\ 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 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 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 This will be particularly important in states where leaders hew to a conservative agenda. Star Tribune, "Four ways progressive states can respond to conservative courts," 17 Nov. 2020 The coronavirus pandemic and low oil prices have prompted Persian Gulf countries to overhaul a number of policies that often hew to Islamic traditions but hinder efforts to draw foreign talent and global investment. Rory Jones And Stephen Kalin, WSJ, "Pandemic Prompts Gulf Countries to Adopt More Western Norms," 11 Nov. 2020 Biden, seemingly hyperaware of the need to set a new tone, has promised that his transition team will hew to a higher ethical standard and limit the presence of lobbyists and influence-peddlers. Jeff Hauser, The New Republic, "Beltway Lobbyists Are Clutching Their Pearls Over Biden’s Ethics Reforms," 28 Oct. 2020 Champions of social justice have demanded that colleges investigate, discipline, and terminate faculty members who fail to hew to the campus consensus. Frederick M. Hess, National Review, "Northwestern President Offers Tutorial on Campus Leadership," 28 Oct. 2020 Her decisions hew close to the facts and the law, neither deferring to law enforcement nor accepting unfounded claims of abuse. David B. Rivkin Jr. And Andrew M. Grossman, WSJ, "What Kind of Judge Is Amy Coney Barrett?," 26 Sep. 2020 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

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

21 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Hew.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hew. Accessed 24 Jan. 2021.

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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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