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See also: jerk-water and jerk water



US mid-19th century. From jerk (to move with a sudden movement) +‎ water. Refers to the need to supply the boilers of steam trains with water. In rural areas and small towns with no water tower, where the train did not stop, this was done by scooping ("jerking") water from a track pan.


  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈdʒɚk.wɔ.tɚ/
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jerkwater (plural jerkwaters)

  1. (US, historical) A train on a branch line.
    • 1975, Indiana Historical Society, Indiana Magazine of History, Vol. 71, no. 1 (Mar. 1975), page 355
      [] by bailing from near streams with buckets, (the brake-man called this operation jerking water) and from this the road gets its name of jerkwater road.
  2. A jerkwater town.
    • 2016 April 19, Rex Sorgatz, “The Internet Really Has Changed Everything. Here’s the Proof.”, in Wired:
      Twenty-five miles down the narrow arid highway, there is another town like Napoleon, a little smaller. And then twenty-five miles further, another. This chain of jerkwaters stretches for a lazy afternoon, until you finally encounter a cluster of people that almost resembles a modern civilization, with a movie theater and chain restaurants.



jerkwater (comparative more jerkwater, superlative most jerkwater)

  1. (US, colloquial, derogatory) Of an inhabited place, small, insignificant, and backward.


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