\ ˈhyü How to pronounce hew (audio) \
hewed; hewed or hewn\ ˈhyün How to pronounce hewn (audio) \; hewing

Definition of hew

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to cut with blows of a heavy cutting instrument roughly hewn logs
2 : to cut down by blows of an ax hew a tree
3 : to give form or shape to with or as if with heavy cutting blows hewed their farms from the wilderness— J. T. Shotwell

intransitive verb

1 : to make cutting blows (as with an ax)
2 : conform, adhere hew to tradition often used in the phrase hew to the lineno pressure … on newspapers to hew to the official lineN.Y. Times Mag.

Definition of HEW (Entry 2 of 2)

Department of Health, Education, and Welfare

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Other Words from hew


hewer noun

Synonyms for hew

Synonyms: Verb

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Did You Know?

Hew is a strong, simple word of Anglo-Saxon descent. It can suggest actual ax-wielding, or it can be figurative: "If ... our ambition hews and shapes [our] new relations, their virtue escapes, as strawberries lose their flavor in garden-beds" (Ralph Waldo Emerson). It's easy to see how the figurative "shape" sense of "hew" developed from the literal hacking sense, but what does chopping have to do with adhering and conforming? That sense first appeared in the late 1800s in the phrase "hew to the line." The "hew line" is a line marked along the length of a log indicating where to chop in order to shape a beam. "Hewing to the line," literally, is cutting along the mark-adhering to it-until the side of the log is squared.

Examples of hew in a Sentence

Verb They hewed logs to build a cabin. The walls are built of stones hewn by skilled craftsmen.
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The government also appointed a new board of trustees — actions that raised fears that the university, long a target of the government, will be forced to hew more closely to Mr. Orban’s nationalistic and conservative vision for Hungary. Benjamin Novak, New York Times, "Student Blockade Protests Viktor Orban’s Reach at a Top Arts University," 6 Sep. 2020 The 23,000-member group coalesced around five benchmarks, which hew closely to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines. Phillip Valys, sun-sentinel.com, "Let’s Eat Safely, South Florida: Which Broward, Palm Beach restaurants do COVID-19 dining right?," 5 Sep. 2020 But others in the party more likely to hew closely to Trump’s playbook won featured roles at this week’s convention. Jordan Fabian, Bloomberg.com, "Win or Lose, Trump Is Stamping His Imprint on GOP Over Reagan’s," 28 Aug. 2020 In early episodes, things hew fairly closely to Matt Ruff's 2016 novel of the same name. Peter Rubin, Wired, "Lovecraft Country Is a Necessary Re-Imagining of Genre Fiction," 17 Aug. 2020 These types of issues hew more closely to the overall task facing a potential Biden administration, which will be to continue managing the economic fallout from the pandemic. Brian Fung, CNN, "What Kamala Harris as VP would mean for Silicon Valley," 12 Aug. 2020 Most Americans still hew to that classical liberal ideal as do many of those who marched with justified anger over the killing of Mr Floyd. The Economist, "Tackling racism The new ideology of race," 9 July 2020 The characters all hew to the archetypes Martin originally set forth, in that Kristy is bossy and sometimes impetuous. Hank Stuever, Washington Post, "Netflix’s fresh take on ‘The Baby-Sitters Club’ celebrates the best qualities of a new generation," 2 July 2020 The budget appears to hew many of Newsom’s expectations, including relying on the expectation that California will get significant federal funding to address the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. USA TODAY, "Fest cancellations, mixed-up results, unemployment slowdown: News from around our 50 states," 5 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'hew.' 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 hew


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

History and Etymology for hew


Middle English, from Old English hēawan; akin to Old High German houwan to hew, Lithuanian kauti to forge, Latin cudere to beat

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Time Traveler for hew

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

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Last Updated

17 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Hew.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hew. Accessed 30 Sep. 2020.

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More Definitions for hew


How to pronounce HEW (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of hew

: to shape (something) by cutting with a sharp tool (such as an ax)


\ ˈhyü How to pronounce hew (audio) \
hewed or hewn\ ˈhyün \; hewing

Kids Definition of hew

1 : to chop down hew trees
2 : to shape by cutting with an ax hew logs

Medical Definition of HEW

Department of Health, Education, and Welfare

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Nglish: Translation of hew for Spanish Speakers

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