nerve

Definitions

General English

General Science

  • noun a bundle of fibres in a body which take impulses from one part of the body to another, each fibre being the axon of a nerve cell

Food

  • noun a bundle of fibres that can transmit electrochemical impulses and that forms part of the network that connects the brain and spinal cord to the body’s organs
  • noun the sensitive tissue in the root of a tooth

Origin & History of “nerve”

Latin nervus meant ‘sinew, bowstring’. It and its Greek relative neuron (source of English neural) may belong to a wider family of words that includes Latin nēre ‘spin’ (a relative of English needle) and possibly also English narrow, perhaps with a common meaning element. The application to ‘bundle of fibres carrying sensory or other impulses’ seems to have begun in Greek, but was soon adopted into the Latin word, and was brought with it into English. Metaphorically, the Romans used nervus for ‘strength, force’, an application perhaps lying behind the English sense ‘courage’, first recorded in the early 19th century. The use of the plural nerves for ‘agitation, apprehension’ (and of the adjective nervous (14th c.) for ‘apprehensive’) is an English development, which probably started in the mid-18th century.
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