AskDefine | Define nerve

Dictionary Definition



1 any bundle of nerve fibers running to various organs and tissues of the body [syn: nervus]
2 the courage to carry on; "he kept fighting on pure spunk"; "you haven't got the heart for baseball" [syn: heart, mettle, spunk]
3 impudent aggressiveness; "I couldn't believe her boldness"; "he had the effrontery to question my honesty" [syn: boldness, brass, face, cheek] v : get ready for something difficult or unpleasant [syn: steel]

User Contributed Dictionary




From nervus, from nervus.


  1. A bundle of neurons with their connective tissue sheaths, blood vessels, and lymphatics.
  2. In the context of "nonstandard|colloquial": A neuron.
  3. Courage.
  4. Patience.
  5. Stamina.
  6. Audacity.
    He had the nerve to enter my house uninvited.
  7. Agitation caused by fear, stress, or other negative emotion.


bundle of neurons
(colloquial) neuron
agitation caused by a negative emotion


  1. To give courage, sometimes with "up".
    May their example nerve us to face the enemy.
    The liquor nerved up several of the men.

Extensive Definition

A nerve is an enclosed, cable-like bundle of axons (the long, slender projection of a neuron). Neurons are sometimes called nerve cells, though this term is technically imprecise since many neurons do not form nerves, and nerves also include the non-axon glial cells that ensheath the axons in myelin.


Nerves are part of the peripheral nervous system. Afferent nerves convey sensory signals to the central nervous system, for example from skin or organs, while efferent nerves conduct stimulatory signals from the central nervous system to the muscles and glands. Afferent and efferent axons are often arranged together, forming mixed nerves. For example, the median nerve controls motor and sensory function in the hand.
Billions of long nerve cells, called neurons, make up the body's nervous system. Neurons receive and transmit chemical-electrical messages to and from the brain. Each neuron is long and thin. One end receives messages and the other transmits the message to the next neuron. The messages "jump" across a gap from one neuron cell to another.
Each peripheral nerve is covered externally by a dense sheath of connective tissue, the epineurium. Underlying this is a layer of flat cells forming a complete sleeve, the perineurium. Perineurial septae extend into the nerve and subdivide it into several bundles of fibres. Surrounding each such fibre is the endoneurial sheath. This forms an unbroken tube which extends from the surface of the spinal cord to the level at which the axon synapses with its muscle fibres or ends in sensory receptors. The endoneurial sheath consists of an inner sleeve of material called the glycocalyx and an outer, delicate, meshwork of collagen fibres. Peripheral nerves are richly supplied with blood.
Most nerves connect to the central nervous system through the spinal cord. The twelve cranial nerves, however connect directly to parts of the brain. Spinal nerves are given letter-number combinations according to the vertebra through which they connect to the spinal column. Cranial nerves are assigned numbers, usually expressed as Roman numerals from I to XII. In addition, most major nerves have descriptive names. Inside the central nervous system, distinguishable bundles of axons are termed tracts rather than nerves.
The signals that nerves carry, sometimes called nerve impulses, are also known as action potentials. These are rapidly (up to 120 m/s) traveling electrical waves, which typically begin in the cell body of a neuron and propagate down the axon to its tip or "terminus." The signals cross over from the terminus of the axon to the adjacent neurotransmitter receptor through a gap called the synapse. Motor neurons innervate or activate muscles groups.

Clinical importance

Damage to nerves can be caused by physical injury, swelling (e.g. carpal tunnel syndrome), autoimmune diseases (e.g. Guillain-Barré syndrome), infection (neuritis), diabetes or failure of the blood vessels surrounding the nerve. A pinched nerve occurs when pressure is placed on a nerve, usually from swelling due to an injury or pregnancy. Nerve damage or pinched nerves are usually accompanied by pain, numbness, weakness, or paralysis. Patients may feel these symptoms in areas far from the actual site of damage, a phenomenon called referred pain. Referred pain occurs because when a nerve is damaged, signalling is defective from all parts of the area from which the nerve receives input, not just the site of the damage. Neurologists usually diagnose disorders of the nerves by a physical examination, including the testing of reflexes, walking and other directed movements, muscle weakness, proprioception, and the sense of touch. This initial exam can be followed with tests such as nerve conduction study and electromyography (EMG).

See also

Additional images

Image:Peripheral nerve, cross section.jpg|Peripheral nerve, cross section
nerve in Arabic: عصب
nerve in Czech: Nerv
nerve in German: Nerv
nerve in Spanish: Nervio
nerve in French: Nerf
nerve in Hebrew: עצב
nerve in Korean: 신경
nerve in Ido: Nervo
nerve in Indonesian: Saraf
nerve in Icelandic: Taug
nerve in Italian: Nervo
nerve in Japanese: 神経
nerve in Latin: Nervus
nerve in Polish: Nerw
nerve in Portuguese: Nervo
nerve in Russian: Нерв
nerve in Simple English: Nerve
nerve in Slovenian: Živec
nerve in Finnish: Hermo
nerve in Swedish: Nerv
nerve in Thai: เส้นประสาท
nerve in Chinese: 神经
nerve in Yiddish: נערוו

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

afferent neuron, animate, annoy, anxiety, aplomb, apprehension, assurance, assure, audacity, autonomic nervous system, axon, backbone, balance, balanced personality, balls, beef up, boldness, bolster, bottle, bottom, brace, brace up, brain, brashness, brass, bravery, brazenness, buck up, buttress, case harden, central nervous system, cerebral cortex, cheek, cheer, chirk up, chutzpah, confidence, confirm, constancy, cool, coolness, courage, craniosacral nervous system, crust, daring, dauntlessness, dendrite, determination, doughtiness, effector organ, efferent neuron, effrontery, embolden, encourage, equilibrium, face, fastness, fearlessness, firmness, fortify, fortitude, forwardness, fretfulness, fright, gall, ganglion, gird, gray matter, grit, gumption, guts, gutsiness, guttiness, harden, hardihood, hardiness, heart, heart of oak, hearten, homeostasis, hysteria, impertinence, imperturbability, importunacy, importunateness, impudence, insolence, inspire, inspirit, internuncial neuron, intestinal fortitude, intrepidity, invariability, invigorate, irritate, medullary sheath, mettle, moxie, nerve trunk, nerves, nervous system, nervousness, neuron, peripheral nervous system, pith, plexus, pluck, presumption, presumptuousness, prop, pushiness, reassure, refresh, reinforce, reinvigorate, reliability, resoluteness, restrengthen, rootedness, sand, sang-froid, sauce, secureness, security, self-assertion, self-assertiveness, self-expression, self-expressiveness, sensorium, sensory area, sensory cell, shore up, solar plexus, solidity, soundness, spinal cord, spirit, spunk, stability, stable equilibrium, stable state, stamina, staunchness, steadfastness, steadiness, steady nerves, steady state, steel, stiffen, stout heart, strengthen, stress, substantiality, support, sustain, synapse, temerity, temper, tenacity, tension, the heebie-jeebies, thoracolumbar nervous system, toughen, toughness, undeflectability, undergird, uniformity, unshakable nerves, unshakableness, upset, valor, white matter, will, worry
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