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 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for pawing

Historical Examples of pawing

  • Mr. Hungerford, pawing in the darkness at the offending footstool, swore.

    Cap'n Dan's Daughter

    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • Somebody's been pawing this all over, and the prints are probably spoilt.

    The Grell Mystery

    Frank Froest

  • He's been pawing the air ever since Crew cabled, and this has blown him up completely.

    The Coast of Chance

    Esther Chamberlain

  • If so, it came quickly unstuck, and the bull emerged, pawing and snorting.

    A Slave is a Slave

    Henry Beam Piper

  • For a time the best sheep-dog in the North was pawing at the Gate of Death.

    Bob, Son of Battle

    Alfred Ollivant

British Dictionary definitions for pawing



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 pawing



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