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Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1955, in nerf bars, hot-rodder slang for "custom bumpers;" from slang verb in auto racing (1953) meaning "to nudge something with a bumper in passing and knock it off course;" ultimate origin and signification unknown.\n

\nAs a trademark name for toys made of foam-like material for indoor play, introduced 1970 (Nerf ball). By 1995 this had yielded a verbal sense of "to make less effective" (as a Nerf basketball is softer and lighter than the real thing).


Etymology 1 vb. (context auto racing English) To bump lightly, whether accidentally or purposefully. Etymology 2

vb. (context slang English) to water down, dumb down or especially weaken, particularly in video games.

Nerf (video gaming)

In video gaming, a nerf is a change to a game that makes something less effective or desirable. The word can be used as a verb to describe that change. The opposite of nerf is buff or revamp.


Nerf (trademarked in capitals as NERF) is a toy brand created by Parker Brothers and currently owned by Hasbro. Most of the toys are a variety of foam-based weaponry, but there are also several different types of Nerf toys, such as balls for sports like football, basketball, baseball, and others. The most notable of the toys are the dart guns (referred to by Hasbro as "blasters") that shoot ammunition made from Nerf foam. Since many such items were released throughout the 1970s, Nerf products often feature bright neon colors and soft textures similar to the flagship Nerf ball. The slogan, which has been frequently used since advertising in the 1990s, is "It's Nerf or Nothin'!". Annual revenues under the Nerf brand is approximately .

Nerf (disambiguation)

Nerf is a brand of toy and can also refer to the foam that these toys use.

Nerf may also refer to:

  • New Ets-related factor, transcription factor also known as ELF2
  • Nerf (Star Wars), an animal in the fictional Star Wars universe
  • N.E.R.F., acronym which refers to the New England Rainbow Family
  • Nerf (video gaming), a change to a game that reduces the desirability or effectiveness of a particular game element
  • Nerf Arena Blast, a first-person shooter game developed in 1999 by the now-defunct Visionary Media Inc.
  • Nerf bar, a tubular step fitted to the side of a truck or SUV to facilitate easy entry and exit
  • Nirma Education and Research Foundation, patron of Nirma University

Usage examples of "nerf".

But then the great tongue came forward, warm and rough, driving him against the baleen plates -- it was like being smashed into a wrought-iron fence by a wet Nerf Volkswagen.

Winken, Blinken, Tod, and Nod paired up and begat eight further moldies: Stanky, Panky, Grogan, Flibbertigibbet, Dik, Dawna, Nerf, and Moana.

The cab drove away, she stood before Le Nerf in an empty street, the flowered bag without gaiety under the clouds.

And, she noticed, as he lifted his arm to bounce the Nerf ball, he was also very trim.

In a far corner of the room lay a Nerf football that had seen some heavy use.

Hotch, who was still dribbling a nerf basketball against the backboard of his office door.

She got her answer about his involvement with basketball, there was a nerf basketball hoop on the wall and numerous pictures of him and a team and some trophies on a shelf.

Their beds were pushed headboard to headboard so they could talk quietly at night and toss a Nerf ball back and forth between them in the dark to develop their sonar capabilities.

I love you, Nerf Herder, Leia silently repeated as she sat down on the gently bobbing seat.

All that talk back there in the banquet hall, about the Empire squeezing us out-what a crock of nerf waste.

Dinnid person managed to get himself into a large-capacity vat of nerf waste.

Der ewige Katarrh und die Kraempfe in Brust und Unterleib mochten es noetig machen, und schlechtes Wetter war ueber Jena, seit Wochen, seit Wochen, das war richtig, ein miserables und hassenswertes Wetter, das man in allen Nerven spuerte, wuest, finster und kalt, und der Dezemberwind heulte im Ofenrohr, verwahrlost und gottverlassen, dass es klang nach naechtiger Heide im Sturm und Irrsal und heillosem Gram der Seele.

Mais cette pression, qui naguere le secouait de la tete aux pieds, arretait le sang dans ses veines et contractait tous ses nerfs, le laissa insensible et froid.

For once I do not ascribe this tremor to ill-health but to a quite normal crise de nerfs.

He is too high for the bullets to reach him, but he dreads the onset of a crise de nerfs.