[ naw ]
See synonyms for gnaw on
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.

  1. to form or make by so doing: to gnaw a hole through the wall.

  2. to waste or wear away; corrode; erode.

  3. to trouble or torment by constant annoyance, worry, etc.; vex; plague.

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.

  1. 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

Other words from gnaw

  • gnaw·a·ble, adjective
  • gnawer, noun
  • outgnaw, 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. 2023

British Dictionary definitions for gnaw


/ (nɔː) /

verbgnaws, 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 gnawing: to gnaw a hole

  1. to cause erosion of (something)

  2. (when intr, often foll by at) to cause constant distress or anxiety (to)

  1. the act or an instance of gnawing

Origin of gnaw

Old English gnagan; related to Old Norse gnaga, Old High German gnagan

Derived forms of gnaw

  • gnawable, adjective
  • gnawer, noun
  • gnawing, adjective, noun
  • gnawingly, adverb

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