The Vocabularist: Nerve-racking or nerve-wracking?


‘If something makes you very anxious is it nerve-racking or nerve-wracking?

The first recorded use of nerve-racking is in a letter by the poet Shelley in 1812, telling his friend he is glad to be away from the “nerve-racking and spirit-quelling metropolis”.

But “rack” – from a family of English words to do with stretching – had long been used in connection with torture, and often applied to parts of the body.’

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