\ ˈnȯ How to pronounce gnaw (audio) \
gnawed; gnawing; gnaws

Definition of gnaw

transitive verb

1a : to bite or chew on with the teeth especially : to wear away by persistent biting or nibbling a dog gnawing a bone
b : to make by gnawing rats gnawed a hole
2a : to be a source of vexation to : plague anxiety always gnawing him
b : to affect like gnawing hunger gnawing her vitals

intransitive verb

1 : to bite or nibble persistently gnawing at his underlip
2 : to produce an effect of or as if of gnawing waves gnawing away at the cliffs

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Other Words from gnaw

gnawer \ ˈnȯ(-​ə)r How to pronounce gnawer (audio) \ noun

Examples of gnaw in a Sentence

The dog was gnawing a bone. He nervously gnawed on his fingernails. Rabbits have gnawed at the hedge. Rabbits had gnawed a hole in the hedge.
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Recent Examples on the Web Consider the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics, two teams with abundant young talent and title aspirations that will gnaw at them over the coming months. Scott Cacciola, New York Times, "The Lakers’ Winding Path Ends With a Championship," 11 Oct. 2020 At Mygatt-Moore, Drumheller-Horton says, the team found a smattering of bite marks all over, so some carnivores may have taken down the prey and gotten first pick while others were left to gnaw on the carcasses later. Riley Black, Smithsonian Magazine, "Carnivorous Dinosaurs Like Allosaurus Were Cannibals," 27 May 2020 Unlike a typical Costco membership card, this one is enjoyable to gnaw on. Kelli Bender,, "Costco's Popular Food Court Items Are Now Adorable Dog Toys — And They're On Sale Soon," 11 Aug. 2020 Using their powerful front teeth, the fuzzy creatures will gnaw at trees, build watertight dams and flood different areas to construct their elaborate underwater lodges. Nora Mcgreevy, Smithsonian Magazine, "Beavers Are Accelerating Climate Change in Alaska," 8 July 2020 Despite a shortage of testing materials, labs and researchers are gnawing away at the need., "More coronavirus testing needed as Ohio inches toward May 1 reopening," 19 Apr. 2020 The occupation gnaws at the nation’s moral and democratic fiber and poses a risk that there will be more non-Jews than Jews ruled by the Jewish state. Ethan Bronner, The New York Review of Books, "Stuck," 12 Mar. 2020 Grow old with me or turn your back on the best thing that ever happened to you, risking a lifetime of gnawing regret? Sarah Lazarus, The New Yorker, "The Environmental Impact of Breaking Up with Me," 4 Nov. 2019 The firm had hoped to use some of the proceeds from that deal to boost ailing units, although worsening finances are gnawing at the lifeline. William Wilkes,, "Thyssenkrupp to Break Up German Giant in Fight for Survival," 19 May 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'gnaw.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of gnaw

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for gnaw

Middle English gnawen, from Old English gnagan; akin to Old High German gnagan to gnaw

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Time Traveler for gnaw

Time Traveler

The first known use of gnaw was before the 12th century

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Statistics for gnaw

Last Updated

21 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Gnaw.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Oct. 2020.

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More Definitions for gnaw


How to pronounce gnaw (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of gnaw

: to bite or chew (something) repeatedly
: to make (a hole in something) by chewing


\ ˈnȯ How to pronounce gnaw (audio) \
gnawed; gnawing

Kids Definition of gnaw

: to bite so as to wear away : bite or chew upon The dog gnawed a bone.

More from Merriam-Webster on gnaw

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for gnaw

Nglish: Translation of gnaw for Spanish Speakers

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