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[paw] /pɔ/
the foot of an animal having claws.
the foot of any animal.
Informal. the human hand, especially one that is large, rough, or clumsy:
Keep your paws off my property.
verb (used with object)
to strike or scrape with the paws or feet:
a dog pawing the door.
Informal. to handle or caress clumsily, rudely, or with unwelcome familiarity.
verb (used without object)
to beat or scrape the floor, ground, etc., with the paws or feet.
Informal. to handle or caress someone or something in a clumsy or rude manner or with unwelcome familiarity.
Origin of paw1
1300-50; Middle English pawe, variant of powe < Middle French poue (cognate with Provençal pauta) < Germanic; compare Dutch poot, German Pfote
Related forms
pawer, noun
unpawed, adjective
Can be confused
paw, poor, pore.
pause, paws, pores, pours. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for pawing
Historical Examples
  • Mr. Hungerford, pawing in the darkness at the offending footstool, swore.

    Cap'n Dan's Daughter Joseph C. Lincoln
  • Somebody's been pawing this all over, and the prints are probably spoilt.

    The Grell Mystery Frank Froest
  • He's been pawing the air ever since Crew cabled, and this has blown him up completely.

    The Coast of Chance Esther Chamberlain
  • If so, it came quickly unstuck, and the bull emerged, pawing and snorting.

    A Slave is a Slave Henry Beam Piper
  • For a time the best sheep-dog in the North was pawing at the Gate of Death.

    Bob, Son of Battle Alfred Ollivant
  • The war-horse, saddled and bridled, is pawing the earth and neighing.

    The American Empire

    Scott Nearing
  • Where'd any of us be, if the Representative from this county got to pawing the air for reform?

    In Our Town William Allen White
  • The horse of a mounted field officer was pawing the garden turf.

    Clarence Bret Harte
  • And Davies and I were pawing one another in the dark of the cabin.

    The Riddle of the Sands Erskine Childers
  • The horses were tossing their heads, pawing the ground, and acting restive.

    Polly and Eleanor Lillian Elizabeth Roy
British Dictionary definitions for pawing


any of the feet of a four-legged mammal, bearing claws or nails
(informal) a hand, esp one that is large, clumsy, etc
to scrape or contaminate with the paws or feet
(transitive) (informal) to touch or caress in a clumsy, rough, or overfamiliar manner; maul
Word Origin
C13: via Old French from Germanic; related to Middle Dutch pōte, German Pfote
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 pawing



c.1300, from Old French powe, poe "paw, fist," of uncertain origin. Evidence points to a Gallo-Romance root form *pauta which probably is related to the source of patten.



"use the hands roughly," c.1600, from paw (n.). Related: Pawed; pawing. Middle English had pawen "to touch or strike with the paw" (c.1400).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for pawing



A hand: You let me get my paws on the money (1605+)


To touch and handle, esp in a crude sexual way (1701+)

Related Terms

northpaw, southpaw

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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