Also found in: Thesaurus, Medical, Idioms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.


a. Of or relating to the nerves or nervous system: nervous tissue.
b. Stemming from or affecting the nerves or nervous system: a nervous disorder.
2. Easily agitated or distressed; high-strung or jumpy.
3. Marked by or having a feeling of unease or apprehension: nervous moments before takeoff.
4. Vigorous in style or feeling; spirited: "the nervous thrust of a modern creation" (Henry A. Kissinger).
5. Archaic Strong; sinewy.

[Middle English, sinewy, containing nerves, from Latin nervōsus, sinewy, from nervus, sinew; see nerve.]

nerv′ous·ly adv.
nerv′ous·ness n.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.




  1. All nervous and jerky like a windup toy or maybe a cockroach on its back, waving its legs and trying to turn over —George Garrett
  2. Clucked nervously, like a mongoose —Romain Gary
  3. Excitable … like a little rooster —Irwin Shaw
  4. (Sat there open-mouthed,) feeling the nerves of his body twitter like so many sparrows perched upon his spinal column —F.Scott Fitzgerald
  5. Felt as if she were on the edge of a frozen pond, forced to go forward and not knowing how thick the ice was —Donald MacKenzie
  6. Felt as if someone had taken a vegetable peeler to my nerves —T. Coraghessan Boyle
  7. His nerves set themselves on edge like soured teeth —H. E. Bates
  8. His stomach felt like a volcano about to erupt —Andrew Kaplan
  9. It’s (persistent feeling of impending insanity) like my head’s in a vice and all the assholes of the world are turning the goddam handle —Thomas Williams
  10. Jumpy as a goat —James Thurber
  11. Jumpy as a greyhound —Wallace Stegner
  12. Jumpy as a jumping bean —Anon
  13. Lived like an exposed nerve —Rita Mae Brown
  14. Looked … like a nervous rabbit nibbling the smell of a gun barrel —Paul Theroux
  15. Nerves burned like open sores on a dog’s neck —Hunter S. Thompson
  16. Nerves like a bundle of firecrackers —Amy Lowell

    Lowell’s poem, Rosebud Wall-Paper, from which this is taken was written in country dialogue, with ‘of written as ‘o’.

  17. Nerves like new thread —John Updike
  18. Nerves tied in small, intricate knots, like embroidery stitching —Jean Thompson
  19. (In rapid motion, bright,) nervous as a butterfly —Marge Piercy
  20. Nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof —Anon

    In a television interview playwright Tennessee Williams stated that his father always used this phrase which became the title for one of his best known plays. It also served as a line for one of the leading characters, Maggie. During the interview Williams credited this and many other colorful phrases to Southern Blacks.

  21. Nervous as a coyote in a pen —W. P. Kinsella
  22. Nervous as a dog with a bone —Ben Hecht
  23. Nervous as a hamster —Reynolds Price
  24. Nervous as a kitten with a duck for a foster mother —Victor Canning
  25. Nervous as a whore in church —American colloquialism
  26. Nervous as a will o’-the-wisp —F. Scott Fitzgerald
  27. On edge, like some restless night —Yasunari Kawabata
  28. (They felt everything, feared everything, started back at the snapping of a twig, all their) senses strained like those of nervous explorers cautiously advancing, hand on cocked trigger, into an unknown jungle —Dorothy Canfield Fisher
  29. Shuddering and wary, like horses bewildered by lightning —Ted Hughes

    Hughes’ poem, A Wind Flashes the Grass, links the comparison of the wary horses to trees suddenly silent and motionless.

  30. White and shaken, like a dry martini —P. G. Wodehouse
  31. Wriggle nervously like captive fish —Margaret Millar
Similes Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1988 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.nervousness - the anxious feeling you have when you have the jitters
anxiety - a vague unpleasant emotion that is experienced in anticipation of some (usually ill-defined) misfortune
2.nervousness - an uneasy psychological statenervousness - an uneasy psychological state; "he suffered an attack of nerves"
mental condition, mental state, psychological condition, psychological state - (psychology) a mental condition in which the qualities of a state are relatively constant even though the state itself may be dynamic; "a manic state"
heebie-jeebies, jitters, screaming meemies - extreme nervousness
mental strain, nervous strain, strain - (psychology) nervousness resulting from mental stress; "his responsibilities were a constant strain"; "the mental strain of staying alert hour after hour was too much for him"
3.nervousness - a sensitive or highly strung temperament
disposition, temperament - your usual mood; "he has a happy disposition"
queasiness, restlessness, uneasiness - inability to rest or relax or be still
skittishness, restiveness - characterized by nervousness and quickness to take fright
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.


noun anxiety, stress, tension, strain, unease, disquiet, agitation, trepidation, timidity, excitability, perturbation, edginess, worry, jumpiness, antsiness (informal) I smiled in an attempt to hide my nervousness.
Collins Thesaurus of the English Language – Complete and Unabridged 2nd Edition. 2002 © HarperCollins Publishers 1995, 2002


The American Heritage® Roget's Thesaurus. Copyright © 2013, 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


[ˈnɜːvəsnɪs] N (= apprehension, timidity) → nerviosismo m; (= fear) → miedo m
his nervousness of flyingsu miedo a volar
Collins Spanish Dictionary - Complete and Unabridged 8th Edition 2005 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1971, 1988 © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2003, 2005


[ˈnɜːrvəsnɪs] n
(= anxiety) → nervosité f
nervousness about sth → nervosité quant à qch
nervousness about the future → nervosité quant à l'avenir
There was nervousness in the White House about what might happen → La nervosité régnait à la Maison Blanche dans l'attente de ce qui allait bien pouvoir se passer.
(= lack of courage) → nervosité f
to conquer one's nervousness → vaincre sa nervositénervous system nsystème m nerveuxnervous wreck n
to be a nervous wreck → être à bout de nerfs
Collins English/French Electronic Resource. © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


nÄngstlichkeit f; (= edgy state)Nervosität f; his nervousness about flyingseine Angst vor dem Fliegen
Collins German Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 7th Edition 2005. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1980 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2007


[ˈnɜːvəsnɪs] nnervosismo; (anxiousness) → ansia
Collins Italian Dictionary 1st Edition © HarperCollins Publishers 1995


(nəːv) noun
1. one of the cords which carry messages between all parts of the body and the brain.
2. courage. He must have needed a lot of nerve to do that; He lost his nerve.
3. rudeness. What a nerve!
to force (oneself) to have enough courage (to do something). He nerved himself to climb the high tower.
nerves noun plural
the condition of being too easily excited or upset. She suffers from nerves.
ˈnervous adjective
1. of the nerves. the nervous system.
2. rather afraid. She was nervous about travelling by air; a nervous old lady.
ˈnervously adverb
ˈnervousness noun
ˈnervy adjective
excitable. The horse is rather nervy.
ˈnerviness noun
ˈnerve-racking adjective
causing great anxiety or nervousness. a nerve-racking experience.
nervous breakdown
a period of mental illness caused by a time of great strain.
nervous system
the brain, spinal cord and nerves of a person or animal.
get on someone's nerves
to irritate someone. Her behaviour really gets on my nerves.
Kernerman English Multilingual Dictionary © 2006-2013 K Dictionaries Ltd.


n. nerviosismo, nerviosidad.
English-Spanish Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012


n nerviosismo
English-Spanish/Spanish-English Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in classic literature ?
He did not mention this to his daughter, but Natasha noticed her father's nervousness and anxiety and felt mortified by it.
I could see that Lilla began to suffer from nervousness, as on the first occasion; but she carried herself bravely.
I have no doubt that it was largely nervousness that kept the mysterious playwright so long fumbling behind the scenes, for it was obvious that it would be no ordinary sort of play, no every-day domestic drama, that would satisfy this young lady, to whom life had given, by way of prologue, the inestimable blessing of wealth, and the privilege, as a matter of course, of choosing as she would among the grooms (that is, the bride-grooms) of the romantic British aristocracy.
But the valley grew narrow and narrower still, And the evening got darker and colder, Till (merely from nervousness, not from goodwill) They marched along shoulder to shoulder.
Afterwards, he added, as he grew older, all that nervousness wore off completely; and I observed his weary eyes gaze steadily ahead, as if there had been nothing between him and the straight line of sea and sky, where whatever a seaman is looking for is first bound to appear.
One day, Jimmie came home, sat down in a chair and began to wriggle about with a new and strange nervousness. At last he spoke shamefacedly.
The first time Stubb lowered with him, Pip evinced much nervousness; but happily, for that time, escaped close contact with the whale; and therefore came off not altogether discreditably; though Stubb observing him, took care, afterwards, to exhort him to cherish his courageousness to the utmost, for he might often find it needful.
But the nervousness that assailed him at the door of that inglorious haunt - a pawnshop - and the effort necessary to invent the pseudonym (which, somehow, seemed to him a necessary part of the procedure), had taken more time than he imagined: and when he returned to the billiard-room with the spoils, the bank had already closed its doors.
Next a band of ragged workmen met me, and jostled me boorishly as they passed; upon which nervousness overtook me, and I felt uneasy, and tried hard not to think of the money that was my errand.
His oddness of speech, his gaucheries, his ignorances and nervousness had all been so lightly treated that they had been brushed away almost insensibly.
"It is merely nervousness," she said with chattering teeth.
He was very red in the face, whether from the cool November night or nervousness, and every movement, from the way he wrung his hands to the way he jerked his head to right and left, as though a vision drew him now to the door, now to the window, bespoke his horrible discomfort under the stare of so many eyes.