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See more synonyms for unnerve on Thesaurus.com
verb (used with object), un·nerved, un·nerv·ing.
  1. to deprive of courage, strength, determination, or confidence; upset: Fear unnerved him.
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Origin of unnerve

First recorded in 1595–1605; un-2 + nerve
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for unnerving

dismay, discourage, dishearten, unsettle, dispirit, bewilder, perturb, rattle, frighten, disconcert, distract, confound, chill, undermine, agitate, shake, fluster, daunt, sap, demoralize

Examples from the Web for unnerving

Contemporary Examples of unnerving

Historical Examples of unnerving

  • She was bracing in every nerve against the unnerving of his presence.

    The Coast of Chance

    Esther Chamberlain

  • Any known danger he could face with a firm lip, but this suspense was unnerving.

    A Study In Scarlet

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • She was conscious chiefly of an unnerving horror and a sense of contrition.

    The Long Portage

    Harold Bindloss

  • For the man had obviously been through an unnerving experience.

    A Lost Cause

    Cyril Arthur Edward Ranger Gull

  • But she was overcome by an unnerving sense of insignificance.

British Dictionary definitions for unnerving


  1. (tr) to cause to lose courage, strength, confidence, self-control, etc
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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 unnerving



1620s, "to destroy the strength of," from un- (2) + nerve. Meaning "to deprive of courage" is recorded from 1704. Related: Unnerved; unnerving.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper