\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

Perhaps Morgan Township’s nerves were evident in the first inning. Michael Osipoff, Post-Tribune, "Resounding reversal: Washington Township wins sectional after losing 24-4 to Morgan Township in regular season," 26 May 2018 The owl's humerus was still viable, the nerves were still intact and the circulation good, Convy said. The Washington Post,, "Who wins: truck versus owl, and the owl survives," 8 May 2018 Having an audience watch her team answer rapid-fire rounds of questions was initially intimidating but Eashani said the nerves were worth it. Garrett Mitchell, azcentral, "Chandler fifth grader shows math smarts on 'Genius Junior'," 27 Apr. 2018 Kiner-Falefa and Guzman have looked extremely poised, but the nerves are there. Stefan Stevenson, star-telegram, "Rangers Reaction: Rookies, relievers and a future Hall of Famer help stop skid | Fort Worth Star-Telegram," 15 Apr. 2018 All the usual nerves will be there, maybe a lot more from the San Francisco partisans who are convinced the Giants actually began a long trek toward Opening Day 2019 when Bumgarner had three pins inserted into his pitching hand. Henry Schulman, San Francisco Chronicle, "Giants-Dodgers rivalry renewed in Los Angeles," 28 Mar. 2018 And early on, the nerves of the matchup were evident. Andrew Joseph, For The Win, "Grayson Allen got away with a blatant travel before his fastbreak dunk," 25 Mar. 2018 Communication breakdowns between Supercon organizers and police were blamed for last year’s frayed nerves and frustrations. Wayne K. Roustan,, "Supercon to cause super traffic congestion, city officials warn," 13 July 2018 The microscope also automatically refocuses, allowing surgeons to see the distance between blood vessels and nerve structures without manually adjusting their equipment. Rebecca Lurye,, "UConn Health Is First U.S. Hospital With Augmented Reality Surgical Microscope," 12 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

15 Oct 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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Comments on nerve

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lying above or upon

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