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See more synonyms for nettle on Thesaurus.com
  1. any plant of the genus Urtica, covered with stinging hairs.Compare nettle family.
  2. any of various allied or similar plants.
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verb (used with object), net·tled, net·tling.
  1. to irritate, annoy, or provoke.
  2. to sting as a nettle does.
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  1. grasp the nettle, Australian. to undertake or tackle an unpleasant task.
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Origin of nettle

before 900; Middle English; Old English netele (noun); cognate with Dutch netel, German Nessel, Norwegian netla
Related formsnet·tle·like, adjectivenet·tler, nounnet·tly, adjectiveun·net·tled, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for nettle

tiff, sting, pique, rile, snit, irritate, pet, pester, goad, vex, insult, disgust, annoy, ruffle, exasperate, get, roil, stew, fret, chafe

Examples from the Web for nettle

Historical Examples of nettle

  • Better be a nettle in the side of your friend than his echo.

    Essays, First Series

    Ralph Waldo Emerson

  • He had his cattle and his wild pot-herbs, such as the mugwort and the nettle.

  • She drew a long breath of desperation and grasped the nettle firmly.


    Louis Joseph Vance

  • Then she bruised every nettle with her bare feet and plaited the green flax.

  • Mullein and nettle, henbane and wormwood, all are English emigrants.

British Dictionary definitions for nettle


  1. any weedy plant of the temperate urticaceous genus Urtica, such as U. dioica (stinging nettle), having serrated leaves with stinging hairs and greenish flowers
  2. any of various other urticaceous plants with stinging hairs or spines
  3. any of various plants that resemble urticaceous nettles, such as the dead-nettle, hemp nettle, and horse nettle
  4. grasp the nettle to attempt or approach something with boldness and courage
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verb (tr)
  1. to bother; irritate
  2. to sting as a nettle does
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Derived Formsnettle-like, adjectivenettly, adjective

Word Origin for nettle

Old English netele; related to Old High German nazza (German Nessel)
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 nettle


stinging plant, Old English netele, from Proto-Germanic *natilon (cf. Old Saxon netila, Middle Dutch netele, Dutch netel, German Nessel, M.Da. nædlæ "nettle"), diminutive of *naton, perhaps from PIE root *ned- "to twist, knot" (see net (n.)). "[N]ettles or plants of closely related genera such as hemp were used as a source of fiber" [Watkins].

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c.1400, "to beat with nettles," from nettle (n.). Figurative sense of "irritate, provoke" is from 1560s. Related: Nettled; nettling.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper