\ ˈshrü How to pronounce shrew (audio) , especially Southern ˈsrü \

Definition of shrew

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : any of a family (Soricidae) of small chiefly nocturnal insectivores related to the moles and distinguished by a long pointed snout, very small eyes, and short velvety fur
2 : an ill-tempered scolding woman


shrewed; shrewing; shrews

Definition of shrew (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: curse

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Other Words from shrew


shrewlike \ ˈshrü-​ˌlīk How to pronounce shrew (audio) \ adjective

Examples of shrew in a Sentence

Noun Rip Van Winkle went off into the mountains to escape his wife, a shrew who made his life miserable.
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Unfortunately, the shrew had a number of apocalypse-friendly adaptations humans have since lost. Cody Cassidy, Wired, "How to Survive a Killer Asteroid," 9 Apr. 2021 The idea behind these projects tends to follow a formula: this woman wasn’t always a monster, a harpy, a shrew. Rachel Syme, The New Yorker, "“Ratched,” Reviewed: A Confused, Caricaturish Origin Story for the “Cuckoo’s Nest” Villainess," 19 Sep. 2020 The elephant shrew has been rediscovered in Africa after 50 years. Brett Harman, CNN, "Must-watch videos of the week," 21 Aug. 2020 Smith and paleontologist Kenneth Angielczyk turned instead to 16 hero shrew specimens already in the Field Museum’s collections. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian Magazine, "Hero Shrews’ Extreme, Superstrong Backbones Are the Stuff of Legend," 30 Apr. 2020 The oldest mammals go back much further in time, and contrary to the standard story of shrew-like critters kept in check by monstrous reptiles, mammals thrived during Mesozoic era. Riley Black, Smithsonian, "Fossil Site Reveals How Mammals Thrived After the Death of the Dinosaurs," 25 Oct. 2019 But the disease does not appear to spread between horses; they are thought to acquire it from shrews, which can live in hay and secrete or excrete fluids containing the virus. Tanya Lewis, Scientific American, "Virus Spread by Shrews Linked to Human Deaths from Mysterious Brain Infections," 8 Jan. 2020 That difference of 40 degrees is significant in the life of voles and shrews and insects and plants. Anchorage Daily News, "Middle Alaska begins its transition to a quieter, snow-covered world," 12 Oct. 2019 Over 3 years, rats, shrews, and even frogs followed suit—more than 200,000 animals in all. David Grimm, Science | AAAS, "Our favorite science news stories of the decade," 20 Dec. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'shrew.' 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 shrew


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for shrew


Middle English shrewe evil or scolding person, from Old English scrēawa shrew (animal)

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Time Traveler for shrew

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for shrew

Last Updated

12 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Shrew.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for shrew



English Language Learners Definition of shrew

: a small animal that looks like a mouse with a long, pointed nose
old-fashioned : an unpleasant, bad-tempered woman


\ ˈshrü How to pronounce shrew (audio) \

Kids Definition of shrew

1 : a small mouselike animal with a long pointed snout and tiny eyes that lives mostly on insects and worms
2 : an unpleasant woman with a bad temper

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