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[jurk] /dʒɜrk/
a quick, sharp pull, thrust, twist, throw, or the like; a sudden movement:
The train started with a jerk.
a spasmodic, usually involuntary, muscular movement, as the reflex action of pulling the hand away from a flame.
any sudden, quick movement of the body, as in dodging something.
Slang. a contemptibly naive, fatuous, foolish, or inconsequential person.
(in weightlifting) the raising of a weight from shoulder height to above the head by straightening the arms.
jerks, British Informal. physical jerks.
a dance, deriving from the twist, in which the dancers alternately thrust out their pelvises and their shoulders.
the jerks, paroxysms or violent spasmodic muscular movements, as resulting from excitement evoked by some religious services.
verb (used with object)
to pull, twist, move, thrust, or throw with a quick, suddenly arrested motion:
She jerked the child by the hand.
to utter in a broken, spasmodic way.
Informal. to prepare, dispense, and serve (sodas, ice cream, etc.) at a soda fountain.
verb (used without object)
to give a jerk or jerks.
to move with a quick, sharp motion; move spasmodically.
to talk in a broken, spasmodic way.
Informal. to work as a soda jerk.
to dance the jerk.
Verb phrases
jerk off, Slang: Vulgar. to masturbate.
Origin of jerk1
1540-50; 1935-40 for def 4; perhaps dialectal variant of yerk to draw stitches tight (shoemaker's term), thus making the shoe ready to wear, Old English gearcian to prepare, make ready
Related forms
jerker, noun
jerkingly, adverb


[jurk] /dʒɜrk/
verb (used with object)
to preserve (meat, especially beef) by cutting in strips and curing by drying in the sun.
being or containing a spicy seasoning mixture flavored with allspice, used especially in Jamaican cooking:
jerk sauce.
prepared with jerk flavorings, especially by barbecuing or grilling:
jerk chicken.
jerky2 .
1700-10; back formation from jerky2 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for jerking
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Barth interrupted this play of harmless chaff by jerking some remark over his shoulder.

    The Silent Barrier Louis Tracy
  • Molly was out of bed and jerking her hair-ribbons savagely loose.

    A Woman's Will Anne Warner
  • They could not hear him jerking at the end of the board, freed at last from the sleeper below.

    Frank of Freedom Hill Samuel A. Derieux
  • Ere, said he at last, jerking his head and rubbing his jaw, how the ell did you do it?

    The Rough Road William John Locke
  • "I s'pose you got that from 'im," she said, jerking her head in the direction of the wharf.

    The Hole in the Wall Arthur Morrison
  • He struck with all his force, jerking her hair at the same time.

    The Wind Before the Dawn Dell H. Munger
  • His body was jerking like a puppet of a marionette display, actuated by unseen strings.

    The Drunkard Cyril Arthur Edward Ranger Gull
  • Bandy Walker pushed to the front, jerking a forty-five from its scabbard.

    The Fighting Edge William MacLeod Raine
British Dictionary definitions for jerking


to move or cause to move with an irregular or spasmodic motion
to throw, twist, pull, or push (something) abruptly or spasmodically
(transitive) often foll by out. to utter (words, sounds, etc) in a spasmodic, abrupt, or breathless manner
an abrupt or spasmodic movement
an irregular jolting motion: the car moved with a jerk
(pl) (Brit, informal) Also called physical jerks. physical exercises
(pl) (US) a slang word for chorea
(slang, mainly US & Canadian) a person regarded with contempt, esp a stupid or ignorant person
Derived Forms
jerker, noun
jerking, adjective, noun
Word Origin
C16: probably variant of yerk to pull stitches tight in making a shoe; compare Old English gearcian to make ready


verb (transitive)
to preserve (venison, beef, etc) by cutting into thin strips and curing by drying in the sun
Also called jerky. jerked meat, esp beef
Word Origin
C18: back formation from jerky, from charqui
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for jerking



"to pull," 1540s, "to lash, strike as with a whip," of uncertain origin, perhaps echoic. Related: Jerked; jerking.

as a method of preserving meat, 1707, American English, from American Spanish carquear, from charqui (see jerky). Related: Jerked.


1550s, "stroke of a whip," from jerk (v.1). Sense of "sudden sharp pull or twist" first recorded 1570s. Meaning "involuntary spasmodic movement of limbs or features" first recorded 1805. As the name of a popular dance, it is attested from 1966. Sense in soda jerk attested from 1883, from the pulling motion required to work the taps.

"tedious and ineffectual person," 1935 (the lyric in "Big Rock Candy Mountain" apparently is "Where they hung the Turk [not jerk] that invented work"), American English carnival slang, of uncertain origin. Perhaps from jerkwater town (1878), where a steam locomotive crew had to take on boiler water from a trough or a creek because there was no water tank [Barnhart, OED]. This led 1890s to an adjectival use of jerk as "inferior, insignificant." Alternatively, or influenced by, verbal phrase jerk off "masturbate" [Rawson].

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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jerking in Medicine

jerk 1 (jûrk)
v. jerked, jerk·ing, jerks
To make spasmodic motions. n.

  1. A sudden reflexive or spasmodic muscular movement. See deep reflex.

  2. jerks Involuntary convulsive twitching often resulting from excitement. Often used with the.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for jerking



: a couple of jerk wops


  1. A short branch railroad line: a small ''jerk'' with only two locals a day (1892+)
  2. A short ride (1920s+ Cabdrivers)
  3. A tedious and ineffectual person, esp a man; fool; ninny; ass; boob, turkey: Jeez, what a jerk! (Carnival 1935+)
  4. A contemptible and obnoxious person, esp a man; asshole, bastard: Dr Johnson admired Goldsmith's literary talent, although he considered him a jerk/ A jerk not only bores you, but pats you on the shoulder as he does so (1935+)
  5. soda jerk (1923+)


jerk off (1940s+)

Related Terms

circle jerk, knee-jerk, pull someone's chain

[the derogatory term comes fr jerk off, ''masturbate''; the form soda jerker is found by 1883]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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