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  1. a person formally educated and trained in the care of the sick or infirm.Compare nurse-midwife, nurse-practitioner, physician's assistant, practical nurse, registered nurse.
  2. a woman who has the general care of a child or children; dry nurse.
  3. a woman employed to suckle an infant; wet nurse.
  4. any fostering agency or influence.
  5. Entomology. a worker that attends the young in a colony of social insects.
  6. Billiards. the act of maintaining the position of billiard balls in preparation for a carom.
verb (used with object), nursed, nurs·ing.
  1. to tend or minister to in sickness, infirmity, etc.
  2. to try to cure (an ailment) by taking care of oneself: to nurse a cold.
  3. to look after carefully so as to promote growth, development, etc.; foster; cherish: to nurse one's meager talents.
  4. to treat or handle with adroit care in order to further one's own interests: to nurse one's nest egg.
  5. to use, consume, or dispense very slowly or carefully: He nursed the one drink all evening.
  6. to keep steadily in mind or memory: He nursed a grudge against me all the rest of his life.
  7. to suckle (an infant).
  8. to feed and tend in infancy.
  9. to bring up, train, or nurture.
  10. to clasp or handle carefully or fondly: to nurse a plate of food on one's lap.
  11. Billiards. to maintain the position of (billiard balls) for a series of caroms.
verb (used without object), nursed, nurs·ing.
  1. to suckle a child, especially one's own.
  2. (of a child) to suckle: The child did not nurse after he was three months old.
  3. to act as nurse; tend the sick or infirm.

Origin of nurse

1350–1400; (noun) Middle English, variant of n(o)urice, norice < Old French < Late Latin nūtrīcia, noun use of feminine of Latin nūtrīcius nutritious; (v.) earlier nursh (reduced form of nourish), assimilated to the noun
Related formsnon·nurs·ing, adjectiveo·ver·nurse, verb (used with object), o·ver·nursed, o·ver·nurs·ing.un·der·nurse, nounwell-nursed, adjective

Synonyms for nurse

See more synonyms for on
9. encourage, abet, help, aid, back. 14. rear, raise. Nurse, nourish, nurture may be used almost interchangeably to refer to bringing up the young. Nurse, however, suggests attendance and service; nourish emphasizes providing whatever is needful for development; and nurture suggests tenderness and solicitude in training mind and manners.

Antonyms for nurse

7, 9. neglect. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for nursing

attending, tending, cherishing, suckling, feeding, sucking

Examples from the Web for nursing

Contemporary Examples of nursing

Historical Examples of nursing

  • Then you mean to give up society for the sake of nursing the poor?

    Weighed and Wanting

    George MacDonald

  • Kingozi, nursing the bowl of his pipe, continued to stare up at him.

    The Leopard Woman

    Stewart Edward White

  • He flicked the ashes from his cigar, nursing his knee with the other hand.

    The Underdog

    F. Hopkinson Smith

  • I found the kindliest of nursing and care in my old quarters in the Schuyler mansion.

    In the Valley

    Harold Frederic

  • Was the nursing of my betrothed one of those services, Marquis?

    Fair Margaret

    H. Rider Haggard

British Dictionary definitions for nursing


    1. the practice or profession of caring for the sick and injured
    2. (as modifier)a nursing home


  1. a person who tends the sick, injured, or infirm
  2. short for nursemaid
  3. a woman employed to breast-feed another woman's child; wet nurse
  4. a worker in a colony of social insects that takes care of the larvae
verb (mainly tr)
  1. (also intr) to tend (the sick)
  2. (also intr) to feed (a baby) at the breast; suckle
  3. to try to cure (an ailment)
  4. to clasp carefully or fondlyshe nursed the crying child in her arms
  5. (also intr) (of a baby) to suckle at the breast (of)
  6. to look after (a child) as one's employment
  7. to attend to carefully; foster, cherishhe nursed the magazine through its first year; having a very small majority he nursed the constituency diligently
  8. to harbour; preserveto nurse a grudge
  9. billiards to keep (the balls) together for a series of cannons

Word Origin for nurse

C16: from earlier norice, Old French nourice, from Late Latin nūtrīcia nurse, from Latin nūtrīcius nourishing, from nūtrīre to nourish
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 nursing

1530s, verbal noun from nurse (v.). Meaning "profession of one who nurses the sick" is from 1860.



1530s, "to suckle (an infant);" 1520s in the passive sense, "to bring up" (a child); alteration of Middle English nurshen (13c.; see nourish), Sense of "take care of (a sick person)" is first recorded 1736. Related: Nursed; nursing.



12c., nurrice "wet-nurse, foster-mother to a young child" (modern form from late 14c.), from Old French norrice "foster-mother, wet-nurse, nanny" (source of proper name Norris), from Late Latin *nutricia "nurse, governess, tutoress," noun use of fem. of Latin nutricius "that suckles, nourishes," from nutrix (genitive nutricis) "wet-nurse," from nutrire "to suckle" (see nourish). Meaning "person who takes care of sick" in English first recorded 1580s.



"dog fish, shark," late 15c., of unknown origin.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

nursing in Medicine


  1. The profession of a nurse.
  2. The tasks performed or care provided by a nurse.
  3. The act or practice of breast-feeding.


  1. A person trained to care for the sick or disabled, especially one educated in the scientific basis of human response to health problems and trained to assist a physician.
  2. A wet nurse.
  3. An individual who cares for an infant or young child.
  1. To serve as a nurse.
  2. To provide or take nourishment from the breast; suckle.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.