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whitish metal element, 1755, coined in 1754 by Swedish mineralogist Axel von Cronstedt (1722-1765) from shortening of Swedish kopparnickel "copper-colored ore" (from which it was first obtained), a half-translation of German Kupfernickel, literally "copper demon," from Kupfer (see copper) + Nickel "demon, goblin, rascal" (a pet form of masc. proper name Nikolaus, cf. English Old Nick "the devil;" see Nicholas); the ore so called by miners because it looked like copper but yielded none.
Meaning "coin made partly of nickel" is from 1857, when the U.S. introduced one-cent coins made of nickel to replace the old bulky copper pennies. Application to five-cent piece (originally one part nickel, three parts copper) is from 1883, American English; in earlier circulation there were silver half-dimes. To nickel-and-dime (someone) is from 1964 (nickels and dimes "very small amounts of money" is attested from 1893).
nickel nick·el (nĭk'əl)
A silvery hard ductile ferromagnetic metallic element used in alloys and in corrosion-resistant surfaces. Atomic number 28; atomic weight 58.69; melting point 1,455°C; boiling point 2,913°C; specific gravity 8.902; valence 0, 1, 2, 3.
A silvery, hard, ductile metallic element that occurs in ores along with iron or magnesium. It resists oxidation and corrosion and is used to make alloys such as stainless steel. It is also used as a coating for other metals. Atomic number 28; atomic weight 58.69; melting point 1,453°C; boiling point 2,732°C; specific gravity 8.902; valence 0, 1, 2, 3. See Periodic Table.