\ 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

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 Ultimately, though, the show’s tone was forgiving: yes, Josh could be a jerk, but so could everybody. Alex Barasch, The New Yorker, "Josh Thomas’s Comedy of Self-Diagnosis," 5 Apr. 2021 So if your knee-jerk reaction is to judge, Dr. Torrisi urges you not to. Kasandra Brabaw, SELF, "Your Friend Cheated and Told You About It. What Now?," 9 Apr. 2021 Meanwhile cultural critic Lexi Lane writes in an opinion piece that Dobrik got money to be a jerk — and asks why no one cared before this scandal blew up. NBC News, "Mass shootings offer bleak return to 'normal' in America, Capitol rioters' Trump contributions and a Suez-sized traffic jam," 24 Mar. 2021 The problem is that Larry is a jerk too, the kind of troll who goes beyond standard, bad social behavior and becomes actually abusive and dangerous. Brian Tallerico, Vulture, "Which Into the Dark Episodes Are Worth Your Time?," 12 Feb. 2021 The knee-jerk reaction for some folks filling out their NCAA tournament brackets on Selection Sunday is to go with your gut, basically off first impressions. Marcus Fuller, Star Tribune, "Marcus Fuller's five first impressions of the NCAA basketball tournament bracket," 15 Mar. 2021 These are things Republicans should be talking about, not any sort of knee-jerk reaction to an election that, quite honestly, didn't work out our way. NBC News, "Meet the Press - March 14, 2021," 14 Mar. 2021 Organizations need a more thoughtful system, not a knee-jerk reaction, to guide decisions regarding who gets fired. Gene Del Vecchio, Forbes, "Disney’s Cancel Culture Is Confused, Hypocritical, And Dangerous – Lacking Sound Management," 11 Mar. 2021 When Birdwatch was first announced, the company was met with an understandable knee-jerk reaction. Kaitlyn Tiffany, The Atlantic, "Who Would Volunteer to Fact-Check Twitter?," 3 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The rising tide proved crucial again later Monday morning when workers were finally able to jerk the ship completely off both banks. Los Angeles Times, "Ship stuck in Suez Canal is freed, allowing vital waterway to reopen," 28 Mar. 2021 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

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

28 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Jerk.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 May. 2021.

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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

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