• synonyms


See more synonyms for jerk on Thesaurus.com
  1. a quick, sharp pull, thrust, twist, throw, or the like; a sudden movement: The train started with a jerk.
  2. a spasmodic, usually involuntary, muscular movement, as the reflex action of pulling the hand away from a flame.
  3. any sudden, quick movement of the body, as in dodging something.
  4. Slang. a contemptibly naive, fatuous, foolish, or inconsequential person.
  5. (in weightlifting) the raising of a weight from shoulder height to above the head by straightening the arms.
  6. jerks, British Informal. physical jerks.
  7. a dance, deriving from the twist, in which the dancers alternately thrust out their pelvises and their shoulders.
  8. the jerks, paroxysms or violent spasmodic muscular movements, as resulting from excitement evoked by some religious services.
Show More
verb (used with object)
  1. to pull, twist, move, thrust, or throw with a quick, suddenly arrested motion: She jerked the child by the hand.
  2. to utter in a broken, spasmodic way.
  3. Informal. to prepare, dispense, and serve (sodas, ice cream, etc.) at a soda fountain.
Show More
verb (used without object)
  1. to give a jerk or jerks.
  2. to move with a quick, sharp motion; move spasmodically.
  3. to talk in a broken, spasmodic way.
  4. Informal. to work as a soda jerk.
  5. to dance the jerk.
Show More
Verb Phrases
  1. jerk off, Slang: Vulgar. to masturbate.
Show More

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 formsjerk·er, nounjerk·ing·ly, adverb


verb (used with object)
  1. to preserve (meat, especially beef) by cutting in strips and curing by drying in the sun.
Show More
  1. being or containing a spicy seasoning mixture flavored with allspice, used especially in Jamaican cooking: jerk sauce.
  2. prepared with jerk flavorings, especially by barbecuing or grilling: jerk chicken.
Show More
  1. jerky2.
Show More

Origin of jerk2

First recorded in 1700–10; back formation from jerky2
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for jerking

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • And he brought the mare to a halt by jerking the rope around her neck.

  • "But that is a real baby in there," he said, jerking an elbow toward the other room.

    The Yates Pride

    Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

  • "All gettee out," he said, jerking his thumb in the direction of the court of mystery.

    The Monster Men

    Edgar Rice Burroughs

  • He knew he was falling, jerking down as the parachute ripped on the boughs.

    Raiders Invisible

    Desmond Winter Hall

  • And, jerking his head back towards the room behind him, "Guv'nor's got it now."

    The Burning Spear

    John Galsworthy

British Dictionary definitions for jerking


  1. to move or cause to move with an irregular or spasmodic motion
  2. to throw, twist, pull, or push (something) abruptly or spasmodically
  3. (tr often foll by out) to utter (words, sounds, etc) in a spasmodic, abrupt, or breathless manner
Show More
  1. an abrupt or spasmodic movement
  2. an irregular jolting motionthe car moved with a jerk
  3. Also called: physical jerks (plural) British informal physical exercises
  4. (plural) US a slang word for chorea
  5. slang, mainly US and Canadian a person regarded with contempt, esp a stupid or ignorant person
Show More
Derived Formsjerker, nounjerking, 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 (tr)
  1. to preserve (venison, beef, etc) by cutting into thin strips and curing by drying in the sun
Show More
  1. Also called: jerky jerked meat, esp beef
Show More

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

Word Origin and History for jerking



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

Show More



"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].

Show More



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.

Show More



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

Show More
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

jerking in Medicine


  1. To make spasmodic motions.
Show More