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Neighbouring state (8)


I believe the answer is:


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'neighbouring state' is the definition.
Although both the answer and definition are singular nouns, I don't understand how one could define the other.

'neighbouring state' is the wordplay.
'neighbouring' becomes 'near' (similar in meaning).
'state' becomes 'ness' (I can't justify this - if you can you should give a lot more credence to this answer).

Can you help me to learn more?

(Other definitions for nearness that I've seen before include "Propinquity" , "Proximity" , "neighbour's property" , "Quality of a mean person" , "Closeness" .)

I've seen this clue in The Globe and Mail.
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