gnaw

verb

gnawed; gnawing; gnaws

transitive verb

1
a
: 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
2
a
: to be a source of vexation to : plague
anxiety always gnawing him
b
: to affect like gnawing
hunger gnawing her vitals
3

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
gnawer noun

Example Sentences

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.
Recent Examples on the Web There are other shrew-rats in Indonesia and the Philippines, and while all of them have lost the ability to gnaw, none have features quite as extreme as Esselstyn’s new find. Ed Yong, Discover Magazine, 21 Aug. 2012 That comes as the growing economic clout of China and oil- and gas-rich autocracies like Qatar continues to gnaw away at Western presumptions about the superiority of liberal democracy. Time, 20 Nov. 2022 The place lived up to the hype from the jump, not just because we were surrounded by a mad pack of wolves eager to gnaw the marrow from our bones. Ben Flanagan | Bflanagan@al.com, al, 5 Nov. 2022 While Jack is supportive and excited, the question of paternity continues to gnaw at him. Amethyst Tate, PEOPLE.com, 8 July 2022 He is gone now, and the waves gnaw at the shore and the island slowly sinks into the sea. Rafil Kroll-zaidi, Harper’s Magazine , 17 Aug. 2022 While Jack is supportive and excited, the question of paternity continues to gnaw at him. Amethyst Tate, PEOPLE.com, 8 July 2022 While Jack is supportive and excited, the question of paternity continues to gnaw at him. Amethyst Tate, PEOPLE.com, 8 July 2022 Despite the agreement, analysts say the economic fallout from the war has begun to gnaw at European unity against Moscow. Paul Hannon, WSJ, 31 May 2022 See More

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.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near gnaw

Cite this Entry

“Gnaw.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/gnaw. Accessed 28 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition

gnaw

verb
1
a
: to bite or chew with the teeth
especially : to wear away by repeated biting or nibbling
dog gnawing a bone
b
: to make by gnawing
rats gnawed a hole
2
a
: annoy, irritate
worry gnawed at me day and night
b
: to affect like gnawing
gnawing hunger
gnawer noun

More from Merriam-Webster on gnaw

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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