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Neigh vs. Nay — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Fiza Rafique — Updated on November 5, 2023
"Neigh" is the sound a horse makes, while "nay" is a term used to express negation or denial.
Neigh vs. Nay — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Neigh and Nay


Key Differences

"Neigh" represents the natural vocalization of a horse, a sound that is distinctive and often associated with the animal's presence or behavior. It's an onomatopoeic term, mimicking the actual sound produced by horses. When a horse neighs, it can convey various messages, from greeting to distress.
"Nay," in contrast, is a word of negation. It is an archaic or formal way of saying "no," often used in voting contexts or to make a point emphatically. While "neigh" is purely a sound, "nay" carries linguistic meaning, used in human communication to express disagreement or dissent.
While both "neigh" and "nay" are one-syllable words that rhyme, their usage is contextually different. A "neigh" is specifically equine-related, whereas "nay" is a part of human language, having roots in Old English and being used through history in legislative and colloquial contexts.
You won't find "neigh" in a debate unless someone is making a pun, but "nay" could be heard when votes are tallied, or decisions are discussed. Despite sounding similar, "neigh" and "nay" don't intersect in meaning; one belongs to the animal kingdom, the other to the realm of human expression.
Interestingly, while "nay" has a definite and unchanging meaning, "neigh" can vary in intonation, reflecting different equine moods or situations. "Nay" can shut down conversation or debate, signifying a refusal or rejection, but a "neigh" might invite investigation into what a horse is communicating.

Comparison Chart


Sound made by a horse.
An old-fashioned or formal negative vote or denial.

Context of Use

Animal behavior and communication.
Human communication, especially in voting or expressing disagreement.

Onomatopoeic Nature

Yes, it imitates the sound of a horse.
No, it is not onomatopoeic.

Linguistic Function

Noun (also used as a verb for the horse's action).
Adverb or interjection for negation.

Common Usage

Animal sounds in various settings.
Formal settings, historical texts, or dramatic emphasis.

Compare with Definitions


A neigh is the characteristic high-pitched sound of a horse.
The horse's neigh echoed through the stable as I approached.


As an interjection, nay adds emphasis to a denial.
Nay, I shall not flee from this challenge!


A neigh serves as communication among horses.
The mare's soft neigh seemed to calm the restless foal.


Nay can introduce a correction or negation of a previous statement.
You thought I was defeated? Nay, I have just begun!


To neigh is for a horse to vocalize loudly.
My horse always neighs excitedly when it's time for a ride.


In literature, nay is often used to poetic effect for dramatic opposition.
She whispered nay, vanquishing his hopes with a single word.


Neigh can describe a vocal expression of a horse's needs or emotions.
The stallion's loud neigh was a display of dominance.


Nay is an old-fashioned way to say no.
When asked if he was tired, the knight replied with a firm nay.


As a verb, to neigh is to make the sound of a horse.
The horses began to neigh when the trailer pulled up.


All but four Democrats voted nay.


The long, high-pitched sound made by a horse.


And moreover
He was ill-favored, nay, hideous.


To utter the characteristic sound of a horse; whinny.


A denial or refusal.


The cry of a horse.


A negative vote or voter.


(of a horse) To make its cry.




To make a sound similar to a horse's cry.


Introducing a statement, without direct negation.


(obsolete) To scoff or sneer.


Or rather, or should I say; moreover (introducing a stronger and more appropriate expression than the preceding one).
His face was dirty, nay, filthy.


To utter the cry of the horse; to whinny.


(archaic) No.


To scoff or sneer; to jeer.
Neighed at his nakedness.


A vote against.
I vote nay, even though the motion is popular, because I would rather be right than popular.


The cry of a horse; a whinny.


A person who voted against.
The vote is 4 in favor and 20 opposed; the nays have it.


The characteristic sounds made by a horse


(archaic) A denial; a refusal.


Characteristic of horses


(obsolete) To refuse.


(obsolete) Nary. en


No; - a negative answer to a question asked, or a request made, now superseded by no. Opposed to aye or yea. See also Yes.
And eke when I say "ye," ne say not "nay."
I tell you nay; but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
And now do they thrust us out privily? nay, verily; but let them come themselves and fetch us out.
He that will not when he may,When he would he shall have nay.


Not this merely, but also; not only so, but; - used to mark the addition or substitution of a more explicit or more emphatic phrase.


Denial; refusal.


A negative vote; one who votes in the negative.


To refuse.


A negative;
The nays have it


Not this merely but also; not only so but;
Each of us is peculiar, nay, in a sense unique


In historical contexts, nay was a common vote of dissent.
The proposition was declined, with more nays than ayes.

Common Curiosities

What's the modern equivalent of "nay"?

The modern equivalent of "nay" is simply "no."

Is "nay" still commonly used today?

"Nay" is less common in modern conversation and is often used for dramatic or historical effect.

Are there different types of neighs?

Yes, horses can have different neighs that may convey alarm, curiosity, or greeting.

In what context might I hear "nay"?

"Nay" is typically heard in formal voting situations or literary works.

Can "nay" be considered archaic?

Yes, "nay" is considered archaic in everyday language.

What does a horse's neigh indicate?

A horse's neigh can indicate various things, such as calling to others, expressing distress, or showing excitement.

How do I use "nay" correctly in a sentence?

Use "nay" to replace "no" when making a formal or emphatic negative response.

Is "nay" a universal negative in all English dialects?

While understood, it's not commonly used as the default negative in most English dialects today.

What's the difference between a neigh and a whinny?

A neigh is usually louder and longer than a whinny, which is softer and used for closer communication.

Can "neigh" be used as a verb?

Yes, "neigh" can also be a verb meaning to make the sound of a horse.

Is "neigh" ever used metaphorically?

"Neigh" is rarely used metaphorically, as it is quite specific to horses.

Do all horses neigh the same way?

No, neighs can vary between individual horses and situations.

Is there a non-verbal signal that corresponds to "nay"?

A common non-verbal signal corresponding to "nay" is a head shake.

Would "nay" be appropriate in modern political discourse?

It could be used for stylistic purposes but is not commonly found in modern political language.

Can animals other than horses neigh?

No, "neigh" specifically describes the sound made by horses.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Fiza Rafique
Fiza Rafique is a skilled content writer at, where she meticulously refines and enhances written pieces. Drawing from her vast editorial expertise, Fiza ensures clarity, accuracy, and precision in every article. Passionate about language, she continually seeks to elevate the quality of content for readers worldwide.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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