\ˈjərk \

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


verb (1)
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


verb (2)
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 & Antonyms for jerk

Synonyms: Noun

draw, haul, pluck, pull, tug, wrench, yank

Antonyms: Noun


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of jerk in a Sentence


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

None of this broaches the subject of the knee-jerk White House response to allegations from women against allied men in power, which is to dismiss them as liars. Jack Holmes, Esquire, "Shocker: The White House Has Not Been Truthful About Rob Porter," 14 Feb. 2018 The quick-service restaurant features salads, sandwiches, Jamaican and Caribbean entrees and snacks like beef patties, jerk wings and coco bread. Leeanne Griffin,, "The Russell Opens Jamaican Grab And Go On Pratt Street," 13 July 2018 Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine oil, jerk seasoning, and 1/4 teaspoon salt, then rub all over chicken. Woman's Day Kitchen, Woman's Day, "Grilled Jerk Chicken with Mango Cucumber Salad," 11 June 2018 As Trump turns the U.S. into the sunken place, there have been knee-jerk repeated calls for both Michelle Obama and Oprah to run for president in 2020. Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, "Will Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski Save the Supreme Court?," 28 June 2018 Never mind that Salazar can sometimes behave like a jerk. Martin Fritz Huber, Outside Online, "Galen Rupp Is Hard to Love," 17 May 2018 Last night's Oscars went pretty much as expected for the first three hours or so—there were a few big political statements, some tear-jerk moments and a couple of memes were born. Harper's BAZAAR, "These Were the Best Moments of the 2017 Oscars," 27 Feb. 2017 So the Austin is topped with red bean hummus and tortilla chips, while the Miami is brushed with jerk spice and lemongrass rémoulade. Garrett Snyder, Los Angeles Magazine, "Why Los Angeles Fell Head Over Heels for the Fried Chicken Sandwich," 25 June 2018 No one should have an issue with someone who doesn’t do meat or cocktails, but bringing it up can be a good litmus test for closed-minded, insecure jerks. Beca Grimm, GQ, "15 Things You Should Disclose on a First Date," 14 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Diekman jerked his head back just as the ball sailed past him and looked stunned as Kiner-Falefa greeted him on the mound. Stefan Stevenson, star-telegram, "Hyphenate this: Rangers win season-best fifth consecutive game," 20 June 2018 Nearing her apartment building, some sort of commotion jerked her back to the present. Chicago Tribune,, "Algren Award runner-up: "Most Best Happy Korean Bright Star" by Michelle Massie," 2 June 2018 Triano jerked his hands to the side to demonstrate Harden's quickness, and how reaching in often results in a foul because of the defender making contact with Harden's arm instead of the ball. Brent Zwerneman, Houston Chronicle, "Suns coach Jay Triano on key to guarding James Harden: Don't foul him," 30 Mar. 2018 But already the internet is abuzz with speculation that Beautiful Boy, the Steve Carrell-co-starring, tear-jerking ode to familial love in the face of addiction, will make our beautiful boy a contender once again. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "This Week in Timothée Chalamet, July 6 Edition," 6 July 2018 His eyes darted and his body jerked at every loud noise in the busy ER hallway. Julia Michie Bruckner, Discover Magazine, "By Its Cover," 11 May 2018 Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin., "How to remove a tick from your body," 7 May 2018 The blast of strings of exploding firecrackers jerked me awake as Vietnamese neighbors continued their celebrations into the early hours of the morning. Time, "'They're Shelling the City, for God's Sake': How the Tet Offensive Began," 30 Jan. 2018 One of the crew jerks a lever, releasing the first in a line of 3-month-old calves, standing rump to face in the confines of the metal chute. Melissa Lyttle, Smithsonian, "The First Family of Rodeo," 13 Dec. 2017

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


probably alteration of yerk

Verb (1)

see jerk entry 1

Verb (2)

back-formation from jerky entry 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about jerk

Dictionary Entries near jerk





jerk around



Phrases Related to jerk

get jerked around

give (something) a jerk

Statistics for jerk

Last Updated

11 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for jerk

The first known use of jerk was in 1575

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for jerk



English Language Learners Definition of jerk

: 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 \
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 \

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

See words that rhyme with jerk

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for 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).


evasion of direct action or statement

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble-tiles-that-read-scrabble-quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Word Winder's CrossWinder

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!