Word of the Day


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1. to use a part of your body, especially your elbow, to give a little push to someone or something
2. to make something move gradually or a little way in a particular direction
a. to move gradually in a particular direction
3. to encourage someone in a gentle way to do something

Origin and usage

The word nudge likely comes from a Scandinavian word like the Norwegian ‘nyggje’ or the Icelandic ‘nugga’, both meaning ‘to jostle or rub’. The English usage of nudge dates back to the 1670s.


Nudge means to gently push someone or something in a particular direction. The word has a literal meaning (to physically push) and a figurative one (to encourage through words or actions). This second meaning is sometimes referred to as ‘the power of suggestion’.

The power of suggestion is, in fact, based on science. ‘Nudge theory’ is a Nobel Prize-winning concept in behavioural science and economics that says people can be driven to comply through the use of positive reinforcement and suggestion. Instead of issuing direct orders or making laws, nudge theory uses subtle environmental changes to help people make better choices.

Singapore has mastered the art of nudge theory, applying the practice to nearly every part of its society, from improving the cleanliness of the city to creating a universal language to encouraging citizens to make healthier choices. Nudges come in the form of signs, slogans and grants for businesses that comply with government initiatives.


“Countries all around the world, starting with the UK, have started behavioural insight teams, often referred to as nudge units. And they seem to be doing lots of good.”
(Richard Thaler, American economist and Nobel Prize-winner)


push, shove, encourage, persuade, convince

View the full definition in the Macmillan Dictionary.

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1 Comment

  • May I say “The best things to teach children how to behave well is to nudge them to do / learn something?” (positive education)

    I love your “word of the day” section to improve my English and my vocabulary. Thank you for all this content.

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