Ad Nauseam – Usage, Meaning & Examples

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Danielle McLeod

Danielle McLeod is a highly qualified secondary English Language Arts Instructor who brings a diverse educational background to her classroom. With degrees in science, English, and literacy, she has worked to create cross-curricular materials to bridge learning gaps and help students focus on effective writing and speech techniques. Currently working as a dual credit technical writing instructor at a Career and Technical Education Center, her curriculum development surrounds student focus on effective communication for future career choices.

The English language is highly influenced by foreign languages, taking many words and phrases from French, German, and especially Latin. Usually, these words change in spelling and pronunciation to take on the phonetics of the language they are adapted into. Occasionally, a few stay the same as they have always been.

Ad nauseam is the perfect example of a phrase that has stayed true to its pronunciation, spelling, and meaning for hundreds of years. This Latin-inspired phrase is an excellent way to let somebody know you are sick of something. Let’s explore its etymology, proper spelling, and usage.

What Does Ad Nauseam Mean?

Ad Nauseam Usage Meaning Examples

In modern English, the Latin loanword ad nauseam—originally meaning, literally, to sickness—is an adverb meaning to a disgusting or ridiculous degree. It usually applies to an action repeated so often that one gets literally or figuratively sick of it.

Because ad nauseam has been in English for a long time, there’s no need to italicize it in normal use — which is required when borrowing other, less well-known words or phrases from other languages.

For example:

  • Channel 7 has played and replayed that awful laundry freshener commercial ad nauseam; at this point, I’ll watch any channel but that one just to avoid it.
  • The divisive argument has been played out ad nauseam, and I’ve heard both sides’ complaints too many times to count.
  • At this point, every detailed aspect of the referee’s call during last night’s game has been broken down ad nauseam, and we are exhausted from the trash talk.

Ad Nauseam or Ad Nauseum: Which Spelling Is Correct?

Unfortunately, many people spell the term incorrectly, using ad nauseum rather than ad nauseam. The correct spelling is ad nauseam. Be sure to avoid the common misspelling of replacing the -a with a -u.

Ad Nauseam Origins

Ad Nauseam Ngram
Ad Nauseam usage trend.

Nausea is a 15th-century Latin word to mean “vomiting” from Ionic Greek nausea to mean “seasickness or ship-sickness” since naus means “ship.”

Ad is a Latin prefix to mean “to,” creating the meaning “to sickness” when added to nausea.

Despite the etymology, the English adaptation has never limited nausea or ad nausea to seasickness and applies it to other areas of general unwellness. In fact, in the 16th century, nausea was shortened to nase or nasy as a slang word to mean “hopelessly drunk.”

Today, it generally means to have an upset stomach, to feel queasy, or to feel as if one might vomit. And, of course, ad nausea is also popularly used as a figurative form of speech, as explained above.

Let’s Review

Ad nauseam is a Latin term to mean “to sickness” and is used in a figurative sense to point to a disgusting or ridiculous degree. It generally means that something has been repeated so many times that one has become literally “sick of it.”