the act of a person or thing that gnaws.
Usually gnawings. persistent, dull pains; pangs: the gnawings of hunger.

Origin of gnawing

Middle English word dating back to 1300–50; see origin at gnaw, -ing1
Related formsgnaw·ing·ly, adverb



verb (used with object), gnawed, gnawed or gnawn, gnaw·ing.

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, gnaw·ing.

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 formsgnaw·a·ble, adjectivegnaw·er, nounout·gnaw, verb (used with object), out·gnawed, out·gnawed or out·gnawn, out·gnaw·ing.un·der·gnaw, verb (used with object)un·gnawed, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for gnawing

Contemporary Examples of gnawing

Historical Examples of gnawing

  • Deep in his heart was a gnawing of envy—not for himself, but for his work.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • They've been drifted away into one of the deepest holes there is, and the rats have been gnawing at 'em.

    Henry Dunbar

    M. E. Braddon

  • He was looking down, and gnawing at that tremulous upper lip.

    Wilfrid Cumbermede

    George MacDonald

  • It put a name to that gnawing, indefinite feeling she had been too intent to own.

    The Innocent Adventuress

    Mary Hastings Bradley

  • Then came remembrance, and it was far worse than the fangs of pain that were gnawing him.

    Raiders Invisible

    Desmond Winter Hall

British Dictionary definitions for gnawing


verb gnaws, gnawing, gnawed, gnawed or 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
(tr) to form by gnawingto 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 Formsgnawable, adjectivegnawer, noungnawing, adjective, noungnawingly, adverb

Word Origin for gnaw

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

Word Origin and History for gnawing



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