from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Lacking strength or energy; spiritless; weak.
  • adj. Lacking courage; spineless or cowardly.
  • adj. Calm and controlled in trying circumstances; cool.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Lacking nerve: fearful; cowardly.
  • adj. Lacking a nervous system.
  • adj. Devoid of nerves: calm, controlled, cool under pressure.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Destitute of nerves.
  • adj. Destitute of strength or of courage; wanting vigor; weak; powerless.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Without nerve; destitute of strength; weak.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. lacking strength
  • adj. marked by calm self-control (especially in trying circumstances); unemotional


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From nerve + -less.


  • Again he sat down and shuffled the bunch of matches on his knees, got it into place on his palm, with the wrist of his other hand forced the nerveless fingers down against the bunch, and with the wrist kept them there.

    First Version of To Build A Fire

  • Frona lay, head thrown back, sobbing at the sun; amidships Corliss sprawled panting; and forward, choking and gasping and nerveless, the

    CHAPTER 25

  • And yet -- the men in the trained-animal game acknowledged him the nerviest and most nerveless of the profession.


  • His nerveless hand lost hold of the asura, who toppled separately.

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  • With a gush of blood from his mouth, the man collapsed, sword tumbling from nerveless fingers.

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  • With a sigh, his eyes rolled back and, dropping the daggers from nerveless fingers, the enemy collapsed to the floor.

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  • Today his tennis was full of punchy forehands, more drop shots – a few of them excellent, a couple not so good – and a nerveless service game that kept Chardy deep behind the baseline.

    Andy Murray's spirits soar after place on world top table is secured

  • Watson played it with about as much nerveless ease as a nerd on a first date with a supermodel.

    Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson add power to USA's Ryder Cup bid

  • From this nerveless, forsaken Korean land I rode down upon the sandy islands of the Yalu.

    The Yellow Peril

  • Weak and nerveless, she sat in the chair just as she had been dropped there by Prince and

    The Wife of a King


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  • How's this for an autantonym? 'Nerveless' seems to have swung right round to become a term of praise: "full of courage" instead of "devoid of courage". Almost all the leading Google hits for uses of the word are in this sense (and in a sporting context). I'd never heard this sense before now, and would have thought it a grossly insulting misapplication, almost a malapropism. But apparently this is how it's used now.

    August 28, 2009