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90s Slang You Should Know


[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. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for gnaw
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Under the table, the dogs gathered to gnaw the bones that were flung to them.

    Britain in the Middle Ages Florence L. Bowman
  • This they do by sending an animal into the body of the child to gnaw its vitals.

  • They are great gnawers, and will gnaw your house down if you do not look out.

    Riverby John Burroughs
  • He'd gnaw, or pull his foot off, if we tied the trap to a tree.

    Ben Comee M. J. (Michael Joseph) Canavan
  • The squirrels chatter at sunrise, and gnaw off the full-grown burrs of the chestnuts.

    Dream Life Donald G. Mitchell
  • Then by degrees the fox revived and began to gnaw once more.

    The Giant's Robe F. Anstey
  • Then it was, the wish to fly from this neighbourhood began to grow and gnaw upon her, till it became a wild and passionate desire.

  • True, it has nothing to do, at every hour of the day and night, but gnaw.

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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