informal: to reduce the effectiveness of (something, such as a character, attribute, or weapon) in a video game
It's become much easier with the last patch, because they made the bosses easier to kill by "nerfing" them …—Duane M. George
… I'm pretty sure that her upset is really just the extremely relatable sort of gamer outrage we all feel from time to time when our favorite hobby annoys us in one way or another: A game is delayed, a weapon is nerfed, a remake just doesn't 'get it', or whatever.—Andy Chalk
broadly: to make (something) less useful or effective
By the time I made my way back to Bing Chat a few days later, Microsoft had applied restraining bolts to its chatbot. Limiting the number of messages you can share, pulling back on its personality, and ultimately nerfing the entire experience. —Rael Hornby
informal: to lightly bump (another car) in an automobile race
… I don't know if he did it on purpose or not, but when he nerfed me up out of the way about eight laps in I didn't appreciate it a whole lot.—Ryan Newman
Examples of nerf in a Sentence
Recent Examples on the WebIn an attempt to nerf users who abuse dribble moves and the turbo button for less-than-realistic results, 2K23 introduces the concept of adrenaline boosts.—Brian Mazique, Forbes, 3 Aug. 2022
These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'nerf.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.
of uncertain origin
Perhaps simply of expressive origin; the syllable nucleus \ər\ occurs in a number of other monosyllabic expressive coinages. The verb is attested earliest in the compound nerfing bars, which were apparently first added to midget racers, as in the following: "The 'nerfing bar' is a special bumper contrivance both in the front and along the side of the racer near the rear wheels and around the tail piece. It is designed to keep rival car owners from crashing through the beautifully polished aluminum bodies, as well as to use as an offensive weapon if a slow car gets in the way" (Los Angeles Evening Citizen-News, June 17, 1941, p. 14).