nettle

1 of 2

noun

net·​tle ˈne-tᵊl How to pronounce nettle (audio)
1
: 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 nettles James Stephens
2
: any of various prickly or stinging plants other than the true nettles (genus Urtica)

Illustration of nettle

Illustration of nettle
  • nettle 1

nettle

2 of 2

verb

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

transitive verb

1
: to strike or sting with or as if with nettles
2
: 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

Example Sentences

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
Noun
The invigorating pink tisane is delicious, with accents of anti-inflammatory nettle and a little thyme to stimulate the immune system and soothe the soul. Emma Elwick-bates, Vogue, 31 Aug. 2022 Robust aromas of wet earth, blueberries, nettle and sage. Tom Mullen, Forbes, 22 May 2022 This year my diet has included chickweed, dead nettle, bittercress, dock, garlic pennycress, wild onion, brassica, wood sorrel, cleavers, dandelions, lamb’s quarters, day lily shoots, sochan, purslane and poke (amply boiled to remove toxins). Gabriel Popkin, Washington Post, 15 Aug. 2022 As if to back his point, a male corncrake started calling from a nettle bed nearby. New York Times, 4 Aug. 2022 Another ingredient people claim helps with their allergies is nettle leaf tea. Sara M Moniuszko, USA TODAY, 24 June 2022 Improve the evenness of your skin tone, minimize dark spots and keep skin moisturized with nourishing ingredients like jojoba oil, nettle, red raspberry, alfalfa and spilanthes extract. Grooming Playbook, The Salt Lake Tribune, 7 June 2022 Whether preparing nettle soup, liaising with the Police Nationale or reading boar scat, Bruno remains focused and efficient. Washington Post, 16 Apr. 2022 So do the grains in a seasonal nettle risotto with asparagus, mushrooms, and ricotta salata. Globe Staff, BostonGlobe.com, 7 June 2022
Verb
Gorky’s privileged presence began to nettle Stalin. Algis Valiunas, National Review, 31 Mar. 2022 The pastrami dog is on the lunch menu and only nettling the dining room between 11 AM and 9 PM each day. Mike Sula, Chicago Reader, 12 July 2018 Questions about alternative facts and relative truths have been nettling me for decades. Errol Morris, Time, 22 May 2018 Shame nettles over Rae’s skull like a tight red cap. Karen Russell, The New Yorker, 4 June 2017 What nettled him was the news media’s unquestioning reiteration of that claim. Margalit Fox, New York Times, 22 Jan. 2018 Gorsuch is a pale imitation of his predecessor, boasting a bratty attitude that has nettled justices across the ideological spectrum. Mark Joseph Stern, Slate Magazine, 18 Oct. 2017 Worries about the health of the long-term-care insurance industry have nettled investors for years. Leslie Scism, WSJ, 23 Oct. 2017 As a presidential candidate, Mr. Sanders nettled some Jews by making a campaign appearance on Rosh Hashana, a day most Jews take off from work, at Liberty University, an evangelical college in Virginia founded by the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Joseph Berger, New York Times, 24 Feb. 2016 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

Noun and Verb

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

First Known Use

Noun

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

Verb

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Podcast

Dictionary Entries Near nettle

Cite this Entry

“Nettle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/nettle. Accessed 1 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

nettle 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

nettle

2 of 2

verb

nettled; nettling ˈnet-liŋ How to pronounce nettle (audio)
-ᵊl-iŋ
1
: to sting with nettles
2
: annoy, vex

Medical Definition

nettle

noun

net·​tle ˈnet-ᵊl How to pronounce nettle (audio)
1
: any plant of the genus Urtica (family Urticaceae, the nettle family)
2
: any of various prickly or stinging plants other than one of the genus Urtica

More from Merriam-Webster on nettle

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!


The Great British Vocabulary Quiz

  • union jack speech bubble
  • Named after Sir Robert Peel, what are British police called?
Spell It

Hear a word and type it out. How many can you get right?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ