\ 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

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Other Words from hew


hewer noun

Synonyms for hew

Synonyms: Verb

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

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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

The incremental healthcare strategy pushed by the moderates hews more closely to the country’s political tradition. Noam N. Levey, Los Angeles Times, "News Analysis: Democrats ask if Americans are ready to give up job-based health coverage," 2 Aug. 2019 The statement hewed closely to Pelosi's previous comments about the impeachment question, including her remarks at her final weekly press conference before the House departed for its August recess. NBC News, "Majority of House Democrats now support Trump impeachment inquiry," 2 Aug. 2019 American media followed the lead of their colleagues in France, hewing to the narrative of country-bumpkin savages gone berserk. Christopher Ketcham, Harper's magazine, "A Play with No End," 22 July 2019 Warren skillfully hewed to a moderate course while still sounding like a solid progressive. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "Elizabeth Warren proved she’s ready for the big show," 27 June 2019 The new Lion King hews closely to the original’s script; Disney teased the overlaps with a trailer that replicated the early-’90s promotional video shot for shot. Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, "The Uncanny Fun of the Live-Action Lion King," 11 July 2019 The next year, the death toll skyrocketed to 147 and hewed close to that in 2016 with 141 homicides. Ashley Luthern, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "How Milwaukee became so segregated and why it matters when it comes to crime," 10 July 2019 By hewing to a physiological definition of infertility, Pellittieri’s insurance policy would leave her untreated. Anna Louie Sussman, The New Yorker, "The Case for Redefining Infertility," 18 June 2019 The first few episodes of Season 3, as if sensing that reality is hewing too close to the show's dystopian vision of the world, trades its depictions of emotional and physical torment for a tone of empowerment and rebellion. Julie Kosin, Harper's BAZAAR, "Elisabeth Moss Finally Finds Hope in The Handmaid's Tale," 12 June 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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Dictionary Entries near hew


Heusler alloy






Statistics for hew

Last Updated

7 Aug 2019

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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 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

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).


to make or get by devious means

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