eaves.
to settle in or as if in a nest.
to fit together or within another or one another:
bowls that nest easily for storage.
to search for or collect nests:
to go nesting.
Computers. to place a routine inside another routine that is at a higher hierarchical level.
Origin of nest
before 900; Middle English, Old English (cognate with Dutch, German nest; akin to Latin nīdus nest, Old Irish net, Welsh nyth, Sanskrit nīḍa lair) ≪ Indo-European *nizdo- bird's nest, equivalent to *ni down (see nether) + *zd-, variant of *sd-, ablaut variant of *sed-, v. base meaning “sit” (see sit1) + *-o- theme vowel
Related forms
nestable, adjective
nester, noun
nestlike, adjective
nesty, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for nesting
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The nesting habits and eggs of these birds are in all respects like those of the last.

    The Bird Book Chester A. Reed
  • They must be killed at the fountain head, in their nesting places.

  • Women and children did not shoot, therefore the safest place for nesting and skylarking was among these very women and children.

    The Arm-Chair at the Inn F. Hopkinson Smith
  • On one of these islands a small colony of herons were nesting.

    Wood Folk at School William J. Long
  • Its nesting habits and eggs are unknown, but they are supposed to breed in the Antarctic regions.

    Bird Guide Chester A. Reed
  • They were late in nesting, for young veeries were out everywhere.

    Little Brothers of the Air Olive Thorne Miller
  • The bees made a great buzzing amongst the grapes, and the birds in the mulberry-trees sang as though it were nesting time.

    Audrey Mary Johnston
  • He had his instincts, indeed, and at bird's-nesting they almost amounted to prophecy.

    Dream Days Kenneth Grahame
British Dictionary definitions for nesting


the tendency to arrange one's immediate surroundings, such as a work station, to create a place where one feels secure, comfortable, or in control


a place or structure in which birds, fishes, insects, reptiles, mice, etc, lay eggs or give birth to young
a number of animals of the same species and their young occupying a common habitat: an ants' nest
a place fostering something undesirable: a nest of thievery
the people in such a place: a nest of thieves
a cosy or secluded place
a set of things, usually of graduated sizes, designed to fit together: a nest of tables
(military) a weapon emplacement: a machine-gun nest
(intransitive) to make or inhabit a nest
(intransitive) to hunt for birds' nests
(transitive) to place in a nest
Derived Forms
nester, noun
nestlike, adjective
Word Origin
Old English; related to Latin nīdus (nest) and to beneath, sit
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for nesting

1650s, "making or using a nest," past participle adjective from nest (v.). Of objects, "fitted into one another," from 1934.



Old English nest "bird's nest, snug retreat," also "young bird, brood," from Proto-Germanic *nistaz (cf. Middle Low German, Middle Dutch nest, German Nest), from PIE *nizdo- (cf. Sanskrit nidah "resting place, nest," Latin nidus "nest," Old Church Slavonic gnezdo, Old Irish net, Welsh nyth, Breton nez "nest"), probably from *ni "down" + *sed- (1) "to sit" (see sedentary).

Used since Middle English in reference to various accumulations of things (e.g. a nest of drawers, early 18c.). Nest egg "retirement savings" is from 1700, originally "a real or artificial egg left in a nest to induce the hen to go on laying there" (c.1600).


Old English nistan "to build nests," from Proto-Germanic *nistijanan, from the source of nest (n.). The modern verb is perhaps a new formation in Middle English from the noun. Related: Nested; nesting.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for nesting


Related Terms

feather one's nest, love nest

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Related Abbreviations for nesting


non-surgical embryonic selective thinning
The American Heritage® Abbreviations Dictionary, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Idioms and Phrases with nesting
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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