Old English near "closer, nearer," comparative of neah, neh"nigh." Influenced by Old Norse naer "near," it came to be used as a positive form mid-13c., and new comparative nearer developed 1500s (see nigh). As an adjective from c.1300. Originally an adverb but now supplanted in most such senses by nearly; it has in turn supplanted correct nigh as an adjective. Related: Nearness. In near and dear (1620s) it refers to nearness of kinship. Near East first attested 1891, in Kipling. Near beer "low-alcoholic brew" is from 1908.