\ 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 His sudden jerk of the wheel sent the SUV over the shoulder and hurtling down a steep embankment for nearly 200 yards, smashing directly into the broad trunk of a large oak tree. Mike Masterson, Arkansas Online, "OPINION | MASTERSON ONLINE: Getting the Nod," 11 Jan. 2021 After the sharp plunge in March due to a knee-jerk reaction to the pandemic, the stock markets have soared to new highs on the back of foreign investors’ interest and hopes of a faster than expected economic recovery. Prathamesh Mulye, Quartz India, "A new breed of social media influencers is simplifying stock markets for Indians," 22 Dec. 2020 For that reason, Miami takes No. 1 in the final Misery Index of the regular season, a weekly measurement of knee-jerk reactions based on what each fan base just watched. Dan Wolken, USA TODAY, "Opinion: Program-worst defensive performance vs. North Carolina exposes Miami as a fraud," 14 Dec. 2020 Avoid making impulsive decisions in mid-December, when your judgment may improve but a knee-jerk reaction could create negative consequences. Tribune Content Agency, oregonlive, "Horoscope for Nov. 24, 2020: Aries, spread good vibes; Sagittarius, you should reach your goals," 24 Nov. 2020 To avoid stifling the creation and growth of new Internet companies, lawmakers should limit new requirements to large companies and refrain from the knee-jerk reaction of revoking it all together. Fortune, "How much reform does Big Tech really want?," 19 Nov. 2020 What won’t work, some former officials say, is a kind of knee-jerk reaction that focuses simply on reversing actions taken under President Trump while ignoring longstanding problems. Howard Lafranchi, The Christian Science Monitor, "Under Biden, State Department needs to be rebuilt. But better.," 18 Nov. 2020 And that’s a pretty low bar to clear; try not to be a jerk. Star Tribune, "Readers Write: The holidays, COVID spread, pandemic precautions, Line 3," 17 Nov. 2020 Free agency, trades and the draft all tend to provoke volatile, knee-jerk reactions. Usa Today Sports, USA TODAY, "NFL Week 10 roundtable: Which offseason moves now look wisest of all?," 15 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Young children tend to jerk their hands and might be accidentally nipped so parental supervision is advised. Iris Katz,, "Pet Wise: Just who is walking whom? Positive dog training methods," 15 Aug. 2020 Don’t flinch, jerk the trigger, or close your eyes. Ron Spomer, Outdoor Life, "How to Troubleshoot Your Riflescope Zeroing Problems," 7 Aug. 2020 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

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

22 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Jerk.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jan. 2021.

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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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