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[naw] /nɔ/
verb (used with object), gnawed, gnawed or gnawn, gnawing.
to bite or chew on, especially persistently.
to wear away or remove by persistent biting or nibbling.
to form or make by so doing:
to gnaw a hole through the wall.
to waste or wear away; corrode; erode.
to trouble or torment by constant annoyance, worry, etc.; vex; plague.
verb (used without object), gnawed, gnawed or gnawn, gnawing.
to bite or chew persistently:
The spaniel gnawed happily on a bone.
to cause corrosion:
The acid gnaws at the metal.
to cause an effect resembling corrosion:
Her mistake gnawed at her conscience.
Origin of gnaw
before 1000; Middle English gnawen, Old English gnagen; cognate with German nagen, Old Norse gnāga
Related forms
gnawable, adjective
gnawer, noun
outgnaw, verb (used with object), outgnawed, outgnawed or outgnawn, outgnawing.
undergnaw, verb (used with object)
ungnawed, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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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.

    The Odyssey of Sam Meecham Charles E. Fritch
  • I attempted to gnaw through the wires, but they resisted my utmost efforts.

    The Rambles of a Rat

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

    The Young Treasure Hunter Frank V. Webster
  • Come here, Harry; get in front of me and I'll gnaw your wrists free.

  • Her theory was good, only Buddy didn't care to gnaw his bone on an evening edition.

    Torchy As A Pa Sewell Ford
  • This they do by sending an animal into the body of the child to gnaw its vitals.

British Dictionary definitions for gnaw


verb gnaws, gnawing, gnawed, gnawed, gnawn (nɔːn)
when intr, often foll by at or upon. to bite (at) or chew (upon) constantly so as to wear away little by little
(transitive) to form by gnawing: to gnaw a hole
to cause erosion of (something)
when intr, often foll by at. to cause constant distress or anxiety (to)
the act or an instance of gnawing
Derived Forms
gnawable, adjective
gnawer, noun
gnawing, adjective, noun
gnawingly, 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
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Word Origin and History for gnaw

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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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