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  1. the act or practice of biting one's fingernails, especially as the result of anxiety or nervousness.
  2. Informal. nervousness: The announcement that the trade agreement had been signed ended a week of nail-biting on Wall Street.
  1. Informal. causing nervousness: The nail-biting part of the canoe trip was through the stretches of white water.

Origin of nail-biting

First recorded in 1890–95
Related formsnail-bit·er, noun Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for nail-biting


  1. the act or habit of biting one's fingernails
    1. anxiety or tension
    2. (as modifier)nail-biting suspense
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