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nudge

1
[ nuhj ]
/ nʌdʒ /
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See synonyms for: nudge / nudged / nudging on Thesaurus.com

verb (used with object), nudged, nudg·ing.

to push slightly or gently, especially with the elbow, to get someone's attention, prod someone into action, etc.

verb (used without object), nudged, nudg·ing.

to give a nudge.

noun

a slight or gentle push or jog, especially with the elbow.

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Origin of nudge

1
1665–75; variant of dial. (k)nidge, akin to Old English cnucian, cnocian to knock
nudger, noun

Definition for nudge (2 of 2)

nudge2

or noodge, nudzh

[ nooj ]
/ nʊdʒ /

verb (used with object), nudged, nudg·ing.

to annoy with persistent complaints, criticisms, or pleas; nag: He was always nudging his son to move to a better neighborhood.

verb (used without object), nudged, nudg·ing.

to nag, whine, or carp.

noun

a person who nudges; pest.

Origin of nudge

2
1875–80; <Yiddish, stem of nudyen to bore <Polish nudzić;cf. nudnik
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

BEHIND THE WORD

Where does the word nudge come from?

As our definitions show above, nudge is a verb meaning “to push slightly or gently, specifically with an elbow when doing so literally, in order to get someone’s attention or to prod someone along.” A nudge is also a noun, meaning “a slight or gentle push or jog, especially with the elbow.”

But as far as we’re concerned, the origin of the word nudge could certainly stand to budge, as it’s often considered obscure.

However, we suspect nudge, found by 1665–75, comes from a dialectical variation of knidge or nidge, related to the Old English cnucian or cnocian, meaning “to knock.” Every now and again, maybe a stubborn word origin just needs a little … nudge.

Nudge isn’t alone: it finds lots of company in other English words that seem simple but whose origins are not. Discover more in our slideshow “‘Dog,’ ‘Boy,’ And Other Words That We Don’t Know Where They Came From.”

Did you know … ?

A nudge can be an annoying push (e.g., The guy behind me in line kept nudging me with his elbow). Or, a nudge can be a friendly, gentle reminder, as in I couldn’t figure out what the right answer was so my teacher gave me a little nudge in the right direction.

Nudge has a homograph in the word nudge, pronounced [ nooj ] and sometimes spelled noodge or nudzh. This nudge, referring to nagging, comes from Yiddish and is related to the word nudnik, “a persistently dull, boring pest”—perhaps like that feller who won’t stop nudging you in line!

A physical nudge is typically done with the elbow. (Just ask our friend in line.) While you certainly could nudge someone with other body parts, we often use other similar words, such as poke, jab, punch, tap, slap, bump, pat, or even lick, for these actions.

British Dictionary definitions for nudge

nudge
/ (nʌdʒ) /

verb (tr)

to push or poke (someone) gently, esp with the elbow, to get attention; jog
to push slowly or lightlyas I drove out, I just nudged the gatepost
to give (someone) a gentle reminder or encouragement

noun

a gentle poke or push
a gentle reminder
nudger, noun
C17: perhaps from Scandinavian; compare Icelandic nugga to push
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
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