Nerve

“Nerve-racking” is the original và correct spelling of this phrase, which describes something that makes you extremely nervous.“Nerve-wracking” is a widely-used & well-established variant spelling. Many editors and usage dictionaries find it acceptable, but purists & prescriptivists consider it an error.

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When something is making you feel very nervous, you can say it’s nerve-wracking, even though nerve-racking might be the more appropriate choice. The verbs wraông xã & rachồng have sầu different meanings, but they both carry ideas of destruction that seem to lớn fit the meaning of the phrase. Plus, wrachồng and raông chồng have sầu been used interchangeably in other phrases as well. Major dictionaries lượt thích the OED and Merriam-Webster usually menu the spelling with the “w” as a variant of the spelling without it.
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Nerve-Wracking or Nerve-Racking?

We have two phrases—nerve-wracking & nerve-racking. Both phrases are used as adjectives when we want to lớn describe something that makes us feel anxious, nervous, or tense. They have the “nerve” part in comtháng, but “wracking” and “racking” are not the same word. Or are they?

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Wracking comes from the verb “wrack,” which means lớn ruin, destroy, or cause damage lớn something—it’s a cchiến bại synonym of the word wreông xã. It’s mostly archaic now, so you’re not likely to come across it in modern writing.

Racking, on the other h&, comes from the verb “raông xã,” which has multiple meanings. It can mean, for instance, khổng lồ gather or accumulate something:


He racked up a lot of money from tips working as a concierge.

It can also mean to lớn put something on a rachồng in order to display it:


We racked the dresses in preparation for the gr& opening.

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But finally, it can also mean to torture, or to lớn cause pain in general. “The rack” was the name of a torture device in medieval Britain, và so to rack something meant khổng lồ put it on the rack for torture:


As you can see, both wraông xã và raông chồng convey ideas of unpleasantness and destruction. They are also pronounced the same, which only adds lớn the confusion in phrases like the one we’re looking at here—nerve-wracking. This confusion became so widespread that the dictionaries caught onlớn it & started including nerve-wracking as a variant spelling for nerve-racking.

Synonyms for Nerve-Racking

If you want khổng lồ avoid writing the phrase nerve-wracking, with or without the “w,” you can use one of its synonyms. You can say, for example, that something is trying or difficult. But you can also use words lượt thích distressing or daunting. Stressful might also be a good synonym; even annoying might work. But nerve-racking implies a real intensity of feeling, so the synonyms you really want might be harrowing or gut-wrenching.

Racking My Brain vs. Wracking My Brain

There’s one other common phrase that causes the same level of confusion: racking (one’s) brain. The correct và original spelling is racking my brain. But the variant wracking my brain has become so well established by now that only strict traditionalists consider it a mistake. So, if you want khổng lồ be perfectly correct, use nerve-racking và racking my brain.

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