\ 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 line no 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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from hew


hewer noun

Synonyms for hew

Synonyms: Verb

chop (down), cut (down), fell, mow

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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


They hewed logs to build a cabin. The walls are built of stones hewn by skilled craftsmen.

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Inside and Out History and science take lyrical turns in two books of essays, both by poets, that hew to your literary tastes. Nicole Lamy, New York Times, "Books New and Old for the Would-Be Time Traveler," 1 May 2018 The term of the current government expires on May 22 under provisions of Afghanistan’s constitution, and Mr. Ghani has insisted on hewing to that deadline. Ehsanullah Amiri, WSJ, "Afghan Official Raises Prospect of Postponing April Presidential Vote," 26 Dec. 2018 Artemis wasn't as well received as Weir's first novel, but like The Martian, much of its charm lies is the world-building that hews as closely as possible to scientific fact. Andrew Moseman, Popular Mechanics, "'Artemis' by Andy Weir Is Getting the Movie Treatment," 17 July 2018 This moment in history teaches us that democracy has always implicitly depended on political leaders hewing to democratic norms rather than sowing antagonism against society’s vulnerable for political gain and labeling press criticism as fake news. Marc J. Hetherington, Vox, "How you think about raising children says a lot about your political views," 29 Nov. 2018 That’s a squirrel painted on canvas; hewed from metal, stone or porcelain; or created with the tiny tiles of a mosaic. John Kelly, Washington Post, "Hunting for the art squirrels of Washington: Artists have rendered the critters in all sorts of ways," 20 Apr. 2018 Under questioning, Pichai seemed to hew closely to talking points about the project, repeating the company’s previous statement that the project was only exploratory. Colin Lecher, The Verge, "What Google’s CEO told Congress about China — and what he didn’t," 12 Dec. 2018 The silvered shingles of the roofs were made from Brazilian wood, the terraces underfoot hewn from coral stone. Hamish Bowles, Vogue, "Inside Tory Burch’s Lovingly Restored Antigua Getaway," 15 Aug. 2018 Elite schools have the luxury to hew more closely to the classic liberal-arts education: long on theory and intellectual development, short on vocational or professional training. Douglas Belkin, WSJ, "Northeast Rules in WSJ/THE Ranking of Liberal-Arts Schools," 5 Sep. 2018

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about hew

Listen to Our Podcast about hew

Dictionary Entries near hew


Heusler alloy






Statistics for hew

Last Updated

15 May 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for hew

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for hew



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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on hew

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with hew

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for hew

Spanish Central: Translation of hew

Nglish: Translation of hew for Spanish Speakers

Comments on hew

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


standardized text or formulaic language

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Finance Words Quiz

  • a-piggy-bank
  • The etymology of mortgage is related most closely to which two words?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


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

Love words? Need even more definitions?

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