nervous Nellie

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nervous Nellie (plural nervous Nellies)

  1. (informal) A person whose personality and usual behavior are characterized by worry, insecurity, and timidity.
    • 1925 Jan. 19, "Gentlemen Asleep," Time:
      Political opponents doubted his capacity, referred to him as "too nervous, too worried a little man," and remarked that his Senatorial colleagues used to refer to him humorously as "Nervous Nellie."
    • 1993 Nov. 22, Richard Zoglin, "Hill Street Blues on Happy Juice" (TV review of "Bakersfield P.D."), Time:
      The captain is a nervous Nellie who can't make a decision without the approval of his protective aide-de-camp.

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