[ klaw ]
See synonyms for claw on
  1. a sharp, usually curved, nail on the foot of an animal, as on a cat, dog, or bird.

  2. a similar curved process at the end of the leg of an insect.

  1. the pincerlike extremity of specific limbs of certain arthropods: lobster claws.

  2. any part or thing resembling a claw, as the cleft end of the head of a hammer.

  3. Typography. the hooklike projection from the right side of an r or from the bowl of a g.

  4. (in a motion-picture mechanism) a device having one or two teeth that hook into the perforations of a length of film and move it one frame at a time at any given speed.

  5. Jewelry. one of a group of slender, tapering metal projections rising from the base of a jewelry setting, used to hold a transparent or faceted gemstone in position.: Compare prong (def. 4).

verb (used with object)
  1. to tear, scratch, seize, pull, etc., with or as if with claws: The kitten clawed my sweater to shreds.

  2. to make by or as if by scratching, digging, etc., with hands or claws: to claw a hole in the earth.

  1. to proceed by or as if by using the hands: He clawed his way through the crowd.

verb (used without object)
  1. to scratch, tear, or dig with or as if with claws: The cat clawed and hissed in fear.

  2. to make fumbling motions: He clawed at the door. She clawed for the light switch.

  1. Scot. to scratch gently, as to relieve itching.

Verb Phrases
  1. claw back. See entry at clawback.

Origin of claw

First recorded before 900; (noun) Middle English; Old English clawu; cognate with Old High German chlō(a), akin to Dutch klauw, German Klaue; (verb) Middle English clawen, Old English claw(i)an, derivative of clawu (noun); akin to Dutch klauwen, German klauen

Other words from claw

  • clawer, noun
  • clawless, adjective
  • de·claw, verb (used with object)

Words that may be confused with claw Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use claw in a sentence

  • With her all-powerful and elastic muscles she encircled and oppressed her mount, clawing with two great talons at his breast.

    Charles Baudelaire, His Life | Thophile Gautier
  • A dancer went down, coughing and clawing at his throat, while yelps of surprise and pain told me others had been wounded.

    A Virginia Scout | Hugh Pendexter
  • She caught at him with clawing hands, her eyes wild, her teeth showing from behind tightly drawn lips.

    The White Desert | Courtney Ryley Cooper
  • Recovering herself with an effort, she turned her face again to the officer, who was clawing about for his missing club.

  • The bear tumbled out of the path, howling in misery, and clawing at his nose and eyes.

    Prairie Smoke (Second Edition, Revised) | Melvin Randolph Gilmore

British Dictionary definitions for claw


/ (klɔː) /

  1. a curved pointed horny process on the end of each digit in birds, some reptiles, and certain mammals

  2. a corresponding structure in some invertebrates, such as the pincer of a crab

  1. a part or member like a claw in function or appearance

  2. botany the narrow basal part of certain petals and sepals

  1. to scrape, tear, or dig (something or someone) with claws, etc

  2. (tr) to create by scratching as with claws: to claw an opening

Origin of claw

Old English clawu; related to Old High German kluwi, Sanskrit glau- ball, sphere

Derived forms of claw

  • clawer, noun
  • clawless, adjective

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

Scientific definitions for claw


[ klô ]

  1. A sharp, curved nail at the end of a toe of a mammal, reptile, or bird.

  2. A pincer, as of a lobster or crab, used for grasping.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.