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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. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for gnawed
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • My own father was scalped, and the fathers of five others were scalped, and their bloody heads were gnawed by the wolf.

  • The smacks pained, and the words "'Purim' presents" gnawed at my brain.

    Jewish Children Sholem Naumovich Rabinovich
  • Mr. Martin gnawed away at the earth, and used swear-words to himself, and was perfectly raging.

  • He gnawed his mustache: the apprentices would be there soon, with his Lily.

    The Bill-Toppers Andre Castaigne
  • The concentration necessary to follow the badly blazed trees, and a biting hunger that gnawed, helped to keep his mind steady.

    The Wendigo Algernon Blackwood
  • I should think it had been done with a knife, and it looked as if a rat had gnawed it.

  • The poor were clad in rags and skins—they devoured crusts, and gnawed bones.

  • The edge of the floor was ragged, as though it had been gnawed away by rats.

    It Could Be Anything John Keith Laumer
British Dictionary definitions for gnawed


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 gnawed



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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