Green’s Dictionary of Slang

jitters, the n.

[supposedly f. the Spoonerism ‘bin and jitters’ for ‘gin and bitters’ and orig. used of one who has drunk too much of that mixture]

1. extreme nervousness, a state of emotional and often physical tension, agitation.

[US]S.J. Perelman Dawn Ginsbergh’s Revenge 84: Applebaum retorted that the mere mention of Harvard gave him the starboard jitters.
[US]C. Himes ‘His Last Day’ in Coll. Stories (1990) 293: This suspense was giving him the jitters.
[Aus]D. Stivens Courtship of Uncle Henry 26: Gave us the jitters hiding behind the sheets just like he had been hit over the head.
[US]Mezzrow & Wolfe Really the Blues 183 I even made myself lose that Woodmansten Inn job [...] but still the jitters wouldn’t quit me.
[UK]A. Buckeridge Jennings’ Diary 135: You’re giving me the jitters – talking like a chronic old misery.
[US]Rigney & Smith Real Bohemia 64: Vicious cycles get started: Seconals to go to sleep with, Dexedrines to wake up with, and alcohol during the day for the jitters.
[UK]A. Sillitoe Start in Life (1979) 325: There’d been a terrible rash of early marriages at work among the nineteen-year-olds, and I sometimes got the liver-jitters at Claudine’s seriousness.
[US]T. Whitmore Memphis-Nam-Sweden 132: You’re the one who’s got the jitters.
[UK]G. Melly Rum, Bum and Concertina (1978) 68: I had the mild jitters.
[UK]M. Dibdin Dark Spectre (1996) 18: This gave the car salesmen the jitters. If the house got busted their careers would be over.
[Aus]T. Winton ‘Small Mercies’ in Turning (2005) 75: He told himself it was the rain that kept him at bay but in truth he had the jitters.

2. (US) a hangover, delirium tremens.

[US]R. Sale ‘A Nose for News’ in Goulart (1967) 215: The way the furniture looks when you wake up with the jitters and a bad hangover.
[US]C. McCullers Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1986) 26: ‘The jitters –’ he said.