\ 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 charms of modest amusement; the quiet eccentricity of small-town life; local traditions, stubbornly hewed to; whispers of long-ago frontier hopes, never quite extinguished? Robert Simonson, New York Times, "A Road Trip to the Fiberglass Frontier of Northern Wisconsin," 14 Aug. 2019 Even the last decade's Mega Man 9 and 10 reboots hewed to the nostalgic NES style, almost to a fault. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, "Mega Man 11 review: Switching gears," 1 Oct. 2018 The government appears to be hewing to a strategy of waiting out Trump, possibly through his 2020 reelection campaign, even as the dispute has become a drag on the economy. Chris Buckley, BostonGlobe.com, "Hong Kong crisis tests confidence in Xi’s iron grasp," 7 Sep. 2019 Chef Ed Kenney made a name for himself at Town, which hews closer to the Hawaii Regional Cuisine tradition, and took his first steps there in honoring local ingredients. Naomi Tomky, Fortune, "Honolulu’s Hottest Restaurants Take Hawaiian Paradise Beyond the Beach," 4 Aug. 2019 The Moscow Patriarchate, which hews close to the presidency of Vladimir Putin and at times defends it from popular protest, regularly pours scorn on its counterpart in Istanbul for acting as a stooge of American diplomacy. Erasmus, The Economist, "The gift of overcoming barriers eludes the world’s Orthodox Christians," 15 June 2019 At the same time, people still hew to lifelong social conventions about being a user of their language. Michael Erard, Quartz, "How a doctor and a linguist are using AI to better talk to dying patients," 3 Sep. 2019 Between 1991 and 2017 a politician who sat among others who did not hew to the party line was 30 percentage points more likely to rebel. The Economist, "Parliaments get facelifts; but it is politics that really needs one," 27 July 2019 But Mueller, 74, who hews to standards of an earlier era, is not expected to stray beyond the document his team produced. Mary Clare Jalonick, The Denver Post, "Mueller’s testimony poses risk for Trump, but also Democrats," 20 July 2019

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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Statistics for hew

Last Updated

30 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for hew

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

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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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More from Merriam-Webster on hew

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for hew

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with hew

Spanish Central: Translation of hew

Nglish: Translation of hew for Spanish Speakers

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to spread as a report or rumor

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