\ˈnərv \

Definition of nerve 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : sinew, tendon strain every nerve

2 : any of the filamentous bands of nervous tissue that connect parts of the nervous system with the other organs, conduct nerve impulses, and are made up of axons and dendrites together with protective and supportive structures

3a : power of endurance or control : fortitude, strength

b : assurance, boldness also : presumptuous audacity : gall

4a : a sore or sensitive point her remark touched a nerve

b nerves plural : nervous agitation or irritability : nervousness a case of nerves

6 : the sensitive pulp of a tooth


nerved; nerving

Definition of nerve (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to give strength or courage to : supply with physical or moral force

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Choose the Right Synonym for nerve


temerity, audacity, hardihood, effrontery, nerve, cheek, gall, chutzpah mean conspicuous or flagrant boldness. temerity suggests boldness arising from rashness and contempt of danger. had the temerity to refuse audacity implies a disregard of restraints commonly imposed by convention or prudence. an entrepreneur with audacity and vision hardihood suggests firmness in daring and defiance. admired for her hardihood effrontery implies shameless, insolent disregard of propriety or courtesy. outraged at his effrontery nerve, cheek, gall, and chutzpah are informal equivalents for effrontery. the nerve of that guy has the cheek to call herself a singer had the gall to demand proof the chutzpah needed for a career in show business

Examples of nerve in a Sentence


The optic nerve in the eye allows you to see. a condition affecting the nerves in her arm It takes a lot of nerve to start a new career. He found the nerve to stand up to his boss. I was going to ask her to the dance, but I lost my nerve. You have a lot of nerve to talk to me that way. I can't believe she had the nerve to call me a liar.


needs to nerve himself for the big game tomorrow
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The Monday night statement by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and FBI Director Christopher Wray was clearly meant to calm any nerves ahead of the election. Alex Ward, Vox, "The 2018 midterm election hasn’t been hacked — but Russia is still trying to influence it," 6 Nov. 2018 The proposal was equal parts low-key, romantic, and nerve-wracking. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Zoë Kravitz Has Been Engaged to Actor Karl Glusman Since February," 29 Oct. 2018 The feelings can hijack your well-being, wrecking your sleep and concentration and leaving you with hard-to-shake nerves. Sarah Richards, Woman's Day, "Quiet Your Mind in Anxious Times With These Expert Tricks," 14 Aug. 2018 The biggest lacrosse game of BJ Farrare’s life started with nerves and a challenge. Glenn Graham,, "BJ Farrare to put finishing touch on McDonogh career at Under Armour All-America Boys Lacrosse Game," 27 June 2018 With the score tied at 0-0 in extra time, both Italy and Germany must've been filled with nerves., "7 of the Most Euphoric Moments in World Cup History," 31 May 2018 Fellow Houston-area students Rohan Arulkumar, 12, who attends Quail Valley Middle School, and Cohen Dunham, 12, from Dickinson, have also struggled with nerves as well. Fernando Alfonso Iii, Houston Chronicle, "Houston-area students compete in Scripps National Spelling Bee," 30 May 2018 But that has little to do with nerves or excitement. Adam Zuvanich, San Antonio Express-News, "Sweet tooth gets Clark sophomore Jakub Rayfield ready," 8 May 2018 Every single entry is desperate, tired, and brimming with nerves. Bridget Malcolm, Teen Vogue, "Bridget Malcolm Opened Up About Dealing With Anxiety and Panic Attacks," 14 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Calcium: High in calcium, açaí berries will help keep your bones, heart, muscles, and nerves strong and healthy. Tehrene Firman, Good Housekeeping, "10 Things You Should Know About Açaí Berries, Nature's "Purple Gold"," 23 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'nerve.' 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 nerve


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1750, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for nerve


Latin nervus sinew, nerve; akin to Greek neuron sinew, nerve, nēn to spin — more at needle

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Statistics for nerve

Last Updated

10 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for nerve

The first known use of nerve was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for nerve



English Language Learners Definition of nerve

: one of the many thin parts that control movement and feeling by carrying messages between the brain and other parts of the body

: courage that allows you to do something that is dangerous, difficult, or frightening

: the rude attitude of someone who says or does things that make other people angry or upset


\ˈnərv \

Kids Definition of nerve

1 : a bundle of nerve fibers that carries messages in the form of nerve impulses to or away from the brain and spinal cord

2 : courage, boldness “I've always wanted to do something like that … I just didn't have the nerve.”— Jack Gantos, Joey Pigza Loses Control

3 : rude or disrespectful boldness You've got a lot of nerve to talk to me that way.

4 nerves plural : feelings of worry The groom suffered from nerves before the wedding.

5 : the sensitive soft inner part of a tooth

Other Words from nerve

nerveless \-​ləs \ adjective


\ˈnərv \

Medical Definition of nerve 

1 : any of the filamentous bands of nervous tissue that connect parts of the nervous system with the other organs, conduct nerve impulses, and are made up of axons and dendrites together with protective and supportive structures and that for the larger nerves have the fibers gathered into funiculi surrounded by a perineurium and the funiculi enclosed in a common epineurium

2 nerves plural : a state or condition of nervous agitation or irritability

3 : the sensitive pulp of a tooth

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More from Merriam-Webster on nerve

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with nerve

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for nerve

Spanish Central: Translation of nerve

Nglish: Translation of nerve for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of nerve for Arabic Speakers

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