From Middle English nervǒus (“containing nerves; made up of nerve-like fibres; of or relating to nerves; containing sinews or tendons, sinewy; affecting sinews or tendons”), from Latin nervōsus (“nervous; sinewy; energetic, vigorous”), from nervus (“nerve; muscle; sinew, tendon; (figuratively) energy, power; nerve; force, strength, vigour”) (ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *snéh₁wr̥ (“sinew, tendon”)) + -ōsus (suffix meaning ‘full of, prone to’ forming adjectives from nouns). The English word is analysable as nerve + -ous.
- (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /ˈnɜːvəs/
- (General American) IPA(key): /ˈnɝːvəs/
Audio (GA) (file) Audio (AU) (file)
- Hyphenation: nerv‧ous
- Of sinews and tendons.
- (obsolete) Full of sinews. [14th–18th c.]
- (obsolete) Having strong or prominent sinews; sinewy, muscular. [15th–19th c.]
- (obsolete) Of a piece of writing, literary style etc.: forceful, powerful. [17th–19th c.]
- 1788, Frances Burney, Journals & Letters, Penguin 2001, p. 264:
- Nervous, clear, and striking, was almost all that he uttered […].
- Of nerves.
- Supplied with nerves; innervated. [from 14th c.]
- Affecting the nerves or nervous system. [from 15th c.]
- 1733, George Cheyne, “Of the General Division of Nervous Distempers”, in The English Malady […] […], London: G[eorge] Strahan […]; Bath, Somerset: J[ames] Leake, OCLC 4350595, part I, pages 14–15:
- All Nervous Diſtempers whatſoever, from Yawning and Stretching, up to a mortal Fit of an Apoplexy, ſeems to me to be but one continued Diſorder, or the ſeveral Steps or Degrees of it, ariſing from a Relaxation or Weakneſs, and the want of a ſufficient Force and Elaſticity in the Solids in general, and the Nerves in particular, in Proportion to the Reſiſtance of the Fluids, in order to carry on the Circulation, remove Obſtructions, carry off the Recrements, and make the Secretions.
- 1774 September, “48. Medical Memoirs of the General Dispensary in London: For Part of the Years 1773 and 1774. By John Coakley Lettsom, M.D. F.R.S. and A.S.S. and Physician to the General Dispensary. 8vo. Dilly.”, in Sylvanus Urban [pseudonym; Edward Cave], editor, The Gentleman's Magazine, volume XLIV, London: […] D[avid] Henry, and sold by F[rancis] Newbery […], OCLC 192374019, page 432, column 2:
- Elizabeth Moſs, a girl of about 15 years of age, was attacked, in December, 1773, with a ſlow nervous fever, during the courſe of which ſhe had very little ſleep; [...]
- 2011, Nancy L. Kuntz; Jonathan Strober, “Differential Diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis and Acquired Central Nervous System Demyelinating Disorders in Children and Adolescents”, in Dorothée Chabas and Emmanuelle L. Waubant, editors, Demyelinating Disorders of the Central Nervous System in Childhood, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, →ISBN, page 58:
- However, concern regarding potential morbidity from biopsy of a central nervous system lesion makes it rare to have a pathologic specimen available for clinical diagnosis.
- (botany, obsolete) Nervose. [17th–18th c.]
- Easily agitated or alarmed; edgy, on edge. [from 18th c.]
- Synonyms: excitable, high-strung, hypersensitive; see also Thesaurus:nervous
- Being in a crowd of strangers makes me nervous.
- 1928 November, Norman B. Cole, “Present Day Opinion Regarding the Relationship between Athletics and the Heart”, in James Huff McCurdy, editor, American Physical Education Review, volume XXXIII, number 9 (number 241 overall), Springfield, Mass.: American Physical Education Association, page 575, column 2:
- I can only assure you here that there is such a thing as a nervous child; whose nervous system is unstable; who is easily upset; whose pulse is apt to "run away" at any excitement; who blushes and pales and sweats easily; who tires easily; and who may be subject to headache and eye strain.
- Apprehensive, anxious, hesitant, worried. [from 18th c.]
- 1843 December 19, Charles Dickens, “Stave Five. The End of It.”, in A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, London: Chapman & Hall, […], OCLC 55746801, page 161:
- They were looking at the table (which was spread out in great array); for these young housekeepers are always nervous on such points, and like to see that everything is right.
- 1870, Richard Whitbourne, “A Relation of the New-found-land, with a More Ample Discouery of that Countrey, […]”, in T. Whitburn, editor, Westward Hoe for Avalon in the New-found-land: As described by Captain Richard Whitbourne, of Exmouth, Devon, 1622, London: Sampson Low, Son, and Marston, […]; Field and Tuer, […], OCLC 1084234372, page 25:
- Various harbours fit to receive settlers are now enumerated by the author; and as for the cold, of which some, through report, entertained a nervous dread, he invites his readers to reflect on "the great colde that is at times in Muſcouia, Sweidon, Norway, Spruceland, Poland, Denmarke, and other Eaſterne and Northerne parts of the world, where the people liue well and grow rich;" [...]
- 1915, Cecilia Farwell, “The Nervous Child”, in The Child Welfare Manual […], volume 1, New York, N.Y.: The University Society, OCLC 1034772803, page 331, column 1:
- "My baby is a perfect bundle of nerves," said one mother to another. "She is so sensitive, she starts at the slightest sound. She sleeps only a few minutes at a time, and has to be walked or rocked to get her off again. She won't go to strangers, and I am a nervous wreck taking care of her."
- autonomic nervous system
- central nervous system
- enteric nervous system
- nervous as a cat
- nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs
- nervous breakdown
- nervous energy
- nervous Nellie
- parasympathetic nervous system
- peripheral nervous system
- sympathetic nervous system