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gnaw

[naw]
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verb (used with object), gnawed, gnawed or gnawn, gnaw·ing.
  1. to bite or chew on, especially persistently.
  2. to wear away or remove by persistent biting or nibbling.
  3. to form or make by so doing: to gnaw a hole through the wall.
  4. to waste or wear away; corrode; erode.
  5. to trouble or torment by constant annoyance, worry, etc.; vex; plague.
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verb (used without object), gnawed, gnawed or gnawn, gnaw·ing.
  1. to bite or chew persistently: The spaniel gnawed happily on a bone.
  2. to cause corrosion: The acid gnaws at the metal.
  3. to cause an effect resembling corrosion: Her mistake gnawed at her conscience.
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Origin of gnaw

before 1000; Middle English gnawen, Old English gnagen; cognate with German nagen, Old Norse gnāga
Related formsgnaw·a·ble, adjectivegnaw·er, nounout·gnaw, verb (used with object), out·gnawed, out·gnawed or out·gnawn, out·gnaw·ing.un·der·gnaw, verb (used with object)un·gnawed, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for gnaw

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • The dogs had devoured even the entrails of the seal, and began to gnaw their traces.

    The Field of Ice

    Jules Verne

  • The dog was unable to gnaw through the leather at his own end of the stick.

    White Fang

    Jack London

  • Sam watched her go to the house, and doubts began to gnaw at him.

  • I attempted to gnaw through the wires, but they resisted my utmost efforts.

  • They burrowed under the snow until they could gnaw them, and thus they released us.


British Dictionary definitions for gnaw

gnaw

verb gnaws, gnawing, gnawed, gnawed or gnawn (nɔːn)
  1. (when intr, often foll by at or upon) to bite (at) or chew (upon) constantly so as to wear away little by little
  2. (tr) to form by gnawingto gnaw a hole
  3. to cause erosion of (something)
  4. (when intr, often foll by at) to cause constant distress or anxiety (to)
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noun
  1. the act or an instance of gnawing
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Derived Formsgnawable, adjectivegnawer, noungnawing, adjective, noungnawingly, adverb

Word Origin

Old English gnagan; related to Old Norse gnaga, Old High German gnagan
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for gnaw

v.

Old English gnagan (past tense *gnog, past participle gnagan) "to gnaw," a common Germanic word (cf. Old Saxon gnagan, Old Norse, Swedish gnaga, Middle Dutch, Dutch knagen, Old High German gnagan, German nagen "to gnaw"), probably imitative of gnawing. Related: Gnawed; gnawing.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper