Nimby, nimbyism

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Nimby began as an acronym for not in my backyard. It came about in the 1980s as a term for people who object to having things in their own neighborhoods but don’t necessarily object to those things elsewhere. For example, if you welcome the idea of a new airport for your city but would resist its being built near your home, you might be called a nimby. The term is usually pejorative, however, and few people would apply it to themselves. People tend to frame their complaints in terms that hide their nimbyism.

The word was originally all capped—NIMBY—and it’s still often written this way, but it has embedded in the language and is now often just nimby. Some use Nimby, with an initial cap, but this makes no sense as the word is not a proper noun.

The preferred plural seems to be nimbys (nimbies would ruin the acronym), and nimbyism is the word for the attitude exhibited by nimbys. Our spell check catches all these words, but it’s just behind the times.

Nimby is American in origin, but we find many instances of these words in publications from elsewhere in the English-speaking world. British writers in particular seem to find it useful.


Barton, who has lived near Lydd since 1994, admits she is a nimby, horrified that “one of the most peaceful places in England” is under threat.  [Guardian]

Could NIMBYs accept significant new commercial, industrial and residential development to get things moving in the right direction? [Newsday]

[S]he rejects accusations of NIMBYism because her home is too far away from the proposed wind farm site to suffer any personal impact. [National Post]

NYC DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has earned a reputation for pursuing groundbreaking projects like the two-way bikeway on Prospect Park West, which produced major benefits … despite high-profile resistance from a small group of politically-connected NIMBYs. [Streetsblog]

Last year, the sign came under the chopping block when, in typical NIMBY fashion, a local resident complained to the Planning Commission that it violated The City’s strict anti-billboard laws. [SFBay]