Grate on one’s nerves

Grate on one’s nerves is an idiom with an uncertain origin. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom grate on one’s nerves, where it may have come from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

To grate on one’s nerves means to annoy someone or to irritate or disturb someone. The expression grate on one’s nerves calls to mind the image of something rasping or scraping something else, like metal grating on metal. The expression grate on one’s nerves has been in use for some time, but it’s origin is unknown. Related phrases are grates on one’s nerves, grated on one’s nerves, grating on one’s nerves.


Just the mention of Glastonbury was always guaranteed to grate on my nerves. (Guardian)

His accent was quirky and overdone, and after a while grated on my nerves. (Houstonia Magazine)

“What really grated on his nerves was that sometimes Chevy Chase just spoke too slowly,” she said, noting that if you watch scenes with Dangerfield and Chase you can see Dangerfield shifting his weight from foot to foot in jittery fashion. (USA Today)

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