Origin of jerk

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)

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.


Origin of jerk

First recorded in 1700–10; back formation from jerky2
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for jerking

Contemporary Examples of jerking

  • “Everyone tonight has done an excellent job of jerking off into the darkness,” he said.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Occupy Wall Street Goes Onstage

    Allison Yarrow

    November 9, 2011

  • "You're not jerking off to Warren Beatty anymore," he tells me.

    The Daily Beast logo
    On the Peninsula

    Bryan Curtis

    April 25, 2011

Historical Examples of jerking

  • 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




to move or cause to move with an irregular or spasmodic motion
to throw, twist, pull, or push (something) abruptly or spasmodically
(tr often foll by out) to utter (words, sounds, etc) in a spasmodic, abrupt, or breathless manner


an abrupt or spasmodic movement
an irregular jolting motionthe car moved with a jerk
Also called: physical jerks (plural) British informal physical exercises
(plural) US a slang word for chorea
slang, mainly US and Canadian a person regarded with contempt, esp a stupid or ignorant person
Derived Formsjerker, nounjerking, adjective, noun

Word Origin for jerk

C16: probably variant of yerk to pull stitches tight in making a shoe; compare Old English gearcian to make ready



verb (tr)

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 for jerk

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.



"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].



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.



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

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

jerking in Medicine




To make spasmodic motions.


A sudden reflexive or spasmodic muscular movement.deep reflex
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.