\ 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
3 : erode, corrode

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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from gnaw

gnawer \ ˈnȯ(-​ə)r How to pronounce gnaw (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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web The country has little to do but wait and try not to gnaw itself to bits. Washington Post, 20 Apr. 2021 However to remain in the band and self-censor will gnaw my conscience, erode my integrity. Jon Blistein, Rolling Stone, 24 June 2021 Minder reported MonsterCloud to the Federal Trade Commission, but the incident continued to gnaw at him. Rachel Monroe, The New Yorker, 31 May 2021 As the trial got underway, guilt began to gnaw at the Minneapolis native. Clyde Mcgrady, Washington Post, 21 Apr. 2021 Diggins, who is twenty-nine, should be in her absolute prime during the next few seasons, with most of the doubts that can gnaw at younger athletes behind her. Bill Mckibben, The New Yorker, 12 Mar. 2021 Poisonous baits sold in pellet form, or in newer putty formulations, turn the natural tendency of mice to gnaw and nibble against them. Adam Hadhazy, Popular Mechanics, 9 Mar. 2021 Nutria gnaw away the roots of plants, leaving little to hold the landscape in place. Chron, 7 Mar. 2021 Even if a hole doesn't start out that large, the rodents gnaw their way to make the opening larger. Beth Kaufman, Good Housekeeping, 26 Jan. 2021

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About gnaw

Time Traveler for gnaw

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near gnaw



gnaw at

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for gnaw

Cite this Entry

“Gnaw.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Oct. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for gnaw



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

Nglish: Translation of gnaw for Spanish Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!