What does the idiom "get on one's nerves" mean?

The phrase get on one's nerves is often used in English, but what does this idiom mean? When idioms are used in the right situations, they strengthen communication and enrich the language. You can communicate more effectively by learning the meaning of get on one's nerves.

Meaning of "get on one's nerves"


To 'get on one's nerves' is an idiom which means to annoy or irritate someone, usually for an extended period of time. It is an expression usually used when referring to individuals or things which have been a source of stress or frustration. This can range from a situation of being constantly anxious and on edge due to certain people or things, or a short-term irritation that might occur on a daily basis.


The phrase 'get on one's nerves' is believed to have originated in the early nineteenth century. It is thought to have been derived from the Latin phrase ‘nervi’, which means “sinew”. This could be a reference to the physical symptoms of irritation and restlessness that accompany stress and anger.


The phrase 'get on one's nerves' is used as an idiom in informal spoken English. It can be used to express a wide range of emotions, from mild irritation to strong annoyance. When used in this manner, it is usually followed by an explanation of what has caused the irritation. This can range from a specific action or event to a person or group of people.

Example Sentences

  • My neighbors are always blasting music late at night, and it really gets on my nerves.
  • I can't stand my co-worker; she always has something negative to say and it gets on my nerves.
  • The traffic on my way to work every day really gets on my nerves.

The meanings of the words in the "get on one's nerves" idiom

Idioms with similar meanings in different languages

"Barking up the wrong tree" is an English idiom that means to pursue a mistaken or misguided course of action. In German, the similar idiom is "Auf dem Holzweg sein," which translates to "To be on the wrong track." This idiom emphasizes the idea that when you are pursuing the wrong course of action, you are not going to achieve your desired outcome.


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