The Meaning of Jerk: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of jerk? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word jerk, including its definition, etymology, usage, examples, and more!

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What does the word jerk mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language and other sources like American Heritage and Collins English Dictionary, the word jerk can be used as a noun to refer to an unlikeable person, or one who is annoyingly stupid or foolish. It can also refer to a single, quick motion or twist, or some spasmodic motion. The word jerk can also be used as a noun to refer to the action of said motion. Jerk can also refer to jerky, which are dried strips of beef or other meat, or the raising of a weight. The pronunciation of jerk is dʒɜːk.

Many different languages also contain words that mean jerk. You might notice that some of these words look and sound like each other. These are called cognates. Cognates, which are words and phrases that look and sound similar across languages while also retaining the same meaning are usually formed when two words have the same language of origin or root word. This list of translations for the word jerk is provided by Word Sense

  •  Czech: blb‎ (masc.), blbec‎ (masc.), debil‎ (masc.), idiot‎ (masc.), kretén‎ (masc.), pitomec‎ (masc.)
  •  Finnish: paskiainen‎, ääliö‎, idiootti‎
  •  French: conard‎ (masc.), connard‎ (masc.), con‎ (masc.), crétin‎, mauvais con‎
  •  Arabic: أحمق‎ or مغفل‎
  •  Dutch: zak‎ (masc.), lul‎ (masc.), droplul‎ (masc.), klojo‎ (masc.)
  •  Interlingua: vexator‎
  •  Macedonian: шутрак‎
  •  Swedish: tölp‎ (common), idiot‎ (common)
  •  Turkish: aşağılık kimse‎, pislik‎
  •  Italian: idiota‎, scemo‎, sgradevole‎, offensivo‎, odioso‎, stronzo‎, babbeo‎ (masc.)
  •  Greek: κόπανος‎ (masc.)
  •  Indonesian: bajingan‎, bangsat‎, brengsek‎, sontoloyo‎
  •  Spanish: cretino‎ (masc.), imbécil‎, culeado‎ (masc.) (Latin America)
  •  Russian: подле́ц‎ (masc.), козёл‎ (masc.), негодя́й‎ (masc.), гад‎ (masc.), гни́да‎ (fem.), муда́к‎ (masc.), деби́л‎ (masc.)
  •  German: Arsch‎ (masc.), Arschloch‎ (neut.), Trottel‎ (masc.), Hanswurst‎ (masc.), Flasche‎ (fem.), Wichser‎ (masc.)
  •  Portuguese: estúpido‎
  •  Mandarin: 傻瓜‎ (shǎguā), 蠢人‎ (chǔnrén), 笨蛋‎ (bèndàn)

How can the word jerk be used in a sentence?

The word jerk can be used in many different ways in the English language. Below are several examples of jerk.

We used many jerk flavorings in the spicy seasoning mixture we rubbed on the vegetables, venison and pork for grilling. There’s no better smell than smoke from a jerk seasoning grill in the California sun. I learned to cook in Jamaica, and I can still almost taste the spicy Jamaican marinade jerk sauce we would toss on the chicken.

My date was a real jerk last night. We went for ice cream and he was annoyed that he was only up to shoulder height on me and kept talking about himself while we were drinking out ice-cream sodas. His behavior was so self-centered. It was an awful first appearance.

The chiropractor gave the dancers pelvises a good jerk to realign it. The sudden abrupt motion left them in a breathless manner, but their muscular movement largely improved, and the involuntary convulsive twitching stopped. He wrapped thin strips of kinesio tape around the affected area. While it was an unpleasant tug, the acceleration of the rate of change of their mobility sped up.

There was no cure for the involuntary reflexes and spasmodic muscular movement the child experienced. They tried homeopathic remedies using leaves of the allspice tree and intense medical treatment. No amount of physiology helped the sudden reflexive, quick abrupt motion and uncontrolled movement. 

That guy in the religious services was a real jerk. The pastor’s story had me in stitches, but that guy was such a party pooper. I tried to shake his hand but he ignored me.

What are synonyms for the word jerk?

There are a lot of different words that a person can use in place of the word jerk. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same definition as another word or phrase. Synonyms are a great way to avoid repeating the same word over and over again and can also be useful to expand your vocabulary. This list of synonyms for the word jerk is provided by Thesaurus

Definition 1 – (n.) a lurching move

  •  bump
  •  quiver
  •  pull
  •  quake
  •  shiver
  •  jolt
  •  thrust
  •  flop
  •  snag
  •  twitch
  •  wriggle
  •  tweak
  •  bounce
  •  flick
  •  wiggle
  •  tug
  •  yank
  •  wrench

Definition 2 – (n.) a stupid person

  •  imbecile
  •  nincompoop
  •  idiot
  •  ninny
  •  blockhead
  •  twit
  •  dunce
  •  stupid
  •  bonehead
  •  cretin
  •  dork
  •  dimwit
  •  tomfool
  •  kook
  •  fool
  •  ignoramus
  •  out to lunch
  •  moron
  •  muttonhead
  •  pinhead
  •  dumbbell
  •  nitwit
  •  simpleton

What is the origin of the word jerk?

According to Etymonline, the word jerk has been used since the 1580s to mean to pull with sudden energy. Earlier, this word was used in the 1540s to mean to lash or strike with a whip. This has been used as an intransitive verb to mean to make a spasmic motion since 1600. This comes from the Middle English yerkid or a variant of yerk, a shoemaker’s term and adjective meaning pulled tightly that was used in the early 15th century. This can also be compared to the Middle English ferken and Old English fercian or Old English gearcian. The noun form of jerk to mean the stroke of a whip has been used since the 1550s, and the sense of a sudden sharp pull since the 1570s. The term jerk for a rude or ineffectual person has been used since 1935 and comes from American English carnival slang, of uncertain origin. It is perhaps from jerkwater, or the phrasal verb jerk off meaning to masturbate. Jerk has been used as a verb to mean to preserve meat since 1707, which is where we get jerk chicken in Jamaican cooking and jerky. This comes from the American Spanish carquear, from charqui, origin unknown. Related words include jerked, jerking, jerkish, soda-jerker (soda fountain operator) and jerker.

Overall, the word jerk means a sudden motion or sharp motion, as well as a mean or rude person. This 16th century word comes from shoemaking terms. 


  1. jerk: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  2. jerk | Origin and meaning of jerk | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  3. JERK Synonyms: 77 Synonyms & Antonyms for JERK | Thesaurus 
  4. Jerk | Definition of Jerk | Merriam-Webster