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

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

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What does the word nudge mean?

According to Merriam-Webster Unabridged English Dictionary and Cambridge Dictionary, the word nudge (pronounced nʌdʒ) can be used as a transitive verb to mean to gently push or tap something with one’s elbow, usually in order to get a person’s attention or to get them to stop doing something. This English word must be used transitively, as one can not nudge with no recipient of the action. It can also be used to mean to move slowly, steadily increasing a higher point, or to hint at or remind. It can also be used as a noun to refer to someone who nags or complains, or to refer to the gentle push itself. One could give a gentle nudge to a child who is walking during a performance, or a little nudge to a coworker who has not completed a task you need done. Try using this word of the day or other new words in a sentence today!

Many different languages also contain words that mean nudge. You may notice that some of these words look and sound similar to one another. These are called cognates, which are words that look, sound, and mean similar things across different languages. These are often formed when two languages or words share a common origin or ancestral language. This list of translations for the word nudge is provided by Word Sense

  • Greek: σκούντημα‎ (masc.)
  • Serbo-Croatian: gurkanje‎
  • Russian: лёгкий‎ толчо́к‎ (masc.)
  • German: Stups (leise oder heimlich), Schubs‎ (masc.), Stoß‎ (masc.), Stupser‎ (masc.), Knuff‎ (masc.), Puff‎ (masc.), Rippenstoß‎ (masc.)
  • Turkish: dürtme‎
  • Spanish: pequeño empujón‎, empujoncito‎ (masc.)
  • Portuguese: cutucão‎
  • Maori: tuke‎
  • Finnish: tönäisy‎, työntö‎

What are synonyms and antonyms for the word nudge?

There are many different words that one can use in place of the word nudge. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same meaning as another word or phrase. Synonyms are useful words to know because they can help you avoid repeating the same word over and over again while also expanding your vocabulary. This list of synonyms for the word nudge is provided by Thesaurus

  • mention
  • warn
  • make one remember
  • imply
  • poke
  • dig
  • bring back to
  • tap
  • call attention
  • give a cue
  • advise
  • punch
  • caution
  • bring to mind
  • suggest
  • call to mind
  • point out
  • push
  • bethink
  • admonish
  • intimate
  • bump
  • jab
  • put in mind
  • recollect
  • prod
  • stress
  • make one think
  • elbow
  • recall
  • cite
  • shove
  • note
  • reminisce
  • retrospect
  • prompt
  • retain
  • jog one’s memory
  • jog
  • prod
  • refresh memory
  • revive
  • touch
  • remember
  • emphasize
  • call up
  • remind
  • stir up
  • hint

There are also numerous different words that mean the opposite of the word nudge, especially figuratively. These are called antonyms. Antonyms are also a useful way to build one’s vocabulary. This list of antonyms for the word nudge is also provided by Thesaurus.

  • hold off
  • quiet
  • disfavor
  • chill
  • frighten
  • shake
  • control
  • obstruct
  • deprecate
  • prevent
  • turn off
  • inhibit
  • warn
  • disadvise
  • withhold
  • deter
  • dissuade
  • divert
  • keep back
  • throw cold water on
  • put off
  • interfere
  • hinder
  • turn aside
  • repress
  • disincline
  • scare
  • impede
  • discountenance
  • talk out of
  • indispose
  • hold back
  • curb
  • check
  • discourage 

What is the origin of the word nudge?

According to Etymonline, the word nudge has been used as a verb since the 1670s to mean to push something slightly with one’s elbow. This is likely from a Scandinavian source, wish as the Norwegian nugge or nyggje, meaning to jostle or rub, or the Icelandic nugga meaning to rub. This was first used in a figurative sense to mean to give some hint or reminder in the year 1830. This has been used as a slang term for a complainer or person who nags in the 1960s from the Yiddish and Slavic words meaning to fret or ache, related to the word nudnik. Related words include nudger, nudged, and nudging. 

How can the word nudge be used in a sentence?

The word nudge can be used in various different ways to either refer to a physical or figurative push or reminder, as well as a slang term for a nag. In this first example, Raina is talking to her slacker coworker George.

Raina: Hi! Just wanted to nudge you about the report – due today at 1. Thanks!

George: Oh, it is?

Raina: Yes, as per my reminders all week And the fact that this report is due every Friday at 1PM.

Here, Raina uses the word nudge to mean remind. In this next example, the word nudge will be used as a slang term to mean a bag or a bother. George still had not turned in his report. 

Raina: Hi! Not to be a nudge, but the report was due three hours ago. I need you to turn it in now.

George: Oh, it isn’t done. Sorry

Raina: I’m done hearing sorry, George. This happens every week. Next time, I will escalate this. You are preventing me from doing my job and I end up having to stay late on Fridays all because of you. 

Finally, Raina will use the word nudge in the lunch line at the commissary at work.

George: Yeah, so she way totally busting my chops for–

Raina: I’m just going to nudge past your, since you’re being incredibly slow here, too.

Overall, the word nudge can be used as a noun or a verb to refer to a slight push, whether literal or figurative. This term is often used in business to remind someone of something. This versatile word is likely of Scandinavian origin.