Definition of nerve in US English:

nerve

noun

  • 1(in the body) a whitish fiber or bundle of fibers that transmits impulses of sensation to the brain or spinal cord, and impulses from these to the muscles and organs.

    ‘the optic nerve’
    • ‘The spinal cord threads through the centre of each vertebra, carrying nerves from the brain to the rest of the body.’
    • ‘The peripheral nervous system includes cranial and peripheral nerves and associated ganglia.’
    • ‘Heat on the skin, for example, results in chemical and electrical signals being sent through peripheral sensory nerves to the dorsal horn of the spinal cord.’
    • ‘Your spinal cord runs down through your vertebrae, and nerves pass through gaps in the spinal column.’
    • ‘As a result of these changes, the spinal canal may narrow and compress the spinal cord and nerves to the arms.’
    • ‘With this singular exception, the sensory or dorsal root of spinal nerves is always larger than the motor or ventral root.’
    • ‘Paired nerves from the brain and ganglia innervate the body.’
    • ‘Mind and body is connected through nerves, muscle and bone.’
    • ‘Internally, there are muscles, nerves, and connective tissues.’
    • ‘The sensory nerve, arising from the branches of the superior laryngeal nerve, innervates the mucous membrane of the larynx.’
    • ‘At each level of the spine, main nerves join the spinal cord from specific parts of the body.’
    • ‘Multiple sclerosis is a degenerative nerve disease that damages the protective fatty sheath around nerves in the brain and spinal cord.’
    • ‘Our skin protects the network of muscles, bones, nerves, blood vessels, and everything else inside our bodies.’
    • ‘There is an initial multiplication of the virus in the local musculature and spread via motor or sensory nerves to the spinal cord and brain.’
    • ‘The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body.’
    • ‘Tetanus, also known as lockjaw, is a serious but preventable disease that affects the body's muscles and nerves.’
    • ‘The axons of both classes of interneuron enter the brain via the ocellar nerve, which also carries the axons of efferent neurons.’
    • ‘MRI may be used to make images of every part of the body, including the bones, joints, blood vessels, nerves, muscles and organs.’
    • ‘MS is a chronic, progressive neurological disease that involves the loss of myelin from nerves in the brain and spinal cord.’
    • ‘Once you're infected, the virus spreads from your muscle to your peripheral nerves to your spinal cord and brain.’
    nerve fibre
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  • 2often one's nerveA person's steadiness, courage, and sense of purpose when facing a demanding situation.

    ‘an amazing journey that tested her nerves to the full’
    ‘the army's commanders were beginning to lose their nerve’
    ‘I got up the nerve to ask Miss Kinnian to have dinner with me’
    • ‘As the difference between humans and robots dissolves, do not succumb to paranoia, do not lose your nerve.’
    • ‘In his 46th consecutive season of racing, Smith's performance was a tribute to how well he has maintained his physical skills and kept his nerve.’
    • ‘While the 34-year-old golf unknown kept his nerve on a tough final day at Rochester, the shakers and movers of world golf crumbled behind him.’
    • ‘Silence roared between them until he finally got up the nerve.’
    • ‘It was a tense last few moments but Rovers kept their nerve.’
    • ‘Well, the immaculately turned-up students and executives of the hospitality industry kept their nerve.’
    • ‘The only way America can lose, in this view, is if we lose our nerve.’
    • ‘Sean Kavanagh, having been quite for long periods, came good in the closing minutes and kept his nerve to kick the levelling point.’
    • ‘And the youngster kept his nerve to strike two more penalties, which sealed the fate of the by now hard-pressed Castlemen.’
    • ‘After all, if I lose my nerve so early in the game, just imagine what they'll say back at the paint factory.’
    • ‘He has kept his nerve and picked a difficult policy area - you could say the most difficult for a modern Labor leader - in which to take on the government.’
    • ‘Though things were desperate at this stage with David unable to get his grandfather up from the floor, he kept his nerve.’
    • ‘He says he chose Shakespeare's earliest comedy because ‘you slightly lose your nerve with Shakespeare’ in such a hiatus.’
    • ‘But if we lose our nerve now, it may take centuries to recover the resolve to assert law over violence.’
    • ‘I am going to take Millie, unless I lose my nerve.’
    • ‘Kevin got up the nerve to ask Terry for her home number.’
    • ‘But he kept his nerve, geed up the bus system and forced it through at a time when he was politically vulnerable before the mayoral elections.’
    • ‘But it's so easy to lose your nerve and your voice to the people who are shouting the loudest, even if you know in your heart what they are shouting is garbage.’
    • ‘So at this precise moment where others would lose their nerve, bottle and audience, he did what separates mere amateurs from The Greats like himself.’
    • ‘People lose their nerve in the middle of a sentence and walk off muttering, they sit and brood by themselves, and best yet, all the time, people are getting stupid drunk.’
    self-confidence, confidence, assurance, self-assurance, coolness, cool-headedness, self-possession
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    1. 2.1informal Impudence or audacity.
      ‘he had the nerve to insult my cooking’
      in singular ‘you've got a nerve coming here’
      • ‘All sights, all things which are Lhasa's own beauty and peculiarity, would have to be seen by the lone woman explorer who had had the nerve to come to them from afar, the first of her sex.’
      • ‘Then she had the nerve to call my dreadlocks cute.’
      • ‘One of them had the nerve to tell me that the election was too close.’
      • ‘Today very nearly featured a mercy mission to the local hospital, until the patient in question had the nerve to be discharged before Lisa and I could turn up with the grapes.’
      • ‘Then he had the nerve to start hovering around the turntables.’
      • ‘She actually had the nerve to be sarcastic with me this morning, which meant I said goodbye immediately to ms-nice-woman personality.’
      • ‘And then they had the nerve to get snarky with me when I said they damn well better not.’
      • ‘Someone even had the nerve to ask me why I did what I did that morning, suggesting there was something odd or wrong in my daringly unconventional and intensely original appearance.’
      • ‘I'm glad someone had the nerve to write what they really think.’
      • ‘Most readers will probably think me petty and wonder at how I have had the nerve to bring my personal grievances into the world of scholarly discourse, and yet all of this is very much to the point.’
      • ‘But the stupid man had the nerve to tell Bel something equally disgusting upon hearing that Bel was her husband.’
      • ‘Yes, he actually said ‘disassemble’ - and then had the nerve to be snotty about it and define it.’
      • ‘I haven't had the nerve to tell her I'm also crushing on him.’
      • ‘Three years back, I wouldn't have had the nerve to kneel down in public and feed a stray cat by myself, while people edged around me.’
      • ‘‘She had the nerve to lecture me about morals on the programme and now look at her,’ she said.’
      • ‘We then made our way inside, where we were abused by the receptionist, who clearly wasn't happy that we didn't have a degree in bingo procedure and had the nerve to ask her what to do.’
      • ‘I only wish I had the nerve to try some of the more hair-raising pastimes enjoyed by some of our older citizens, but am far too much of a coward and layabout!’
      • ‘In any case, I figure he is due the embarrassment given that he had the nerve to compare my beloved Moleskine to his dollar-notebook.’
      • ‘He, that horrible horrible man, had the nerve to nuzzle her neck!’
      • ‘I am so angry they even had the nerve to appeal in the first place.’
      audacity, cheek, barefaced cheek, effrontery, gall, temerity, presumption, presumptuousness, boldness, brazenness, impudence, impertinence, insolence, pertness, forwardness, front, arrogance, cockiness
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  • 3nervesNervousness or anxiety.

    ‘his first-night nerves soon disappeared’
    • ‘My stomach was dancing in nervousness; my nerves tense and wrought.’
    • ‘Medicated for her nerves, she shakes as she recounts violent attacks she suffered at the hands of the man who once vowed to love, honour and cherish her forever.’
    • ‘It is rare, if now surreal, for a reviewer to suffer first night nerves but that was the case for yours truly on Monday night.’
    • ‘I don't normally get stage fright or nerves before a performance but today I'm like a child on Christmas Eve.’
    • ‘But this may have been an attack of literary nerves because he feared the poem would not be taken seriously unless it appeared to hang together as a coherent whole.’
    • ‘A touch of first night nerves hit the more experienced actors hardest, as one might expect but no doubt they disappeared as the week progressed.’
    • ‘He was visibly, rather endearingly, anxious, shaking with nerves at some points; she kept erupting into fits of maniacal chuckles at some secret joke.’
    • ‘But her nerves soon turned to relief when she learnt she had scored four As.’
    • ‘His voice was formal yet kind with a hint of nerves, for nervous he was.’
    • ‘First-night nerves aside, what she fears most is being left alone… without her Tim.’
    • ‘Waiting to bat in a dressing-room taut with silence, he shook with nerves, but once out in the middle things seemed clearer: 18 to win and four wickets left.’
    • ‘The same nerves and tingles that I would get before a game when I was young made me nervous now those same nerves make me excited.’
    • ‘I don't know about nerves and tension but we were low before the game, we've been low all week but it wasn't all negative - we were positive about winning the game.’
    • ‘There were perhaps inevitably some first-night nerves last night, but these were overcome by an excellent display of team spirit.’
    • ‘Although only three points short of their 40-point safety target with seven games to play, they are anxious to settle their nerves as quickly as possible.’
    • ‘When we would do a show we worked so hard together and went through everything together including the first night nerves and the elation when everything went right.’
    • ‘He added that a slow striptease over the rehearsal months would help quash first-night nerves.’
    • ‘It is a punishing consequence of their defeat by Greece on the opening day, when their problems were first-night nerves and a lack of competitive-match practice.’
    • ‘I think live radio is a permanent state (damn, here's a taxi bearing down on me) of first-night nerves.’
    • ‘Perhaps that explained her nerves: Claire were nervous that she may have to give some sort of speech.’
    anxiety, tension, nervousness, nervous tension, strain, tenseness, stress, worry, cold feet
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  • 4Botany
    A prominent unbranched rib in a leaf, especially in the midrib of the leaf of a moss.

verb

nerve oneself
  • Brace oneself mentally to face a demanding situation.

    ‘she nerved herself to enter the room’
    • ‘Soon this chaos will become the magazine, and to nerve myself up, I'm sipping a take-out coffee.’
    • ‘They flinch at the sound of that laugh, but they keep edging forward, nerving themselves for the final rush.’
    • ‘We just have to nerve ourselves up, overcome the surprising yet overwhelming craving for some beta-blockers and a Marlboro Red, and do the best we can.’
    • ‘I nerve myself to pursue this contradiction anyway.’
    • ‘I concentrated on an image of Autumn's exquisite, frightened visage, nerving myself.’
    • ‘Why, to nerve herself for an adulterous affair, does she reread The Red and the Black in English?’
    • ‘She developed a particular interest in helping to update the Internet pages and she seemed to be nerving herself to buy her first computer so that she could get on the Internet at home.’
    • ‘I nerved myself and glanced down at the knife through my leg.’
    • ‘Again she nerved herself to search him over, hoping to and finding his I.D. tag.’
    • ‘Now nerve yourself for the revelations in his latest diary.’
    • ‘Then Eder, a brilliant forward with a reputation for fierce shooting, ran at goalkeeper Alan Rough, who nerved himself to deal with a powerful shot.’
    • ‘I was a little alarmed by her at first, but later nerved myself to argue with her.’
    • ‘But after I'd dragged myself out of bed this afternoon and nerved myself to replay what I somehow knew was bound to be bad news, I pressed the button and heard.’
    brace oneself, steel oneself, gather muster one's courage, gather up one's courage, screw muster one's courage, screw up one's courage, summon muster one's courage, summon up one's courage, screw one's courage to the sticking place, gear oneself up, prepare oneself, get in the right frame of mind
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Phrases

  • bag (or bundle) of nerves

    • informal Someone who is extremely anxious or tense.

      ‘when her relationship started getting serious, she became a bag of nerves’
      • ‘I think it's odd how a succession of good, competent defenders have turned into bags of nerves who make mistakes within a month of playing next to Bramble.’
      • ‘The character on bass, who I believe is Eric Melvin from NOFX, makes a fine MC, nicely managing the exits and entrances of various drunkards, narcissists, and bags of nerves.’
      restless person, bundle of nerves
      View synonyms
  • get on someone's nerves

    • informal Irritate or annoy someone.

      • ‘They used to run a really annoying ad for a German beer all the time during the Tour de France 6 or 7 years back that got on my nerves but at least it wasn't on my dime.’
      • ‘This boyfriend's clothes get on your nerves because you have to find something safe to be irritated by, rather than him in general.’
      • ‘If I had my way, there really would be no problem with cuffing these kids round the ear if they got on your nerves.’
      • ‘‘Smash the place up’, they suggested, when the lighting and the wooden fittings got on their nerves.’
      • ‘It just had trouble with some websites, and that got on my nerves.’
      • ‘And the strange camera angles they used to make the hobbits look smaller than everyone else really got on my nerves.’
      • ‘Fair enough, she has good cause, but it really got on my nerves after a while.’
      • ‘The wind howling was really getting on her nerves, and if she didn't drown it out soon, she was going to start yelling at it.’
      • ‘Totally devoid of any natural or scenic beauty, this sleepy town got on my nerves.’
      • ‘This went well for a while, but eventually the accents of the invaders just really got on their nerves and they were asked to leave.’
      irritate, annoy, irk, anger, bother, vex, provoke, displease, upset, exasperate, infuriate, gall, get someone's back up, put someone's back up, put out, pique, rankle with, nettle, needle, ruffle someone's feathers, stroke someone's hair the wrong way, make someone's hackles rise, try someone's patience
      View synonyms
  • have nerves of steel

    • Not be easily upset or frightened.

      • ‘Of course, I might also add that M.L. has nerves of steel and may be the calmest human in a crisis I've ever known.’
      • ‘Say whatever you want about Russia, but their scientists have nerves of steel.’
      • ‘This might deter some golfers but not Nora who has nerves of steel when it comes to getting the birdies and pars.’
      • ‘You must have nerves of steel to be a Great Britain supporter, because the team will put you through an emotional rollercoaster.’
      • ‘They play with tremendous heart, have nerves of steel and show the composure of teams of more maturity.’
      • ‘Prices are getting out of hand, and if you want to do business, you must have nerves of steel.’
      • ‘Investors in companies involved in digital music technology need to have nerves of steel as share prices are notoriously volatile, according to analysts.’
      • ‘I have nerves of steel and the flinty-eyed steadiness of a hit man; in general, but particularly in corner shops in Peckham.’
      • ‘You also have to have nerves of steel as you're followed about the shop floor by posses of devilishly stylish assistants who look as thought they could moonlight as supermodels; they have enough attitude to reduce the timid to tears.’
      • ‘In fact you have to have nerves of steel at times to live here at all.’
  • strain every nerve

    • Make every possible effort.

      • ‘He that will not respond to its accents, and strain every nerve to carry into effect its provisions, is unworthy of the name of free man.’
      • ‘Their absence is adequately compensated by men and women, who strain every nerve to attract the attention of the audience.’
      • ‘Here I was straining every nerve and muscle to follow the ideal of celibacy, while the most highly regarded proponents of the path couldn't hack it themselves!’
      • ‘I can remember as Education Minister over thirty years ago, asking my Department to strain every nerve to find qualified Aboriginals who could teach Aboriginals in schools throughout the Northern Territory.’
      • ‘And thus he was sure that if he strained every nerve to feel calm, she would also feel this sense of calm.’
      • ‘The organisers and the office-bearers have strained every nerve possible to make the tournament a resounding success.’
      • ‘A high operations tempo means that generals, understandably, strain every nerve to keep frontline units manned with the best people - even if that scants the educational system of teachers and top students.’
      • ‘She smiled bravely, straining every nerve within her, to hold back the grief she felt growing inside.’
      • ‘Even at this late stage we want to strain every nerve to avoid military action.’
      • ‘I shall hope against hope, I shall strain every nerve to achieve an honourable settlement for my country if I can do so without having to put the millions of my countrymen and countrywomen and even children through this ordeal of fire.’
      struggle, labour, toil, make a supreme effort, make every effort, spare no effort, strain every nerve, try very hard, strive, break one's back, drive oneself to the limit, push oneself to the limit, do one's best
      View synonyms
  • touch (or hit) a nerve (or a raw nerve)

    • Provoke a reaction by referring to a sensitive topic.

      ‘there are signs that some comments strike a raw nerve’
      • ‘And I think he touched a nerve, which is why we're seeing so much reaction, not just in the media but on Capitol Hill, as you just showed.’
      • ‘So when Vince is hired by a suspicious husband to find out if his wife is having an affair, it's a case that's touches a raw nerve.’
      • ‘When discussions about ‘vision’ spiral out from the rarefied policy circles of Washington into the editorial pages of mainstream newspapers, you know that topic has hit a nerve.’
      • ‘You've touched a nerve with this topic and it smarts.’
      • ‘Clearly I have touched a nerve as you can tell from reading Aaron's comment.’
      • ‘Well, I agree with the previous comment that he hit a nerve.’
      • ‘Sometimes, the interview, which is often recorded in a single take, touches a raw nerve; hard-nosed politicians have been known to shed a tear upon reminiscing about an aspect of their past that has a special significance for them.’
      • ‘Residents had been unable to reach the bodies for nearly a week, touching a nerve because Islam requires immediate burial of the dead.’
      • ‘‘The prison issue and the hunger strike hits a nerve with nationalists, and in particular, republicans,’ said another senior republican.’
      • ‘Boutin's comments touched a nerve that was already close to the surface, and my observations are directed towards a greater cultural issue.’
  • war of nerves

    • A struggle in which opponents try to wear each other down by psychological means.

      • ‘The terror group also focuses on conducting a war of nerves.’
      • ‘Are we to be shown how the war of nerves could have ended?’
      • ‘It's a war of nerves for the players and the coaches right now.’
      • ‘The clubs have started a mutual war of nerves, accusing each other of fixing matches and corrupting referees.’
      • ‘In the current war of nerves, it is the Korean people who stand to suffer.’
      • ‘In most respects it was a war of nerves as well as words.’
      • ‘The selling agent, Jordan, expects a war of nerves and resources.’
      • ‘War in the jungle is very largely a war of nerves.’
      • ‘The war of nerves testing the three principal candidates for victory in the 2000 Tour De France reaches a climax tomorrow, when the race heads into the Pyrenees.’
      • ‘You've waged a war of nerves, but you can't crush the kingdom’

Origin

Late Middle English (also in the sense ‘tendon, sinew’): from Latin nervus; related to Greek neuron ‘nerve’ (see neuron).

Pronunciation

nerve

/nərv//nərv/