\ 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

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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

Those online newcomers are gnawing at other players’ market shares, thanks in part to aggressive advertising that follows you around the internet. Hailey Mensik, Los Angeles Times, "Waking up a sleepy California mattress company | How I Made It," 18 Aug. 2019 Life lived in this kind of place brings gnawing, low-level unease. David Campany, The New Yorker, "Life in Miami on the Knife’s Edge of Climate Change," 18 Aug. 2019 Her biggest source of frustration is the gnawing sense that the trade war seems not only futile but damaging. Peter S. Goodman, New York Times, "Make Shoes in U.S., or Pay Tariffs? A Footwear Company Seeks a Third Option," 2 Sep. 2019 Trump received three million fewer votes than his opponent in the 2016 election, a fact that seems to constantly gnaw at him. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "The Great Lie of the Right-Wing Populists," 30 Aug. 2019 In a mid-season episode of David Makes Man, the new Oprah Winfrey Network drama that explores the emotional volume of black teenhood and the gnawing effects of trauma, lead character David (Akili McDowell) encounters calamity. Wired, "David Makes Man Invents a Doorway to a New Kind of TV," 28 Aug. 2019 Americans have forgotten how to strive for lasting truth, and a gnawing despair has filled the void. Kayla Bartsch, National Review, "Marianne Williamson Offers Priestly Wisdom for a Nation Adrift — Seriously," 12 Aug. 2019 The solution, the research team suggests, is to make sure indoor cats have enough safe, non-poisonous vegetation to gnaw on, like cat grass. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Researchers Think They Know Why Cats Eat Grass," 12 Aug. 2019 This eclipse is about releasing old gnawing thoughts and the hurts of the past. Emily Simone, Allure, "A Lunar Eclipse Is Coming — Here's How It Will Affect Each Zodiac Sign," 15 July 2019

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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Dictionary Entries near gnaw





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Statistics for gnaw

Last Updated

22 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for gnaw

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

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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.

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More from Merriam-Webster on gnaw

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with gnaw

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for gnaw

Spanish Central: Translation of gnaw

Nglish: Translation of gnaw for Spanish Speakers

Comments on gnaw

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miscellaneous remnants or debris

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