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Is it Nerve-Racking, Nerve-Wrecking or Nerve-Wracking?

Nerve-racking or nerve-wracking?

Which is correct: nerve-wracking or nerve-racking?

To describe something as extremely irritating, annoying, or trying; (as in, a nerve-racking day; or a nerve-racking noise), we often use the phrase “nerve-wracking”.

However, there are questions on how we properly spell the term, should it be spelled as wracking, wrecking or racking?

Technically, the original phrase is nerve-racking, and first appeared in a letter by the poet Shelley in 1812. It wasn’t until later in the 20th century that nerve-wracking began to appear in usage (in the Times as an advert for a polar expedition).

Nowadays, both nerve-racking and nerve-wrecking are common in use and both are accepted. Nerve-wrecking is a nonstandard variant.

Meaning of ‘nerve-wracking’ (or nerve-racking)

If something is nerve-wracking, this means it is extremely irritating, annoying or trying on the nerves. For example, in conversation you may hear someone say, “I had to go out and find a new job, which is always a nerve-racking experience.”

“Nerve-racking”, examples in sentences

Examples: “nerve-racking”
My wedding was the most nerve-racking thing I’ve ever experienced.

His driving test was a nerve-racking ordeal

The nerve-racking wait to learn the identities of the passengers who were killed in the plane crash.

Nerve-racking, synonyms

  • nervous
  • uneasy
  • tense
  • anxious
  • unnerving
  • unsettling
  • distressing
  • troublesome
  • worrisome
  • strained
  • nail-biting
  • disquieting

Read about other misused words

Commonly misused wordsUK English vs. US English
former vs. latterburned or burnt?
bear with vs. bare withcolor or colour?
breathe or breathfavorite vs. favourite
compliment vs. complementsmelled or smelt?
effect vs. affectgray or grey?
elude or alludefavor vs. favour
it’s or itsanalyze or analyse?


  1. “Nerve-racking.” Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster. Accessed 25 May. 2024.

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