gnaw

verb
\ 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 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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

And neither team wants to focus on the inconsistencies that have gnawed at Celtics coach Brad Stevens and Pacers coach Nate McMillan throughout the season. Kyle Hightower, The Seattle Times, "Pacers, Celtics enter playoff matchup looking for redemption," 13 Apr. 2019 That question is a minor mystery that has gnawed at scientists since the tiny fossilized creatures were first discovered 150 years ago. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "A 150-Year Old Weird Ancient Animal Mystery, Solved," 22 Feb. 2019 Pets will eat just about anything: shoes, grass, sticks, Amazon boxes, paychecks, Diet Coke cans — and that's just what my own two dogs have gnawed on over the years. Caroline Picard, Good Housekeeping, "5 Holiday Plants That Are Way More Toxic Than Poinsettias to Cats and Dogs," 14 Dec. 2018 The river water gnawed away lead from pipes, joints and fixtures that contaminated drinking water in the majority-black city of 100,000 people. John Flesher, The Seattle Times, "Michigan governor revamps environmental agency after Flint," 4 Feb. 2019 Such is not the case in Okkervil River songs, where singer-songwriter Will Sheff has time and again returned to the throat in song, often to violent, gnawing and gnashing ends. Andrew Dansby, Houston Chronicle, "Okkervil River’s Will Sheff examines his throat — and heart — on band’s new album," 23 May 2018 Photo: hannah mckay/Reuters What might gnaw at City is the fact that, for all of its ambition, a different Premier League club has come even closer to lifting the trophy. Joshua Robinson, WSJ, "A New-Look Real Madrid Shoots for Four Champions League Titles in a Row," 18 Sep. 2018 Still, the rare rat case gnaws at the lingering questions of hepatitis E that Meng and other infectious disease trackers have chipped away at for several decades. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, "Rat hepatitis jumps to human for first time, spotlighting disease mystery," 2 Oct. 2018 Throughout the night, fans who had waited so long relished much of the game, all the while with a pit of gnawing anxiety. Lomi Kriel, Houston Chronicle, "Unhappy ending for Rockets, fans after Game 7 loss," 28 May 2018

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

Dictionary Entries near gnaw

gnatling

gnatsnap

gnatter

gnaw

gnaw at

gnawingly

gnd

Statistics for gnaw

Last Updated

21 Apr 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for gnaw

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for gnaw

gnaw

verb

English Language Learners Definition of gnaw

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

gnaw

verb
\ 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.

Keep scrolling for more

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

What made you want to look up gnaw? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

to speak slightingly about or to degrade

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Challenging Vocabulary Quiz Returns!

  • stylized drawing of woman pole vaulting across gap to get trophy
  • Which is a synonym of fuliginous?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Word Winder's CrossWinder

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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