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shrew1

[shroo] /ʃru/
noun
1.
a woman of violent temper and speech; termagant.
Origin of shrew1
1200-1250
1200-50; Middle English; special use of shrew2
Related forms
shrewlike, adjective
Synonyms
virago, nag, scold.

shrew2

[shroo] /ʃru/
noun
1.
any of several small, mouselike insectivores of the genus Sorex and related genera, having a long, sharp snout.
Origin
before 900; Middle English (only in compounds), Old English scrēawa
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for shrew
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • And what had she said that this servant-girl should suddenly show the shrew in her?

    The Late Tenant Louis Tracy
  • "When things don't suit me, I'm apt to say so; but I never scold," whined the shrew.

    Down The River Oliver Optic
  • The smell of the shrew is certainly unpleasant, as you may find out from this little fellow I hold in my hand.

  • Why not rewrite 'The Taming of the shrew' with a new background?

    Charles Frohman: Manager and Man Isaac Frederick Marcosson and Daniel Frohman
  • Like some great inch-worm, the weasel looped its way along, until its path crossed that of the shrew pattering toward the brook.

    Wild Folk Samuel Scoville
  • His father was a scholar and his mother somewhat of a shrew.

  • Married to another man, I suspect that she would have been a shrew.

    What Will He Do With It, Complete Edward Bulwer-Lytton
British Dictionary definitions for shrew

shrew

/ʃruː/
noun
1.
Also called shrewmouse. any small mouse-like long-snouted mammal, such as Sorex araneus (common shrew), of the family Soricidae: order Insectivora (insectivores) See also water shrew related adjective soricine
2.
a bad-tempered or mean-spirited woman
Word Origin
Old English scrēawa; related to Old High German scrawaz dwarf, Icelandic skröggr old man, Norwegian skrugg dwarf
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 shrew
n.

small insectivorous mammal, Old English screawa "shrew-mouse," unknown outside English, and "the absence of evidence for the word between the OE. period and the 16th c is remarkable" [OED]. Perhaps from Proto-Germanic *skraw-, from PIE *skreu- "to cut; cutting tool" (see shred (n.)), in reference to the shrew's pointed snout. Alternative Old English word for it was scirfemus, from sceorfan "to gnaw."

The meaning "peevish, malignant, clamorous, spiteful, vexatious, turbulent woman" [Johnson] is late 14c., from earlier sense of "spiteful person" (male or female), mid-13c., traditionally said to derive from some supposed malignant influence of the animal, which was once believed to have a venomous bite and was held in superstitious dread (cf. beshrew). Paired with sheep from 1560s as the contrasting types of wives.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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