Etymology 1Edit

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Blend of twitch +‎ jerk. In “sexually suggestive movements, especially dance”, particularly popularized since c. 2000 by US hip-hop, and again in 2013 by singer Miley Cyrus.


twerk (plural twerks)

  1. A fitful movement similar to a twitch or jerk.
    • 1898, William Brigham, "Director's Report" in Occasional Papers of the Bernice Pauahi Museum vol. 1 no. 1, page 42:
      "Not so the Freycineti, who looked me over critically, elevated his head crest, and giving his tail an odd little twerk, proceeded to hop deliberately up the limb like a sap-sucker..."
    • 1920, Lilian C. McNamara Garis, The Girl Scouts at Sea Crest: Or, The Wig Wag Rescue[1],], page 86:
      "I hardly realize it yet that you are my really truly coz," and she gave the girl's long, brown braids a familiar twerk.
    • 1950, Robert S. Close, Love Me Sailor[2],], page 86:
      With a quick twerk at her shift, the girl lifted it to her rounded belly, and squatted nakedly on his lap.
  2. (informal) A dance involving sexual movements of the hips and buttocks.
    • 2016, Jacqueline Warwick; Allison Adrian, editors, Voicing Girlhood in Popular Music[3], Routledge, →ISBN:
      It was the twerk that bounced around the world in less than a day. Sound bites from reporters said, “Miley Cyrus’s JAW-DROPPING TWERK-a-thon,” the “twerk-tacular,” “twerk-and-tongue work,” in the “twerk seen ’round the world!”


twerk (third-person singular simple present twerks, present participle twerking, simple past and past participle twerked)

  1. To twitch or jerk.
    • 1985, Criena Rohan, Down by the Docks, page 151
      [] in the language of the unsophisticated Port Melbourne suburbanite a bed was still something primarily intended for love-making – all the eyebrow-raising and moustache-twerking in Jo'burg couldn't alter that.
    • 2005, Florence Hall Abssi, The Call, page 613
      "He twerked an eyebrow at his wife."
  2. (informal) To move the body in a sexually suggestive twisting or gyrating fashion, especially as a dance.
    • 2005, Euftis Emery, Off the Chain, →ISBN, page 73,
      Gaea then stood up over me and turned so that her butt was facing me. She then had the nerve to start twerking.
    • 2006, Lawrence Christopher, Ghettoway Weekend, →ISBN, page 96,
      "Shortie really knows how to twerk it don't she?" Marcus boasted, while still recording.
    • 2006, Justin Timberlake feat. Timbaland, "SexyBack", FutureSex/LoveSounds
      Let me see what ya twerkin with
    • 2013, Nichole Smith, ABC News, High School Students Suspended for Twerking
      Twerking, as it is known in the hip-hop community, is a hard-hitting, rump-shaking dance move that celebrities including Beyonce and Miley Cyrus have been known to bust out, but it has also gotten a group of San Diego high school students suspended.
Derived termsEdit

Etymology 2Edit

Blend of twerp +‎ jerk, found primarily in the 1930s-era works of Walter Dumaux Edmonds.


twerk (plural twerks)

  1. (slang, dated, US) A puny or insignificant person, generally male; a twerp.
    • 1930, Walter Dumaux Edmonds, The Big Barn, page 207:
      "'...but when they load a pack onto you, what'll you do? A little twerk like you?'"
    • 1932, Forum and Century vol. 87 [4]:
      "But even then the poor twerk's whiskers and little eyes looked kind of wistful as if the clothes had got him and was taking him somewhere..."
    • 2003, Bernard Kamoroff, Small Time Operator [5], →ISBN, page 19,
      You don't need those twerks who walk in off the street.

Etymology 3Edit

Onomatopoeic, possibly coined by Roger Tory Peterson.


twerk (plural twerks)

  1. An abrupt call, such as that made by the California quail.
    • 1961, Roger Tory Peterson, A Field Guide to Western Birds[6], page 67:
      Note of male on territory, a loud kurr or twerk.

Further readingEdit