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

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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 To harness a deal, Biden may need to hew to a more typical infrastructure definition and remove the two major sticking points. Katherine Doyle, Washington Examiner, "Two sticking points likely to dominate Biden-GOP infrastructure meeting," 19 Apr. 2021 In a statement, Boniface said his administration would hew to conservative policies that prioritize efficiency and cost-effectiveness of county government. James Whitlow, baltimoresun.com, "Billy Boniface formally files to run for Harford County Executive in 2022," 6 Apr. 2021 Moreover, the budget tools have other limits in that the proposals need to hew to budgetary guidelines, which means not all bills would qualify. Lisa Mascaro, Star Tribune, "Senate gives Biden a big tool to work around GOP filibuster," 6 Apr. 2021 The proposals hew closely to what Mr. Biden promised on the campaign trail, and the immediate reactions mostly fell along predictable lines. New York Times, "Biden Tax Plan Challenges G.O.P. Formula for Economic Growth," 31 Mar. 2021 Even with all our leadership development efforts, organizations still hew to authoritarian power, control and — in the worst but not uncommon cases — abuse. Lisa Schmidt, Forbes, "Enough With Leadership Development; It's Time To Focus On Culture," 5 Mar. 2021 The council appears poised to override the mayor, while also putting forward a more detailed proposal that seems to hew closer to his vision for the money. Dakota Smith, Los Angeles Times, "City Council has a new plan for spending $88 million on L.A. communities of color," 2 Mar. 2021 Detransition, Baby avoids tidy narratives, instead choosing to hew closer to reality with storylines and characters that are imperfect and messy. Britni De La Cretaz, refinery29.com, "Torrey Peters Isn’t Going To Be Distracted," 12 Jan. 2021 Nor do open-access publication fees hew closely to the laws of demand. Jeffrey Brainard, Science | AAAS, "A new mandate highlights costs, benefits of making all scientific articles free to read," 1 Jan. 2021

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

27 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Hew.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hew. Accessed 7 May. 2021.

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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

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Nglish: Translation of hew for Spanish Speakers

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