- To gnaw is defined as to bite and wear away a small part at a time.
An example of to gnaw is a dog chewing on a bone.
A baby gnaws a toy.Licensed from iStockPhoto
- to cut, bite, and wear away bit by bit with the teeth
- to make by gnawing: to gnaw a hole
- to consume; wear away; corrode
- to torment, as by constant pain, fear, etc.; harass
Origin: Middle English gnawen from Old English gnagen, akin to German nagen (OHG gnagan) from Indo-European an unverified form ghnēgh from base an unverified form ghen-, to gnaw away, rub away from source gnash, gnat
- to bite repeatedly: with on, away, at, etc.
- to produce a biting, consuming, corroding, eroding, tormenting, etc. effect: with on, at, etc.: waves gnawed away at the shore; fear gnawed on his consciousness
Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
verb gnawed gnawed, gnaw·ing, gnaws verb, transitive
- a. To bite, chew on, or erode with the teeth.b. To produce by gnawing: gnaw a hole. See Synonyms at bite.c. To erode or diminish gradually as if by gnawing: waves gnawing the rocky shore.
- To afflict or worry persistently: fear that constantly gnawed me.
- To bite or chew persistently: The dog gnawed at the bone.
- To cause erosion or gradual diminishment.
- To cause persistent worry or pain: Hunger gnawed at the prisoners.
Origin: Middle English gnauen, from Old English gnagan.
- gnawˈer noun