• synonyms


  1. a past participle of gnaw.
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Related formsun·gnawn, adjective


verb (used with object), gnawed, gnawed or gnawn, gnaw·ing.
  1. to bite or chew on, especially persistently.
  2. to wear away or remove by persistent biting or nibbling.
  3. to form or make by so doing: to gnaw a hole through the wall.
  4. to waste or wear away; corrode; erode.
  5. to trouble or torment by constant annoyance, worry, etc.; vex; plague.
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verb (used without object), gnawed, gnawed or gnawn, gnaw·ing.
  1. to bite or chew persistently: The spaniel gnawed happily on a bone.
  2. to cause corrosion: The acid gnaws at the metal.
  3. to cause an effect resembling corrosion: Her mistake gnawed at her conscience.
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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
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for gnawn

nibble, eat, chomp, annoy, bedevil, nag, irritate, haunt, crunch, erode, consume, munch, gum, corrode, devour, masticate, wear, champ, chaw, distress

Examples from the Web for gnawn

Historical Examples of gnawn

  • On the east side a strange section of gray lava and ash is gnawn into caves.

    At Last

    Charles Kingsley

  • Nor could they find a bundle in a handkerchief, which they would have gnawn through speedily.

    The Open Air

    Richard Jefferies

  • Neither shrink thou at the gnawn tables that await thee; the fates will find a way, and Apollo aid thy call.

British Dictionary definitions for gnawn


verb gnaws, gnawing, gnawed, gnawed or gnawn (nɔːn)
  1. (when intr, often foll by at or upon) to bite (at) or chew (upon) constantly so as to wear away little by little
  2. (tr) to form by gnawingto gnaw a hole
  3. to cause erosion of (something)
  4. (when intr, often foll by at) to cause constant distress or anxiety (to)
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  1. the act or an instance of gnawing
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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 gnawn



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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper