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  1. highly excitable; unnaturally or acutely uneasy or apprehensive: to become nervous under stress.
  2. of or relating to the nerves: nervous tension.
  3. affecting the nerves: nervous diseases.
  4. suffering from, characterized by, or originating in disordered nerves.
  5. characterized by or attended with acute uneasiness or apprehension: a nervous moment for us all.
  6. having or containing nerves.
  7. sinewy or strong.
  8. Archaic. vigorous or spirited.

Origin of nervous

1350–1400; Middle English < Latin nervōsus sinewy, equivalent to nerv(us) nerve + -ōsus -ous
Related formsnerv·ous·ly, adverbnerv·ous·ness, nounnon·ner·vous, adjectivenon·ner·vous·ly, adverbnon·ner·vous·ness, nouno·ver·nerv·ous, adjectiveo·ver·nerv·ous·ly, adverbo·ver·nerv·ous·ness, nounsem·i·nerv·ous, adjectivesem·i·nerv·ous·ly, adverbsem·i·nerv·ous·ness, nounun·nerv·ous, adjectiveun·nerv·ous·ly, adverbun·nerv·ous·ness, noun

Synonyms for nervous

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Antonyms for nervous Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for nervousness

Contemporary Examples of nervousness

Historical Examples of nervousness

  • It is nothing but nervousness and fright at that horrible firing.

  • Suddenly she tore it open, her hands unsteady with nervousness.

    The Fortune Hunter

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • A cold rage of nervousness beset her, so overpowering that she herself was amazed at it.

    Tiverton Tales

    Alice Brown

  • She misunderstood: he laughed, but his nervousness was genuine.

    Alice Adams

    Booth Tarkington

  • Lately, he had half confessed to her what a nervousness she had produced.

    Alice Adams

    Booth Tarkington

British Dictionary definitions for nervousness


  1. very excitable or sensitive; highly strung
  2. (often foll by of) apprehensive or worriedI'm nervous of traffic
  3. of, relating to, or containing nerves; neuralnervous tissue
  4. affecting the nerves or nervous tissuea nervous disease
  5. archaic active, vigorous, or forceful
Derived Formsnervously, adverbnervousness, noun
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 nervousness



c.1400, "affecting the sinews," from Latin nervosus "sinewy, vigorous," from nervus "sinew, nerve" (see nerve). Meaning "of or belonging to the nerves" in the modern sense is from 1660s. Meaning "suffering disorder of the nervous system" is from 1734; illogical sense "restless, agitated, lacking nerve" is 1740. Widespread popular use as a euphemism for mental forced the medical community to coin neurological to replace it in the older sense. Nervous wreck first attested 1862. Related: Nervously; nervousness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

nervousness in Medicine


  1. Of or relating to the nerves or nervous system.
  2. Stemming from or affecting the nerves or nervous system, as a disease.
  3. Easily agitated or distressed.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.