noun (1)
\ ˈhȯ How to pronounce haw (audio) \

Definition of haw

 (Entry 1 of 5)

1 : a hawthorn berry
2 : hawthorn


noun (2)

Definition of haw (Entry 2 of 5)

: nictitating membrane especially : an inflamed nictitating membrane of a domesticated mammal

Definition of haw (Entry 3 of 5)

often used to indicate a vocalized pause in speaking


verb (1)
hawed; hawing; haws

Definition of haw (Entry 4 of 5)

intransitive verb

1 : to utter the sound represented by haw hemmed and hawed before answering
2 : equivocate the administration hemmed and hawed over the students' demands


verb (2)
hawed; hawing; haws

Definition of haw (Entry 5 of 5)

imperative verb

used as a direction to turn to the left — compare gee entry 3

intransitive verb

: to turn to the near or left side

First Known Use of haw

Noun (1)

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

Noun (2)

1523, in the meaning defined above


1600, in the meaning defined above

Verb (1)

1632, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb (2)

1777, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense

History and Etymology for haw

Noun (1)

Middle English hawe, going back to Old English haga, weak masculine noun, formally identical with haga "fence, fenced enclosure, hedge" (whence Middle English hawe in same sense), going back to Germanic *hagan- (whence also Middle Dutch hage "thornbush," haghe "thornbush forming a border," Old Icelandic hagi "enclosed field, pasture"), derivative of a base *hag- seen also in *haga-, masculine a-stem, whence Old English hæg- "enclosure" (in placenames), Old High German hag "palisade, enclosed land"; in *hagi-, masculine i-stem, whence Old English hege "hedge, fence, boundary wall" (whence Middle English heye, haie, in part reflecting also Anglo-French haie "hedge, fence"), Middle Low German hege; in *hagjō hedge entry 1; in *hagna-, masculine a-stem, derivative with the suffix of appurtenance -na-, whence Old Saxon hagan "thornbush, buckthorn," Middle Dutch haghen "enclosure," Old High German hagan "thornbush, plants of the genera Crataegus and Rhamnus"; Germanic hag- going back to dialectal Indo-European *kagh- "enclosure," whence also Celtic *kagi̯o- (whence Welsh cae "hedge, hedgerow, field," Cornish ke "hedge, ditch," Old Breton caiou glossing munimenta "defensive works, barrier," Breton kae "hedge, field") and probably Latin caulae, plural only, "railing, lattice forming a barrier" (going back to *kahelā)

Note: Old English haga in the sense "hawthorn berry" may have been extracted from hagaþorn hawthorn or an unattested compound with berie berry entry 1. Germanic *hag- "enclosure," with its numerous derivative stems, appears to have been intimately connected with the thorny plants such as Crataegus used to form hedges. — The northwest Indo-European etymon *kagh- "enclosure" has been associated with a verb of the same form meaning approximately "grasp, enclose," which is hypothetically the source of Umbrian kukehes "you (or s/he) will reach," Oscan kahad "s/he takes," as well as some of the forms of Welsh cael "to get, receive" (see Lexikon der indogermanischen Verben, 2. Auflage, p. 342). The Lexikon shows this form as both *kagh- and *ḱagh-, as *kagh- violates an Indo-European root structure constraint (though comparable forms in a satem language are lacking); a stricter laryngealist notation would be *ḱh2gh-. Also connected with this verb is Latin cohum "hollow in the middle of a yoke"—see inchoate. See also quay.

Noun (2)

Middle English howe, hawe "morbid excrescence in the eye," of uncertain origin

Verb (1)

derivative of haw entry 3

Verb (2)

probably from haw entry 3 used as a command to an animal

Learn More About haw

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Time Traveler

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

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Cite this Entry

“Haw.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/haw. Accessed 26 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for haw


\ ˈhȯ How to pronounce haw (audio) \

Medical Definition of haw

: nictitating membrane especially : an inflamed nictitating membrane of a domesticated mammal

More from Merriam-Webster on haw

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for haw

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about haw


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