jerkwater

adjective

jerk·​wa·​ter ˈjərk-ˌwȯ-tər How to pronounce jerkwater (audio)
-ˌwä-
1
: remote and unimportant
jerkwater towns
2

Did you know?

We owe the colorful Americanism "jerkwater" to the invention of the steam engine - an advancement that significantly accelerated travel by rail but also had its drawbacks. One drawback was that the boilers of the early locomotives needed to be refilled with water frequently, and water tanks were few and far between. As a result, the small trains that ran on rural branch lines often had to stop to take on water from local supplies. Such trains were commonly called "jerkwaters" from the motion of jerking the water up in buckets from the supply to the engine. The derogatory use of "jerkwater" for things unimportant or trivial reflects the fact that these jerkwater trains typically ran on lines connecting small middle-of-nowhere towns.

Word History

Etymology

from jerkwater rural train

First Known Use

1888, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of jerkwater was in 1888

Podcast

Dictionary Entries Near jerkwater

Cite this Entry

“Jerkwater.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/jerkwater. Accessed 22 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

jerkwater

adjective
jerk·​wa·​ter ˈjər-ˌkwȯt-ər How to pronounce jerkwater (audio)
-ˌkwät-
: small, rural, and unimportant
jerkwater towns

More from Merriam-Webster on jerkwater

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!