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From Middle English netle, netel, from Old English netle, netele, netel, from Proto-West Germanic *natilu (cognate with Old Saxon netila, Middle Dutch netele (modern Dutch netel), German Nessel, Middle Danish nædlæ (nettle)), a diminutive of Proto-Germanic *natǭ (of unknown origin, perhaps from the same source as net).


  • enPR: nĕt'(ə)l, IPA(key): /ˈnɛt(ə)l/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɛt(ə)l


nettle (plural nettles)

  1. Any plant whose foliage is covered with stinging, mildly poisonous hairs, causing an instant rash.
    1. Especially, most species of herb genus Urtica, the stinging nettles:
      1. Most, but not all, subspecies of Urtica dioica (common nettle),
      2. Urtica incisa (Australian nettle);
    2. Wood nettle (Laportea canadensis);
    3. Bull nettles and spurge nettles of genus Cnidoscolus:
      1. Cnidoscolus stimulosus, bull nettle, spurge nettle,
      2. Cnidoscolus texanus, Texas bull nettle,
      3. Cnidoscolus urens, bull nettle,
      4. Nettle trees or tree nettles:
        1. Various species of the genus Dendrocnide:
        2. Urera baccifera (scratchbush),
        3. Urtica ferox (tree nettle);
    4. rock nettle (Eucnide);
    5. small-leaved nettle (Dendrocnide photinophylla).
  2. Certain plants that have spines or prickles:
    1. ball nettle (Solanum carolinense);
    2. Solanum elaeagnifolium, bull nettle, silver-leaf nettle, white horse-nettle;
    3. Solanum dimidiatum, western horse-nettle, robust horse-nettle;
    4. Solanum rostratum, horse-nettle;
    5. Celtis (hackberry).
  3. Certain non-stinging plants, mostly in the family Lamiaceae, that resemble the species of Urtica:
    1. dead nettle, dumb nettle (Lamium), particularly Lamium album, white nettle;
    2. false nettle (Boehmeria, family Urticaceae);
    3. flame nettle or painted nettle (Coleus);
    4. hedge nettle (Stachys);
    5. hemp nettle (Galeopsis);
    6. horse nettle Agastache urticifolia,
    7. nilgiri nettle, Himalayan giant nettle (Girardinia diversifolia, family Urticaceae).
  4. Loosely, anything which causes a similarly stinging rash, such as a jellyfish or sea nettle.

Derived termsEdit



nettle (third-person singular simple present nettles, present participle nettling, simple past and past participle nettled) (transitive)

  1. (transitive) Of the nettle plant and similar physical causes, to sting, causing a rash in someone.
    The children were badly nettled after playing in the field.
  2. (transitive, figuratively) To pique, irritate, vex or provoke.
    • 1679, Aphra Behn, The Feign’d Curtizans, London: Jacob Tonson, Act V, Scene 1, p. ,[1]
      His Mistress: whose Mistress, what Mistress; s’life how that little word has nettled me!
    • 1741, Samuel Richardson, Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded, London: C. Rivington & J. Osborn, 2nd edition, Volume I, Letter 31, p. 212,[2]
      I saw Mr. Williams was a little nettled at my Impatience []
    • 1985, United States. Foreign Broadcast Information Service, Daily Report: People's Republic of China (issues 180-189, page 42)
      Liu, whose political writings had nettled the Taiwanese authorities, was assassinated on October 15, last year, in Daly City []


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