\ ˈjərk How to pronounce jerk (audio) \

Definition of jerk

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1a : an annoyingly stupid or foolish person was acting like a jerk
b : an unlikable person especially : one who is cruel, rude, or small-minded a selfish jerk
2 : a single quick motion of short duration a sudden jerk gave the handle a jerk
3a : jolting, bouncing, or thrusting motions
b : a tendency to produce spasmodic motions
4a : an involuntary spasmodic muscular movement due to reflex action
b jerks plural : involuntary twitchings due to nervous excitement
5 : the pushing of a weight from shoulder height to a position overhead : the second phase of the clean and jerk in weight lifting
jerked; jerking; jerks

Definition of jerk (Entry 2 of 3)

transitive verb

1 : to give a quick suddenly arrested push, pull, or twist to jerk a rope
2 : to propel or move with or as if with a quick suddenly arrested motion jerked the door open
3 : to mix and serve (drinks, such as sodas) behind a soda fountain

intransitive verb

1 : to make a sudden spasmodic motion Her hand jerked up suddenly.
2 : to move in short abrupt motions or with frequent jolts
jerked; jerking; jerks

Definition of jerk (Entry 3 of 3)

transitive verb

: to preserve (meat) in long sun-dried slices

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from jerk

Verb (1)

jerker noun

Synonyms for jerk

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb (1)

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of jerk in a Sentence

Noun That jerk can't do anything right. Most of the kids are nice, but some are jerks. The dead branch came loose after a few jerks. He felt the jerk of the line as a fish took the bait. The car started with a jerk.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Credit DeChambeau’s optimism in thinking that being shown acting like a jerk would hurt his image rather than merely solidify it. Eamon Lynch, Detroit Free Press, "Opinion: Bryson DeChambeau berating a PGA Tour cameraman in Detroit reveals his true brand," 5 July 2020 Late-night binges, regrettable one-night stands, art-practice disasters, friendship breakups and makeups—in all of these, Wendy’s lust for life is inseparable from her knee-jerk self-destruction. Naomi Fry, The New Yorker, "In “Wendy, Master of Art,” Walter Scott’s Antihero Grows Up," 27 June 2020 With so many variables at play, setting the hook isn't as simple as just giving it a sharp jerk. Mark Hicks, Field & Stream, "How to Get Better Hooksets," 22 June 2020 Focus on inspiring ideas and get motivated to overcome knee-jerk reactions. Magi Helena, oregonlive, "Horoscope for June 14, 2020: Cancer, seek compromise; Aquarius, shift gears on romance," 14 June 2020 There is much knee-jerk skepticism of polls because so many expected Hillary Clinton to beat Trump in 2016. Emily Larsen, Washington Examiner, "Trump cries of 'fake' polls more politics than legitimate criticism, analysts say," 12 June 2020 Who's been on her worst behavior all season but still seems to be in an exclusive competition with herself to see who can seem like the biggest jerk in this episode. Jodi Walker,, "The Real Housewives of New York City," 12 June 2020 My automatic knee-jerk response was to snap back, but something kept me from saying anything. Helen Bond, Dallas News, "New book makes a case for kindness," 5 June 2020 Any early and non-conclusive news on these potential medicines has prompted knee-jerk reactions from investors, shifting trillions of dollars in value in the markets. Grace Huang,, "Japan’s Virus Drug Trial To Continue, Researcher Says," 26 May 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Try it again, but this time jerk the rod back violently. Mark Hicks, Field & Stream, "How to Get Better Hooksets," 22 June 2020 But using a leash to jerk a puppy away from other people or dogs could risk creating negative reinforcements with those interactions. Wes Siler, Outside Online, "How to Socialize a Puppy During a Pandemic," 11 Apr. 2020 If the driver allows the car to drift just a little too close to a lane marker, the system stabs a front brake and causes the car to jerk back into line. Rich Ceppos, Car and Driver, "We'd Like Our Nissan Altima More If It Were Quicker," 6 Feb. 2020 Adoption storylines are often relegated to minor tear-jerking arcs on family soaps like Parenthood and This Is Us, and mostly feature the complications after a child enters the new parents' lives. Robyn Bahr, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Trying': TV Review," 30 Apr. 2020 In video of the arrest, Pantaleo can be seen wrapping one arm around Garner's shoulder and the other around his neck before jerking him back and pulling him to the ground. Darran Simon, CNN, "A new NYPD commissioner will lead the nation's largest police force. Here is what he faces.," 4 Nov. 2019 Welcome to Negril, Jamaica, a still-sleepy beach village dotted with bare-bones roadside jerk chicken shacks, pristine diving coves, reggae music, and bohemian sensibility. Kate Donnelly, Condé Nast Traveler, "An Insider's Guide to Negril, Jamaica's Low-Key Hideaway," 3 Feb. 2020 That might be a harbinger of the eventual pathology that precipitates the involuntary writhing and jerking that characterizes Huntington’s. Sharon Begley, Scientific American, "Research Using Brains-in-a-Dish Forces a Radical Rethinking of Huntington’s Disease," 10 Dec. 2019 If the person is having a tonic-clonic seizure — which may include shaking, jerking and yelling — ease the person to a safe place on the floor, turn them on their side and put something soft under their head. San Diego Union-Tribune, "‘The invisible illness:’ Caring for children with epilepsy," 15 Oct. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'jerk.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of jerk


1575, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Verb (1)

1589, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Verb (2)

1707, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for jerk

Noun and Verb (1)

probably alteration of yerk

Verb (2)

back-formation from jerky entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about jerk

Statistics for jerk

Last Updated

8 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Jerk.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 11 Jul. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for jerk


How to pronounce jerk (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of jerk

informal : a stupid person or a person who is not well-liked or who treats other people badly
: a quick pull or twist
: a sudden sharp movement


\ ˈjərk How to pronounce jerk (audio) \
jerked; jerking

Kids Definition of jerk

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : to give a quick sharp pull or twist to She jerked the dog's leash.
2 : to move in a quick motion He jerked his head.



Kids Definition of jerk (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a short quick pull or jolt … he gave the rope a vicious jerk.— C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
2 : a foolish person


\ ˈjərk How to pronounce jerk (audio) \

Medical Definition of jerk

: an involuntary spasmodic muscular movement due to reflex action especially : one induced by an external stimulus — see knee jerk

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on jerk

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for jerk

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with jerk

Spanish Central: Translation of jerk

Comments on jerk

What made you want to look up jerk? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Words for Summer: A Quiz

  • a closeup of a sunflower
  • Which of the following words means “of or relating to summer”?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Add Diction

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!