American English

Definition of nerve noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



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  1. 1[countable] any of the long threads that carry messages between the brain and parts of the body, enabling you to move, feel pain, etc. the optic nerve He's off work with a pinched nerve in his neck. nerve cells nerve endings Every nerve in her body was tense.
  2. 2nerves [plural] feelings of worry or anxiety Even after years as a singer, he still suffers from nerves before a performance. I need something to calm/steady my nerves. Everyone's nerves were on edge (= everyone felt tense ). By the end of the meal her nerves were completely frayed.
  3. 3[uncountable] the courage to do something difficult or dangerous synonym guts It took a lot of nerve to take the company to court. I was going to try parachuting but lost my nerve at the last minute.
  4. 4[singular, uncountable] (informal) a way of behaving that other people think is rude or not appropriate I don't know how you have the nerve to show your face after what you said! He has some nerve asking us for money! “Then she demanded to see the manager!” “What nerve!
  5. Idioms
    be a bag/bundle of nerves (informal)
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    to be very nervous
    get on somebody's nerves (informal)
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    to annoy someone That music is starting to get on my nerves. It really gets on my nerves when people hang up without leaving a message.
    have nerves of steel
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    to be able to remain calm in a difficult or dangerous situation
    hit/touch a (raw/sensitive) nerve
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    to mention a subject that makes someone feel angry, upset, embarrassed, etc. You touched a raw nerve when you mentioned his first wife.
    strain every nerve/sinew (to do something) (formal)
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    to try as hard as you can to do something He strained every nerve to snatch victory from defeat.
    a war of nerves
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    an attempt to defeat your opponents by putting pressure on them so that they lose courage or confidence
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: nerve