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See more synonyms for jerky on Thesaurus.com
adjective, jerk·i·er, jerk·i·est.
  1. characterized by jerks or sudden starts; spasmodic.
  2. Slang. silly; foolish; stupid; ridiculous.
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Origin of jerky1

First recorded in 1855–60; jerk1 + -y1
Related formsjerk·i·ly, adverbjerk·i·ness, noun


  1. meat, especially beef, that has been cut in strips and preserved by drying in the sun; jerked meat.
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Also jerk.

Origin of jerky2

1840–50, Americanism; alteration of charqui
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for jerky

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • There was no answer to his jerky, sharp call of "Barbara" and he turned on the light.

  • Both are very ancient, sadly in need of upholstery, and jerky of locomotion.

    Cy Whittaker's Place

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • David Rossi bent his head and spoke in short, jerky sentences.

  • In jerky sentences she told of the engagement and how the news had reached her.

    Keziah Coffin

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • He spoke in a jerky voice, as if he thought to overawe the boy.

    The Manxman

    Hall Caine

British Dictionary definitions for jerky


adjective jerkier or jerkiest
  1. characterized by jerks; spasmodic
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Derived Formsjerkily, adverbjerkiness, noun


  1. another word for jerk 2 (def. 2)
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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 jerky


1850, American English, from American Spanish charqui "jerked meat," from Quechua (Inca) ch'arki "dried flesh."

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"characterized by jerks," 1858, from jerk (v.1) + -y (2). Related: Jerkily; jerkiness.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper