What does the idiom "lose one's nerve" mean?

Are you using the idiom lose one's nerve but not sure about its meaning? Using idioms, which are important elements of spoken and written language, in the right place strengthens your language skills. Examine the meaning of the lose one's nerve idiom and the situations in which it is used.

Meaning of "lose one's nerve"


The idiom “lose one’s nerve” is often used to describe when someone falters in the face of difficulty and becomes too afraid to continue forward with a task or action. Through this phrase, we can infer someone is losing their courage or confidence to do something due to fear or stress. This can be seen in a variety of situations, such as when someone is faced with a challenge and they are too afraid to take it on.


This idiom finds its roots in the Latin phrase “nervus,” which translates loosely to “sinew” or “tendon.” The Ancient Greeks used this term to describe the “tendon-like” and “sinewy” feel of a person’s courage or sense of fortitude. From here, the phrase “lose one’s nerve” came to mean the loss of an individual’s courage in a situation.


The phrase “lose one’s nerve” can be used in many different contexts. It is often used to describe how someone is feeling when they become too afraid to take on a challenge or a task. It can also be used to show sympathy or understanding for someone who is struggling to overcome fear. This phrase can also be used as a warning to someone who is hesitant to take on a task, as a reminder that fear can limit the possibilities of what they can accomplish.

Example Sentences

  • After getting so close to winning the race, he suddenly lost his nerve and stopped running, causing him to lose the race.
  • I know it's frightening, but don't lose your nerve. You can do this if you try hard enough.
  • I was about to ask her out but I lost my nerve at the last minute.

The meanings of the words in the "lose one's nerve" 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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