\ 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

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Other Words from jerk

Verb (1)

jerker noun

Synonyms for jerk

Synonyms: Noun

Synonyms: Verb (1)

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The squirrel hair traps air to make the Bream Killer sink slowly, so fish it with patience, with short sharp jerks occasionally to give the long rubber legs plenty of fish-attracting action. T. Edward Nickens, Field & Stream, "The Best Flies for Catching Panfish," 12 Mar. 2020 The line captures the penetrating irony Austen uses to expose the knee-jerk and sometimes ruthless social consciousness of her characters. Ted Scheinman, Smithsonian Magazine, "What Autumn de Wilde’s ‘Emma’ Gets Right About Jane Austen’s Irony," 5 Mar. 2020 Avoid offending people in June, when knee-jerk reactions or rash decisions may affect you negatively. oregonlive, "Horoscope for May 4, 2020: Aries, new romance may flounder; Virgo, catch up on reading," 4 May 2020 Jefferies industrials research team said in a report that the knee-jerk reaction within the metals and mining sectors could be an opportunity to pick up stocks amid the sell-off. Shelly Hagan,, "Virus Fallout Hits Canada Stocks After Second Confirmed Case," 29 Apr. 2020 The knee-jerk reaction to them was both unwarranted and telling. Pradheep J. Shanker, National Review, "COVID-19 and the Need to Hear Out Devil’s Advocates," 28 Apr. 2020 But Cox cautioned that a knee-jerk reaction isn't the prescription. Grace Schneider, The Courier-Journal, "Norton Healthcare executives cite "vulnerability" if the economy is reopened too soon," 15 Apr. 2020 Prepared meals such as jerk chicken with coconut rice and snack boxes are also available. Akeem Glaspie, Indianapolis Star, "Mini-market at Greenfield hospital a 'blessing' for medical workers," 2 Apr. 2020 On Thursday night, Rico Lavender entered The Breadfruit and Rum Bar hoping there was still jerk chicken left, and maybe pepper shrimp. Priscilla Totiyapungprasert, azcentral, "Chef Danielle Leoni said goodbye to her Phoenix restaurant, Breadfruit — maybe for good," 21 Mar. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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 Readers reported that the transmissions can jerk, shift roughly, and slip, sometimes becoming a safety concern, Fisher said., "Consumer Reports finds vehicle redesigns come with glitches - The Boston Globe," 15 Nov. 2019 The combine's cabin sits 10 feet up, with a windshield that wraps around for a clear view of the beans being jerked from the ground. Autumn Schoolman, Indianapolis Star, "'It keeps getting hotter and wetter': Indiana farmer doesn't need science to tell him climate change is to blame," 4 Feb. 2020 Inspired by Duncan’s tear-jerking story, dads far and wide have taken to social media to express appreciation for their daughters. Jasmine Grant, Essence, "Social Media Starts A #GirlDad Movement In Honor Of Kobe Bryant," 28 Jan. 2020

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.

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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

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Statistics for jerk

Last Updated

23 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Jerk.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 May. 2020.

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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

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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

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