(plural nerkles)


(Brit) enPR: nûkl, IPA: /nɜːkl/
(US) enPR: nûrkl, IPA: /nɝːkl/

Definition (Noun)

1. A person who is intellectual but generally introverted but who lacks mathematical ability or dislikes mathematics (informal, sometimes derogatory).

A lot of my friends like Dungeons and Dragons but I’m too much of a nerkle to get the hang of all the numbers.

2. One who has an intense, obsessive interest in something stereotypically nerdy (cf. nerd) but is handicapped by their inability or unwillingness to engage in mathematics (slang, always derogatory).

We don’t want Steven on our Math Bowl team because he’s a nerkle and will just drag us down.

3. An unattractive, socially awkward, annoying, undesirable, and/or boring, person who is also unintelligent or unskilled (slang, always derogatory).

Cecelia is such a nerkle, she is really weird and can’t even help me with my calculus homework.

Definition (Verb)

1. An intelligent person failing at a task others thought them capable of (informal, sometimes derogatory).

Give me those calculations, you’re just nerkling it up!

2. Engaging in stereotypically nerdy activity (cf. nerd) which does not involve heavy use of mathematics (informal, sometimes derogatory).

We’re going to get together and nerkle by writing some stories and reading comic books.

3. The act of performing mathematical calculations in a stereotypically nerdy context (cf. nerd) on behalf of one incapable or unwilling of performing them (informal, sometimes derogatory).

I like playing Dungeons and Dragons on the computer because it will nerkle the math for me.


Unknown. Attested since 1951 as US student slang. The word, capitalized, appeared in 1950 in Dr. Seuss’s If I Ran the Zoo as the name of an imaginary animal: “And then, just to show them, I’ll sail to Katroo / And bring back an It-Kutch, a Preep and a Proo, / A Nerkle, a Nerd and a Seersucker too!” Various unlikely folk etymologies and less likely backronymic speculations also exist. Popularized by frequent use in the American situational comedy television show Uneasy Weeks (1967-1978); the 1940s setting of that program may have contributed to a widespread perception of the word being in common use before 1950 which is unattested in the literature.


(socially unaccepted person, all are slang, informal, and sometimes derogatory): doofus, dork, dweeb, geek, goober, loser, twerp
(poor mathematics skills): innumerate, innumeracy

This entry incorporates some text from Wiktionary and as such this entry is licensed under the same Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported GNU Free Documentation licenses. This license and attribution does not in any way suggest that the original authors and/or editors endorse this entry or its use of the work.

  • Like what you see? Purchase a print or ebook version!