verb (used with object)

to strike or scrape with the paws or feet: a dog pawing the door.
Informal. to handle or caress clumsily, rudely, or with unwelcome familiarity.

verb (used without object)

to beat or scrape the floor, ground, etc., with the paws or feet.
Informal. to handle or caress someone or something in a clumsy or rude manner or with unwelcome familiarity.

Origin of paw

1300–50; Middle English pawe, variant of powe < Middle French poue (cognate with Provençal pauta) < Germanic; compare Dutch poot, German Pfote
Related formspaw·er, nounun·pawed, adjective
Can be confusedpaw poor porepause paws pores pours



noun Informal.

father; pa.

Origin of paw

1900–05, Americanism; earlier and dial. pronunciation of pa, reflecting the now lapsed constraint against a maximally open back vowel in an open stressed final syllable Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for paw

Contemporary Examples of paw

  • Jimbo sat behind me, and patted me on the back with his heavy tomahawk of a paw.

    The Daily Beast logo
    I Shot Bin Laden

    Elliot Ackerman

    November 16, 2014

  • But there are some compelling reasons to view the advantages that ruling gave the GOP in 2010 as something of a monkey's paw.

  • They decide to adopt a stray cat, Paw Paw, in the hopes that it will fill the void in their relationship.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Miranda July's Lovers and Haters

    Marlow Stern

    July 30, 2011

Historical Examples of paw

  • Rechid was only their cat's-paw, thinking he played his own hand.

    It Happened in Egypt

    C. N. Williamson

  • Before, he had looked like a giant; now Wahb felt he could crush him with one paw.

    The Biography of a Grizzly

    Ernest Seton-Thompson

  • At this, with one sweep of his sword, Hugh struck at the cat's paw.

    Welsh Fairy Tales

    William Elliott Griffis

  • The creature comes to the tree by night, inserts his paw, and grasps his booty.


    Samuel Smiles

  • He placed his paw on one, and its movements were accelerated.

    White Fang

    Jack London

British Dictionary definitions for paw



any of the feet of a four-legged mammal, bearing claws or nails
informal a hand, esp one that is large, clumsy, etc


to scrape or contaminate with the paws or feet
(tr) informal to touch or caress in a clumsy, rough, or overfamiliar manner; maul

Word Origin for paw

C13: via Old French from Germanic; related to Middle Dutch pōte, German Pfote
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 paw

c.1300, from Old French powe, poe "paw, fist," of uncertain origin. Evidence points to a Gallo-Romance root form *pauta which probably is related to the source of patten.


"use the hands roughly," c.1600, from paw (n.). Related: Pawed; pawing. Middle English had pawen "to touch or strike with the paw" (c.1400).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper