nail-bit·​er ˈnāl-ˌbī-tər How to pronounce nail-biter (audio)
: something (such as a close contest) that induces tension or anxiety
nail-biting adjective

Examples of nail-biter in a Sentence

a presidential election that was one of the great nail-biters of all time
Recent Examples on the Web Biden won Nevada in 2020 in a nail-biter, and the state is expected to once again be a critical battleground in this year’s election. Claudia Grisales, NPR, 7 June 2024 Octopussy is a classic cloak-and-dagger nail-biter about a scheme by a rogue Russian general (Steven Berkoff) to detonate a nuke on an American military base in Germany. Chris Nashawaty,, 29 May 2024 The next week the Dolphins lost a 21-14 fourth-quarter nail-biter to the Buffalo Bills, at home, in a winner-take-all AFC East division battle. Omar Kelly, Miami Herald, 29 May 2024 Exhausted after the two-and-a-half-hour nail-biter, UCLA’s Cooper Robinson was doubled over with his hands on his knees during the celebration. Thuc Nhi Nguyen, Los Angeles Times, 3 May 2024 The unique nail-biter takes place in the shadows of L.A.’s homeless camps, run-down motels and dark alleys, following women who have turned — for various reasons — to a life of crime. Jessica Gelt, Los Angeles Times, 20 Apr. 2024 Though many Kennedys have previously praised Biden, their decision to formally endorse him as a unit deals a heavy blow to RFK Jr.'s independent presidential campaign, which has unnerved Democrats in a nail-biter of an election year. Kyler Alvord, Peoplemag, 18 Apr. 2024 Guy Ritchie, though, does a much more stimulating job with this nail-biter about a secret wartime operation. Randy Myers, The Mercury News, 17 Apr. 2024 In addition to being a great family comedy movie, Jumanji is also a real nail-biter. Chris Snellgrove,, 16 Apr. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'nail-biter.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1950, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of nail-biter was in 1950

Dictionary Entries Near nail-biter

Cite this Entry

“Nail-biter.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jun. 2024.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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