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Someone who is more timid, nervous, or anxious than is normal or reasonable. My mother's always a bit of a Nervous Nellie around the grandkids, so she doesn't like to look after them. I'm too much of a Nervous Nellie to ever do something like sky diving.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2022 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
An unduly timid or anxious person, as in He's a real nervous Nellie, calling the doctor about every little symptom. This term does not allude to a particular person named Nellie; rather, the name was probably chosen for the sake of alliteration. [Colloquial; c. 1920]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
n. any nervous person, male or female. Sue is such a nervous Nellie. She should calm down.
McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
A person who worries unduly or is foolishly fearful. The term apparently originated in the late 1920s and referred to Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg, who served from 1925 to 1929. It soon was picked up and used for any individual, male or female, who showed such qualities. Richard Dyer used it in a review of Acis and Galatea, writing: “The direction presented him [Acis] as a kind of nervous Nellie, unable to decide which shirt to wear to impress Galatea” (Boston Globe, Nov. 23, 2004). See also worry wart.
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer