The bore is the hollow center of any pipe. Nominal is used in the sense of "in name only" or "putative" in this instance. Nominal bore is the approximate internal measurement across the diameter of the mouth of a pipe.
International regulations govern the size of pipes' outward dimensions, ensuring pipe is manufactured in standard sizes for easy fitting. Because pipes vary in material and weight, and because of the way pipes are molded, internal dimensions of pipes that share the same outer dimension may vary. For this reason, any measurement of that internal dimension can only be "nominal."
Video of the Day
Pipes are produced in metric and inch measures. Generally, the two types are incompatible except with special transitional fittings. To complicate things further, the two systems use different terminology. In the inch system, nominal bore is abbreviated as NB; in metric systems it is "diameter nominal" (DN).
In metric systems, pipes, though always measured in millimeters (mm), may be measured either by nominal bore or by overall external dimension (OD). When ordering pipes, verify that when you say 20 mm, both you and the vendor know whether you mean 20 mm nominal bore -- the size of the hole -- or 20 mm overall.