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See more synonyms for shrew on Thesaurus.com
  1. a woman of violent temper and speech; termagant.
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Origin of shrew1

1200–50; Middle English; special use of shrew2
Related formsshrew·like, adjective


See more synonyms for shrew on Thesaurus.com
virago, nag, scold.


  1. any of several small, mouselike insectivores of the genus Sorex and related genera, having a long, sharp snout.
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Origin of shrew2

before 900; Middle English (only in compounds), Old English scrēawa
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for shrew

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • But Mirandy was no shrew; she was simply troubled about many things.

    Meadow Grass

    Alice Brown

  • The jade had to come to him, at last, completely subdued, as in the “Taming of the Shrew.”

    Blood and Iron

    John Hubert Greusel

  • His wife is a shrew, a termagant, who embitters every hour of his existence.

    The Lion's Skin

    Rafael Sabatini

  • Columbine snapped like the shrew she masked: "You little sneak!"


    Louis Joseph Vance

  • The ii point is that, if a woman have a sharp nose, then most commenly she is a shrew.

British Dictionary definitions for shrew


  1. Also called: shrewmouse any small mouse-like long-snouted mammal, such as Sorex araneus (common shrew), of the family Soricidae: order Insectivora (insectivores)See also water shrew Related adjective: soricine
  2. a bad-tempered or mean-spirited woman
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Word Origin

Old English scrēawa; related to Old High German scrawaz dwarf, Icelandic skröggr old man, Norwegian skrugg dwarf
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 shrew


small insectivorous mammal, Old English screawa "shrew-mouse," unknown outside English, and "the absence of evidence for the word between the OE. period and the 16th c is remarkable" [OED]. Perhaps from Proto-Germanic *skraw-, from PIE *skreu- "to cut; cutting tool" (see shred (n.)), in reference to the shrew's pointed snout. Alternative Old English word for it was scirfemus, from sceorfan "to gnaw."

The meaning "peevish, malignant, clamorous, spiteful, vexatious, turbulent woman" [Johnson] is late 14c., from earlier sense of "spiteful person" (male or female), mid-13c., traditionally said to derive from some supposed malignant influence of the animal, which was once believed to have a venomous bite and was held in superstitious dread (cf. beshrew). Paired with sheep from 1560s as the contrasting types of wives.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper