\ˈhyü \
hewed; hewed or hewn\ˈhyün \; 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

adhere, cleave, cling, stick

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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


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

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

More complex concoctions that hew toward tradition are similarly delightful. Dominic Armato, azcentral, "No-frills Sushi Nakano one of the best casual sushi restaurants in Phoenix," 10 July 2018 Though much of Jackie Kennedy’s wardrobe hewed towards looks popularized by Hubert de Givenchy in Paris, she was nevertheless often outfitted by American designer Oleg Cassini. Katherine Cusumano, Teen Vogue, "First Lady Fashion Moments That Made History for the Right Reasons," 23 June 2018 The program hewed tightly to the debate format, outlining arguments and responding directly to points its human opponents made with facts drawn from scientific research and world events. Kevin Kelleher, Fortune, "IBM's Jeopardy-Winning AI Is Now Ready to Debate You," 19 June 2018 General McMaster replaced many of the appointees left over from the 24-day tenure of Michael T. Flynn, whose instincts, especially on Iran, hewed closer to Mr. Bolton’s. David E. Sanger, New York Times, "With Bolton, Trump Creates a Hard-Line Foreign Policy Team," 22 Mar. 2018 Musgraves is the country singer whose new Golden Hour hews more to ’70s Fleetwood Mac and is ready to be discovered by Styles’ screaming fans. Dan Deluca, Philly.com, "Summer concerts: U2, Lauryn Hill, Taylor Swift and more come to Philly," 6 June 2018 But looking elsewhere for the Palme sent a message, too, defusing any possible charges of tokenism and alerting the outside world that this jury would ultimately hew to its own path. Justin Chang, latimes.com, "The wonderful, improbable Palme d'Or triumph of Hirokazu Kore-eda's 'Shoplifters' at Cannes," 21 May 2018 In place of the old boys’ club, hero worship, and hewing to the establishment, architecture needs more women, more people of color, more people who are non-binary, more people who are LGBTQI, and more people who have disabilities. Diana Budds, Curbed, "How architecture can rebuild itself post #MeToo," 21 May 2018 And there’s a single blade mode, which hews closest to the actual swordplay of Star Wars. Chaim Gartenberg, The Verge, "Beat Saber is the neon-soaked VR Star Wars / Guitar Hero mashup you didn’t know you needed," 18 May 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.

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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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Dictionary Entries near hew


Heusler alloy






Phrases Related to hew

hew to

Statistics for hew

Last Updated

16 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for hew

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

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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 \
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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a state of commotion or excitement

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