\ ˈnərv How to pronounce nerve (audio) \

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

Noun 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. Verb needs to nerve himself for the big game tomorrow
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Another promising treatment Yan and others are investigating is platelet-rich plasma, an anti-inflammatory concoction isolated from blood that has been used to treat some types of nerve damage. Stephani Sutherland, Scientific American, "Mysteries of COVID Smell Loss Finally Yield Some Answers," 18 Nov. 2020 Navalny, recovering in Germany from poisoning with a substance from the Novichok class of Soviet-era nerve agents, said in an interview with Der Spiegel that responsibility for the attack on his life rests with the man in the Kremlin. Star Tribune, "Russia is spreading disinformation on Navalny poisoning," 2 Oct. 2020 Recently, Fleishman’s lab redesigned a naturally occurring enzyme that breaks down nerve agents, such as cyclosarin and Russian VX, similar to the one used against the Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Matthew Hutson, The New Yorker, "Scientists Advance on One of Technology’s Holy Grails," 18 Sep. 2020 Like other nerve agents, Novichoks bind to acetylcholinesterase (AChE), an enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine when it is released into synapses. Richard Stone, Science | AAAS, "How German military scientists likely identified the nerve agent used to attack Alexei Navalny," 8 Sep. 2020 Some variants of the agent are estimated to be five to eight times more toxic than VX nerve agents, the BBC reported. Barnini Chakraborty, Fox News, "Poisoned Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny out of coma and responsive: German hospital," 7 Sep. 2020 In contrast, nerve agents target human cholinesterases. Robert Chilcott, Ars Technica, "Novichok: How are victims surviving poisoning?," 5 Sep. 2020 Novichok is a class of military-grade nerve agents developed by the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War. Geir Moulson, The Christian Science Monitor, "'Proof without doubt' that Navalny was poisoned, says Germany," 3 Sep. 2020 Novichok is a class of military-grade nerve agents developed by the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War. Arkansas Online, "Germany says Soviet-era nerve agent used on Russia's Navalny," 2 Sep. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The long-term effects of COVID-19 continue to be a murky subject full of unsettling concerns such as lasting heart and nerve damage, but the effort to understand them is gaining strength and urgency. al, "Research into mysterious ‘Long COVID’ symptoms picking up steam," 15 Nov. 2020 Even the loss of smell that’s been a high-profile symptom of Covid-19 is considered neurologic, likely caused by dysfunction of olfactory nerves or nerve support cells, Koralnik said. Robert Langreth,, "Brain Deficits, Nerve Pain Can Torment Covid Patients for Months," 28 Aug. 2020 Recording began in 2017, but an unspecified accident after the initial session left Simmons with broken bones, nerve damage and a severely impaired left hand. Pablo Gorondi, Star Tribune, "Review: Music writer Sylvie Simmons' 2nd album also a charm," 13 Aug. 2020 Ryans suffered gruesome gashes on his ankle, both on the front and back of his leg, and tendon and nerve damage. Robert Gehrke, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Robert Gehrke: Vicious police attack on an unarmed Black man proves talk of reform only goes so far," 12 Aug. 2020 Infections with certain bacteria and Zika virus, among others, are linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome, in which the immune system attacks nerve tissue, causing tingling, weakness, and paralysis. Jennifer Couzin-frankel, Science | AAAS, "From ‘brain fog’ to heart damage, COVID-19’s lingering problems alarm scientists," 31 July 2020 Reducing the first and maximising the second will require principles and nerve. The Economist, "Putin’s pal in peril The right way to get rid of President Alexander Lukashenko," 1 Aug. 2020 Most commonly, the injury involves the protective sheath, or myelin, that wraps nerves and is essential to nerve function. Aarti Sarwal, The Conversation, "Rare neurological disorder, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, linked to COVID-19," 7 July 2020 With airlines suspending flight service to China, and nerves frayed among many travelers elsewhere, the coronavirus impact may be worse. Justin Lahart, WSJ, "Ask a Doctor (of Economics) About Coronavirus," 6 Feb. 2020

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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Time Traveler for nerve

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for nerve

Last Updated

22 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Nerve.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Dec. 2020.

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More Definitions for nerve


How to pronounce nerve (audio)

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 How to pronounce nerve (audio) \

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 How to pronounce nerve (audio) \

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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