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net·​tle ˈne-tᵊl How to pronounce nettle (audio)
: any of a genus (Urtica of the family Urticaceae, the nettle family) of chiefly coarse herbs armed with stinging hairs
… legs, which smarted from the stings of nettlesJames Stephens
: any of various prickly or stinging plants other than the true nettles (genus Urtica)

Illustration of nettle

Illustration of nettle
  • nettle 1


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nettled; nettling ˈnet-liŋ How to pronounce nettle (audio)

transitive verb

: to strike or sting with or as if with nettles
: to arouse to sharp but transitory annoyance or anger

Did you know?

If you've ever brushed against nettles, you know those weeds have sharp bristles that can leave you smarting and itching. The painful and irritating rash that nettles cause can last for days, but at least it is a rash with a linguistic silver lining. The discomfort caused by nettles can serve to remind one that the verb nettle is a synonym of irritate. Nettle originated as a plant name that we can trace to the Old English word netel. Eventually, people likened the nagging itch caused by the plant to the nagging aggravation of being annoyed, and nettle became a synonym of vex, peeve, and of course irritate.

Choose the Right Synonym for nettle

irritate, exasperate, nettle, provoke, rile, peeve mean to excite a feeling of anger or annoyance.

irritate implies an often gradual arousing of angry feelings that may range from mere impatience to rage.

constant nagging that irritated me greatly

exasperate suggests galling annoyance and the arousing of extreme impatience.

his exasperating habit of putting off needed decisions

nettle suggests a sharp but passing annoyance or stinging.

your pompous attitude nettled several people

provoke implies an arousing of strong annoyance that may excite to action.

remarks made solely to provoke her

rile implies inducing an angry or resentful agitation.

the new work schedules riled the employees

peeve suggests arousing fretful often petty or querulous irritation.

a toddler peeved at being refused a cookie

Examples of nettle in a Sentence

Verb The mayor's recent actions have nettled some members of the community. It nettles him that his younger coworker got a promotion before he did.
Recent Examples on the Web
The drinks feature, say, Armagnac and pear brandy, and the food takes bistro classics like roast chicken and beef tartare and electrifies them with entrenched Washington State ingredients like nettles and mussels. Scott Hocker, theweek, 10 June 2024 Her memoir alternates between vignettes of this restoration process—from uprooting obnoxious nettles to planting floors of wallflowers—and thoughtful research on the cultural significance of reconstructing Eden. Maddie Bender, Scientific American, 14 May 2024
Above all else, this genre nettles the record labels, who view it as an encroachment on their property. WIRED, 6 Nov. 2023 The narrators of these stories are crotchety, easily nettled by the behaviors of other passengers. Jasmine Liu, The New Republic, 24 Oct. 2023 See all Example Sentences for nettle 

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

Word History


Noun and Verb

Middle English, from Old English netel; akin to Old High German nazza nettle, Greek adikē

First Known Use


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of nettle was before the 12th century


Dictionary Entries Near nettle

Cite this Entry

“Nettle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 noun
net·​tle ˈnet-ᵊl How to pronounce nettle (audio)
: any of several tall herbs with stinging hairs on the leaves and stems


2 of 2 verb
nettled; nettling ˈnet-liŋ How to pronounce nettle (audio)
: to sting with nettles
: annoy, vex

Medical Definition


net·​tle ˈnet-ᵊl How to pronounce nettle (audio)
: any plant of the genus Urtica (family Urticaceae, the nettle family)
: any of various prickly or stinging plants other than one of the genus Urtica

More from Merriam-Webster on nettle

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