Often I hear different pronunciations for the word
Some people pronounce it as
(Well, it sounds like "Nics".)
Does it make any difference? Is this a different dialect? Is it good to use as "Nics"?
German Language Stack Exchange is a bilingual question and answer site for speakers of all levels who want to share and increase their knowledge of the German language. It's 100% free, no registration required.Sign up to join this community
It's slang for nichts, as you have guessed.
I'd love to say something more but, first, I'd like to understand what is "good to use" (obviously, don't write nix it in a formal context!), and, secondly, I'm not an expert. Whence I'm pretty sure somebody will illuminate us with a better answer.
Nix is, as was already pointed out, a colloquial, informal, shorter form of nichts.
Nix does not derive from any specific dialect; rather it is present in one form or another in most dialects. There are exceptions like the Berlin dialect prefering nüscht.
User Mach suppied a map in the comments which is scrollable and zoomable at least on PC which shows the distribution of various predominant forms prior to World War I. It can be seen that the largest contiguous area that does not use nix is comprised approximately the current states of the current states of Thuringia, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Berlin and Brandenburg with some parts of southeastern Lower Saxony added; in this area nischt or nüscht are the predominant forms. This area used to extend far eastwards but to the best of my knowledge there are no longer significant German-speaking minorities there after World War II. The map excludes German-speaking areas of Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Austria; for most of these areas one can extend the closest form used in Germany outwards but I would be hesitant to generalise for German-speaking Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the Vorarlberg region of Austria. I am fairly confident that the other parts of Austria and South Tyrol will again fit into the nix area.
It is okay to use in very informal writings, like text messages to friends or in a chat etc. Do not use it in any kind of more official written context; even in a letter to good friends, I would spell out nichts 99 % of the time.
It is also okay to use it in most contexts when speaking. (e.g: If my supervisor asks me if I had any success in an experiment, I can hear myself answering da hab ich nix rausbekommen but if I were in a job interview, I would make sure to use nichts most of the time.)
There are people (like me) who will pronounce nix in almost every spoken context while there are others that will pronounce nichts more often; I think that this is due to speaker's preference.
"Nix" is dialectal. Dialects which have this form exist in Northern Germany and in Bavaria. Because of this wide range, it can also be used in colloquial speech as most/all Germans will understand it. It is not slang, but use of this form might have a surprise value that would stress the message of "nothing".
By the way, "ik" is not a different way of saying "ich". Actually, it is an older form that predates the High German consonant shift and exists in dialects in which this shift has not fully taken effect, i.e. in the North.
Nix is basically the up-coming new, simplified pronunciation of nichts. As it is still rather young, it's not yet considered 'proper' German but purely colloquial, so the spelling has not been updated, and so, when you find the word nichts in a written text, you can't pronounce it nix when reading it aloud. It has a status similar to it's for it is and many other similar contractions in English, except it's still a bit more informal. Nix is how it is spelled when it does occur in written German, typically in informal dialogue.
As the OP's question has yet to be fully addressed--even the accepted answer does not really do the job--allow me to point out the difference in pronunciation. To an English speaker, nix sounds like "nicks," whereas nichts is much different. The ch sound in the German does not exist in either British or American English.
It may be described as a hollow, windy sound made near the back of the throat, and if air is not passing over your tongue when you say the ch-sound, you aren't saying it correctly.
Many speakers of English mistakenly articulate the German ch as a "k" phoneme. Common examples of butchered pronunciations are the simple German words doch (mispronounced as "dock") and Ich (misspoken as "ick").
But the ch sounds neither like a "k" nor an "sh," thus nichts is not properly pronounced as either "niks" or "nishts." To get help learning the correct tongue position for the ch-sound, practice the starting sound of English words like "Hugh" or "huge," as this is probably the closest approximation to the German ch an English speaker has.
"Nix" and "nics" are not words from any German dialect, but simply words from another language.
"Niks" is a very common and ordinary Dutch word meaning "nichts".
Don't tell Germans that. They don't like to hear that. They generally tend to think of the Dutch language as a dialect of German, rather than a true language, which seen from their end makes perfect sense.
The Dutch and German languages serve entirely different purposes. The German purpose forces the Germans to have a well defined language consisting primarily of words of German origin.
The Dutch language has a much larger and richer vocabulary than German, which however consists almost entirely of words that have their origins in other languages, German being the most important one of those.
Sometimes words go the other way, like with "Nix". I am not so sure Germans will agree with this.
Germans absolutely have to know where the hammer is hanging, which is why they decided to agree to forget a long time ago.
This becomes most visible in words adopted from other languages into German. Their meaning in German tends to refer to their use in Germany, rather than their meaning in the language of origin.
So any downvotes to this answer most likely come from Germans who didn't get the point.
Modern everyday German gets literally littered with foreign words, which doesn't do it much good. "Nix" is one of those words, generally incorporated in common speech, but rejected in formal German. It will probably emerge one day with a brand new meaning of its own.