1. Any of the cordlike bundles of fibers made up of neurons through which sensory stimuli and motor impulses pass between the brain or other parts of the central nervous system and the eyes, glands, muscles, and other parts of the body. Nerves form a network of pathways for conducting information throughout the body.
2. The sensitive tissue in the pulp of a tooth.
3. A sore point or sensitive subject: The criticism touched a nerve.
a. Courage and control under pressure: lost his nerve at the last minute.
b. Fortitude; stamina.
c. Forceful quality; boldness.
d. Brazen boldness; effrontery: had the nerve to deny it.
5. nerves Nervous agitation caused by fear, anxiety, or stress: had a sudden attack of nerves.
6. A vein or rib in the wing of an insect.
7. The midrib and larger veins in a leaf.
tr.v. nerved, nerv·ing, nervesIdioms:
To give strength or courage to.
get on (someone's) nerves
To irritate or exasperate.
strain every nerve
To make every effort.
[Middle English, sinew, nerve, from Old French nerf, from Medieval Latin nervus, from Latin; see (s)neəu- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2020 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.