\ 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


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

Black-eyed peas, gumbo and cornbread were just as welcome on the table as jerk chicken, empanadas and Caribbean-style black beans., "The Bay Area food company betting big on multi-cultural beans," 22 Aug. 2019 Please feel free to unburden yourself of any knee-jerk thoughts typically ascribed to fourteen-year-old boys. Henry Alford, The New Yorker, "Everything You’re Afraid to Ask About Human Composting," 26 Aug. 2019 And even former president Barack Obama weighed in: Cohn praised policymakers for beginning fact-finding on these issues, but cautioned against relying too much on knee-jerk reactions. Cat Zakrzewski, Washington Post, "The Technology 202: Research into links between social media and mass shootings is lacking, experts say," 8 Aug. 2019 Except for a knee-jerk reaction to a fall at Coors Field, the city and county of Denver has no intention of enforcing these rules. Dp Opinion, The Denver Post, "Letters: Denver DA too lenient on own; City must enforce scooter rules; Enough with the equal pay; High time to reboot tech firms (7/25/19)," 25 July 2019 Be sympathetic to someone who is sensitive to some foods and isn’t sure how to say that without being a jerk. Carolyn Hax, The Mercury News, "Carolyn Hax: My son says he won’t come to our ‘circus,’ and I think I know what’s going on," 11 Aug. 2019 Be sympathetic to someone who is sensitive to some foods and isn’t sure how to say that without being a jerk. Washington Post, "Carolyn Hax: The truth behind your daughter-in-law’s aversion to events," 11 Aug. 2019 Be sympathetic to someone who is sensitive to some foods and isn’t sure how to say that without being a jerk. Carolyn Hax,, "Carolyn Hax: Son and daughter-in-law finished with ‘circus-like’ family gatherings," 10 Aug. 2019 Cooks rub them with five-chili, sweet-hot, jerk seasoning. Liz Biro, Indianapolis Star, "Here are the 10 best foods at the Indiana State Fair 2019," 7 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Even twitching and jerking and talking to herself, that woman was invisible. Carl Nolte,, "Far away and under the redwoods, but haunted by the sights in San Francisco," 24 Aug. 2019 The man managed to unbuckle his seat belt and jerked his head around, preparing to headbutt Downey, Owens said. Lynh Bui, Washington Post, "‘Do you have a camera in your car?’ Officer convicted of assaulting handcuffed homeless man.," 8 Aug. 2019 Many of the cars shudder and jerk and frighten and irritate owners. Jamie L. Lareau, Detroit Free Press, "NHTSA says it's reviewing complaints of faulty Ford transmissions," 24 July 2019 Preserving your home movies, entombed in rapidly-decaying VHS tapes, by converting them into digital files is a thoughtful (and often tear-jerking) way to do that. Cameron Faulkner, The Verge, "How to make digital copies of your VHS tapes," 21 July 2019 Her hand jerked, and the brush rolled off the ceramic rest. Veronica Chambers, New York Times, "Viewfinders: 10 Y.A. Novelists Spin Fiction From Vintage Photos," 28 June 2019 In the video, 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. Mark Morales, CNN, "Chants of 'I can't breathe!' erupt as the officer in the Eric Garner case won't face federal charges," 17 July 2019 The 12-minute long clip features a behind-the-scenes look at the iconic Tanner living room and kitchen, the actors and actresses arriving to the studio, and even a few tear-jerking speeches. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "'Fuller House' Star Candace Cameron Bure Gets Emotional at First Reading Sans Lori Loughlin," 24 May 2019 At the end of Toy Story 3, the departure of Andy was a tear-jerking goodbye, but the arrival of Bonnie suggested the fun could last forever. David Sims, The Atlantic, "A Plaything Made Out of Trash Is the Real Star of Toy Story 4," 13 June 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.

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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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Learn More about jerk

Dictionary Entries near jerk





jerk around



Statistics for jerk

Last Updated

13 Sep 2019

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

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

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).


readily or continually undergoing change

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