nervous Nellie

noun

nervous Nel·​lie -ˈne-lē How to pronounce nervous Nellie (audio)
variants or nervous Nelly or Nervous Nellie or Nervous Nelly or less commonly nervous nellie or nervous nelly
plural nervous Nellies or Nervous Nellies also nervous nellies
: a person or animal that tends to be timid or anxious
She is a world-class worrier, a change-avoider and, by her own admission, a bit of a nervous Nellie.Judith Newman
I love nature and outdoor adventures. Some might call me "outdoorsy." … But the truth is, I am a chicken. A scaredy-cat. A nervous Nelly.Shelley Dunning
… horses are "Nervous Nellies." As flight animals, horses are always ready to react and get to safety.Citrus County (Florida) Chronicle
Kids who take risks while they're young tend to be less fearful, more independent adults, and kids who don't take risks end up being nervous nellies.Charlotte Alter

Examples of nervous Nellie in a Sentence

My sister is a real nervous Nellie when it comes to flying. many new parents are nervous Nellies when it comes to the health of their babies
Recent Examples on the Web Stephanie, the president’s Nervous Nellie secretary, undergoes a personality change after dipping into Bernadette’s bag of pills. Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times, 28 Jan. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'nervous Nellie.' 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

from the name Nellie

First Known Use

1925, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of nervous Nellie was in 1925

Dictionary Entries Near nervous Nellie

Cite this Entry

“Nervous Nellie.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nervous%20Nellie. Accessed 23 Feb. 2024.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!