\ 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 The politician’s narration, which is written in the second person, captures his gnawing agitations with the world, which quickly fester to anger. Annabel Gutterman, Time, "Enter the Aardvark," 18 Mar. 2020 That somehow doesn’t frame the gnawing parity of this league this season, though. Joseph Goodman |, al, "For Samir Doughty and Auburn, the dancing must wait," 12 Feb. 2020 At the same time, many have a gnawing sense that allowing kids online so early is a bit like sending them into the Wild West, unknown to the parents themselves and unregulated by tech companies. Jenny Anderson, Quartz, "The gender gap in gaming is closing as more kids get smartphones," 5 Feb. 2020 The Gospel narratives, by contrast, have that gnawing pretense of being historical, falsifiable. John Hirschauer, National Review, "The Impossible Idea," 25 Dec. 2019 By 1982, Baker's career was spiraling downward thanks to his gnawing drug addiction, plus run-ins with the British government over taxes. cleveland, "Ginger Baker, rock drumming legend of Cream, dies at 80," 6 Oct. 2019 The next few days were a whirwind of phone calls and meetings punctuated by gnawing anxiety about what would happen next. Rachel Swan,, "First came the coronavirus stay-home order. Then a fire destroyed this Alameda family’s home," 11 Apr. 2020 Since Tuesday, the gnawing questions in Britain have been the same as in almost every nation contending with the virus: access to testing, adequate protection for medical staff, a critical shortage of ventilators. Sam Knight, The New Yorker, "Boris Johnson May Be a Victim of His Slow Response to the Coronavirus," 27 Mar. 2020 But beyond them, the sound of gnawing on that fruit, or on corn nuts, or carrots can be just plain obnoxious to everyone. Anchorage Daily News, "The completely correct guide to eating and drinking on a plane," 28 Jan. 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

18 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Gnaw.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 May. 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.

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More from Merriam-Webster on gnaw

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for gnaw

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with gnaw

Spanish Central: Translation of gnaw

Nglish: Translation of gnaw for Spanish Speakers

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