\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

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Other Words from jerk

Verb (1)

jerker noun

Synonyms for jerk

Synonyms: Noun

bastard, beast, bleeder [British], blighter [chiefly British], boor, bounder, bugger, buzzard, cad, chuff, churl, clown, creep, cretin, crud [slang], crumb [slang], cur, dirtbag [slang], dog, fink, heel, hound, joker, louse, lout, pill, rat, rat fink, reptile, rotter, schmuck [slang], scum, scumbag [slang], scuzzball [slang], skunk, sleaze, sleazebag [slang], sleazeball [slang], slime, slimeball [slang], slob, snake, so-and-so, sod [chiefly British], stinkard, stinker, swine, toad, varmint, vermin

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Warren is throwing down the gauntlet that to her an anti-Trump stance shouldn’t mean a knee-jerk embrace of everything that Trump criticizes. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "Elizabeth Warren wants to outflank Trump on trade," 29 Nov. 2018 The knee-jerk reaction is to assume people are finally be fed up with Facebook’s privacy issues. Kurt Wagner, Recode, "How far will Facebook fall today?," 26 July 2018 In a panic, your knee-jerk reaction might be to bolt through the nearest exit. Carolyn L. Todd, SELF, "10 Tips on How to Survive a Plane Crash (Although They're Really Rare)," 13 Oct. 2018 Don’t miss the Bank of the Nile food area, which sells dishes from across the African diaspora: think egusi soup from Nigeria, jollof rice from Senegal, jerk-style proteins from the Caribbean, and Cajun flavors from closer to home. Antonio Basada, Condé Nast Traveler, "5 Things to Do in Chicago This Labor Day," 31 Aug. 2018 And at the risk of coming off like a jerk for complaining about someone's mother's meatballs recipe, the much-vaunted orbs don't travel well. Mike Sula, Chicago Reader, "Food & Drink / Food Chain A sad state of the sandwich at Portage Park Italian deli Rosie's Sidekick," 9 July 2018 To continue reading this story, TRY IT NOW Print subscribers get a password for your existing account here Yes, there will always be jerks, criminals and psychopaths online, as in real life. Dwight Silverman, San Antonio Express-News, "How to be a good internet citizen," 3 July 2018 Sammy’s jerk chicken is flavor all the way to the bone, the meat so tender that there’s no need for a knife. Julia Turshen, Bon Appetit, "Top Taste Isn’t the Food of My Home, But It Makes Me Feel at Home," 6 June 2018 Having Erlich gone changed the flavors of jerk that were on offer, but the setups and punchlines were still pretty much the same. Angela Watercutter And Peter Rubin, WIRED, "After That Finale, Does Silicon Valley Have Anywhere Left to Go?," 14 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The Camry’s driver jerked his car onto the right shoulder. Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica, "Report: Former top Waymo engineer altered code to go on “forbidden routes”," 17 Oct. 2018 Too much, and the rider exited off the back or got jerked to the side. Andrew Graybill, WSJ, "‘The Last Cowboys’ Review: Giving Good Rein," 25 May 2018 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

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


probably alteration of yerk

Verb (1)

see jerk entry 1

Verb (2)

back-formation from jerky entry 1

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Learn More about jerk

Dictionary Entries near jerk





jerk around



Statistics for jerk

Last Updated

6 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for jerk

The first known use of jerk was in 1575

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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

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More from Merriam-Webster on jerk

Rhyming Dictionary: 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).


a knickknack or trinket

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