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

Example Sentences

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web That’s when opposing defenses get nervous — and with good reason. Matt Le Cren, Chicago Tribune, 12 Jan. 2023 Mike sensed the teenager was nervous, looking for a way to get out from under the weight of his thievery. John Kelly, Washington Post, 10 Jan. 2023 The actress was, unsurprisingly, nervous to embody the life of an artist who had inspired her to become an artist, someone who had always seemed to just be during Ackie's 30 years on this planet. Lester Fabian Brathwaite, EW.com, 24 Dec. 2022 As home prices decline, those who bought at the peak are nervous. Karim Doumar, Los Angeles Times, 17 Dec. 2022 Don’t be nervous to ask a question that seems silly. Amber Smith, Discover Magazine, 15 Dec. 2022 Christoffel added that Singh appeared to be nervous and worried about her future when she was being questioned. Melissa Montoya, Peoplemag, 15 Dec. 2022 This is definitely not the Patriots’ division anymore, and the Bills are starting to get nervous. Ben Volin, BostonGlobe.com, 27 Nov. 2022 Cats get nervous, especially in new environments or around strange people. Dallas News, 23 Nov. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'nervous.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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 26 Jan. 2023.

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

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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