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The Lua the 'nil' type, or usually thought of as the 'nil' value, is used to designate the absence of any other real type or value.
In WoW, 'nil' with number 1 was used to denote a kind of 'boolean' true or false value for the WoW API, as this works often nicely with the language. However with new version of Lua gaining a real 'boolean' type, more often now the real Lua boolean type is used. See also the WoW Boolean type for more information about the old type.