nervous

adjective

ner·​vous ˈnər-vəs How to pronounce nervous (audio)
1
a
: timid, apprehensive
a nervous smile
nervous of strangers
b
: easily excited or irritated : jumpy
… so nervous that he had to be escorted outside court to vomit …Kevin Johnson and Andrea Stone
c
: of or relating to the nerves
also : originating in or affected by the nerves
nervous energy
a nervous twitch
2
a
: tending to produce nervousness or agitation : uneasy
a nervous situation
His face was twisted in nervous anticipation.Dagoberto Gilb
b
: appearing or acting unsteady, erratic, or irregular
used of inanimate things
… climbed carefully into his nervous kayak …Farley Mowat
3
: of, relating to, or composed of neurons
4
: marked by strength of thought, feeling, or style : spirited
a vibrant tight-packed nervous style of writing
5
archaic : sinewy, strong
nervously adverb
nervousness noun
Choose the Right Synonym for nervous

vigorous, energetic, strenuous, lusty, nervous mean having or showing great vitality and force.

vigorous further implies showing no signs of depletion or diminishing of freshness or robustness.

as vigorous as a youth half his age

energetic suggests a capacity for intense activity.

an energetic campaigner

strenuous suggests a preference for coping with the arduous or the challenging.

the strenuous life on an oil rig

lusty implies exuberant energy and capacity for enjoyment.

a lusty appetite for life

nervous suggests especially the forcibleness and sustained effectiveness resulting from mental vigor.

full of nervous energy

Examples of nervous in a Sentence

She is nervous about her job interview. All this waiting is making me nervous. He gave a nervous glance at the clock. His nervous mother is always worrying that something terrible will happen to him. He has a nervous disposition. It was a very nervous situation. She suffers from a nervous disorder. He walked around with a nervous twitch. He had a nervous habit of pulling at his hair. The boy has a lot of nervous energy.
Recent Examples on the Web Ahead of each season, the Reluctant Traveler production team scouts out possible locations for the Emmy-winning actor, comedian and nervous globe-trotter to visit. Christy Piña, The Hollywood Reporter, 30 Mar. 2024 This immunosuppression persists into adolescence and beyond, fostering higher proportions of nervous, avoidant young adults. Jessica Winter, The New Yorker, 28 Mar. 2024 The British Airways Flying with Confidence Course is a one-day course run by pilots and cabin crew, with a 98 percent success rate in helping nervous flyers overcome their fears. Olivia Morelli, Condé Nast Traveler, 26 Mar. 2024 Lately, the team’s main focus has been on getting a deal done soon and with that January ballot deadline looming, Wise is growing nervous. Mike Hendricks, Kansas City Star, 25 Mar. 2024 What’s more, some see plug-in hybrids as a gateway drug for the full-electric vehicle experience, a way for people still nervous about a new drivetrain to get used to the idea. Aarian Marshall, WIRED, 25 Mar. 2024 The sellout crowd at Spectrum Center was murmuring and nervous. Scott Fowler, Charlotte Observer, 24 Mar. 2024 By January 2025, the best outcome that could plausibly be achieved in the Israel-Hamas war would be a nervous cease-fire. Liana Fix, Foreign Affairs, 22 Mar. 2024 These lines are both nervous tics and statements of blithe confidence. Phillip MacIak, New York Times, 21 Mar. 2024

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

Word History

Etymology

Middle English, borrowed from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French nervus, nervous, borrowed from Latin nervōsus "full of tendons, sinewy, tough, vigorous (of a person or literary style)," from nervus "sinew, muscle, nerve entry 1" + -ōsus -ous

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 5

Time Traveler
The first known use of nervous was in the 14th century

Dictionary Entries Near nervous

Cite this Entry

“Nervous.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nervous. Accessed 12 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

nervous

adjective
ner·​vous ˈnər-vəs How to pronounce nervous (audio)
1
a
: of, relating to, or composed of neurons
nervous tissue
b
: of or relating to the nerves
c
: having its source in or affected by the nerves
nervous energy
2
a
: easily excited or irritated
a nervous person
b
: timid, fearful
a nervous smile
3
: causing uncomfortable feelings
a nervous situation
nervously adverb
nervousness noun

Medical Definition

nervous

adjective
ner·​vous ˈnər-vəs How to pronounce nervous (audio)
1
: of, relating to, or composed of neurons
the nervous layer of the eye
2
a
: of or relating to the nerves
also : originating in or affected by the nerves
nervous energy
b
: easily excited or irritated
nervously adverb
nervousness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on nervous

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