1. a person formally educated and trained in the care of the sick or infirm.Compare nurse-midwife, nurse-practitioner, physician’s assistant, practical nurse, registered nurse.
  2. a woman who has the general care of a child or children; dry nurse.
  3. a woman employed to suckle an infant; wet nurse.
  4. any fostering agency or influence.
  5. Entomology. a worker that attends the young in a colony of social insects.
  6. Billiards. the act of maintaining the position of billiard balls in preparation for a carom.

verb (used with object), nursed, nurs·ing.

  1. to tend or minister to in sickness, infirmity, etc.
  2. to try to cure (an ailment) by taking care of oneself: to nurse a cold.
  3. to look after carefully so as to promote growth, development, etc.; foster; cherish: to nurse one’s meager talents.
  4. to treat or handle with adroit care in order to further one’s own interests: to nurse one’s nest egg.
  5. to use, consume, or dispense very slowly or carefully: He nursed the one drink all evening.
  6. to keep steadily in mind or memory: He nursed a grudge against me all the rest of his life.
  7. to suckle (an infant).
  8. to feed and tend in infancy.
  9. to bring up, train, or nurture.
  10. to clasp or handle carefully or fondly: to nurse a plate of food on one’s lap.
  11. Billiards. to maintain the position of (billiard balls) for a series of caroms.

verb (used without object), nursed, nurs·ing.

  1. to suckle a child, especially one’s own.
  2. (of a child) to suckle: The child did not nurse after he was three months old.
  3. to act as nurse; tend the sick or infirm.


  1. a person who tends the sick, injured, or infirm
  2. short for nursemaid
  3. a woman employed to breast-feed another woman’s child; wet nurse
  4. a worker in a colony of social insects that takes care of the larvae

verb (mainly tr)

  1. (also intr) to tend (the sick)
  2. (also intr) to feed (a baby) at the breast; suckle
  3. to try to cure (an ailment)
  4. to clasp carefully or fondlyshe nursed the crying child in her arms
  5. (also intr) (of a baby) to suckle at the breast (of)
  6. to look after (a child) as one’s employment
  7. to attend to carefully; foster, cherishhe nursed the magazine through its first year; having a very small majority he nursed the constituency diligently
  8. to harbour; preserveto nurse a grudge
  9. billiards to keep (the balls) together for a series of cannons

12c., nurrice “wet-nurse, foster-mother to a young child” (modern form from late 14c.), from Old French norrice “foster-mother, wet-nurse, nanny” (source of proper name Norris), from Late Latin *nutricia “nurse, governess, tutoress,” noun use of fem. of Latin nutricius “that suckles, nourishes,” from nutrix (genitive nutricis) “wet-nurse,” from nutrire “to suckle” (see nourish). Meaning “person who takes care of sick” in English first recorded 1580s.


“dog fish, shark,” late 15c., of unknown origin.


1530s, “to suckle (an infant);” 1520s in the passive sense, “to bring up” (a child); alteration of Middle English nurshen (13c.; see nourish), Sense of “take care of (a sick person)” is first recorded 1736. Related: Nursed; nursing.


  1. A person trained to care for the sick or disabled, especially one educated in the scientific basis of human response to health problems and trained to assist a physician.
  2. A wet nurse.
  3. An individual who cares for an infant or young child.


  1. To serve as a nurse.
  2. To provide or take nourishment from the breast; suckle.
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