Nervous Nellie

Meaning of Idiom ‘Nervous Nellie’

Someone who is a nervous Nellie is an excessively nervous, worried, apprehensive, or timid person.

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Nellie is sometimes spelled Nelly.

Although Nellie is a female name, this idiom is used to describe both males and females.

Examples Of Use

“Don’t be such a nervous Nellie. Just jump in the water and you’ll get used to the chill.”

“Your friend Sally seems very shy and anxious.” “Yes, she’s quite the nervous Nellie but she’ll be OK in a few days once she gets used to things.”

“Randall next door is such a nervous Nellie. He calls the cops at every little noise or bump.”


Used since around 1920.

The name Nellie almost certainly does not refer to a particular person. Like other proper-name idioms of this type, the name was probably chosen for the alliteration.

Nervous Nellie describes a person who is always nervous or tends to be worried and anxious. There are other idioms used to describe a temporary state of anxiety.

A person who is extremely agitated or worried might be described as a nervous wreck or a bundle of nerves.

Other idioms about being nervous or anxious are:

  • Have a case of the nerves
  • Have the jitters
  • Feel jittery or be jittery
  • Be on edge
  • Be edgy

More Idioms Starting with N

More Nervous or Anxiety Idioms

More Proper Name Idioms


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