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[klaw] /klɔ/
a sharp, usually curved, nail on the foot of an animal, as on a cat, dog, or bird.
a similar curved process at the end of the leg of an insect.
the pincerlike extremity of specific limbs of certain arthropods:
lobster claws.
any part or thing resembling a claw, as the cleft end of the head of a hammer.
Typography. the hooklike projection from the right side of an r or from the bowl of a g.
(in a motion-picture mechanism) a device having one or two teeth that hook into the perforations of a length of film and move it one frame at a time at any given speed.
Jewelry. one of a group of slender, tapering metal projections rising from the base of a jewelry setting, used to hold a transparent or faceted gemstone in position.
Compare prong (def 4).
verb (used with object)
to tear, scratch, seize, pull, etc., with or as if with claws:
The kitten clawed my sweater to shreds.
to make by or as if by scratching, digging, etc., with hands or claws:
to claw a hole in the earth.
to proceed by or as if by using the hands:
He clawed his way through the crowd.
verb (used without object)
to scratch, tear, or dig with or as if with claws:
The cat clawed and hissed in fear.
to make fumbling motions:
He clawed at the door. She clawed for the light switch.
Scot. to scratch gently, as to relieve itching.
before 900; (noun) Middle English; Old English clawu; cognate with Old High German chlō(a), akin to Dutch klauw, German Klaue; (v.) Middle English clawen, Old English claw(i)an, derivative of clawu (noun); akin to Dutch klauwen, German klauen
Related forms
clawer, noun
clawless, adjective
declaw, verb (used with object)
Can be confused
clause, claws. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for claw
  • Each claw ended with a sharp point ideally suited for digging into the flesh of prey.
  • Using a nutcracker or wood mallet, crack the shell of each leg and claw section.
  • Make a cut at small end of each cutlet, and insert in each the tip end of a small claw.
  • Use tail meat, divided in fourths, and large pieces of claw meat.
  • Refill tail, body, and under half of large claw shells.
  • As it was, the policeman made a claw at the hood, and only dropped off when he got my left in his eye.
  • What they discovered was that the hand claw of the predatory dinosaur was also well-adapted to anchoring into surfaces.
  • First it grabbed several bands in its big crusher claw and refused to relinquish them.
  • Do not worry if you tear the claw when you remove the cartilage.
  • Another is that it's easier to eat-all you get is the big, meaty claw, which has usually been cracked for easy pickings.
British Dictionary definitions for claw


a curved pointed horny process on the end of each digit in birds, some reptiles, and certain mammals
a corresponding structure in some invertebrates, such as the pincer of a crab
a part or member like a claw in function or appearance
(botany) the narrow basal part of certain petals and sepals
to scrape, tear, or dig (something or someone) with claws, etc
(transitive) to create by scratching as with claws: to claw an opening
Derived Forms
clawer, noun
clawless, adjective
Word Origin
Old English clawu; related to Old High German kluwi, Sanskrit glau- ball, sphere
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
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Word Origin and History for claw

Old English clawu, earlier clea, "claw, talon, iron hook," from Proto-Germanic *klawo (cf. Old Frisian klawe "claw, hoe," Middle Dutch klouwe, Dutch klauw, Old High German klawa, German Klaue "claw").

Claw-foot in reference to furniture is from 1823; claw-and-ball attested from 1893. Claw-hammer attested from 1769.


Old English clawian "to scratch, claw," from the same root as claw (n.). Related: Clawed; clawing. Cf. Dutch klaauwen, Old High German klawan, German klauen. To claw back"regain by great effort" is from 1953; as a noun, an act of this, from 1969.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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claw in Science
  1. A sharp, curved nail at the end of a toe of a mammal, reptile, or bird.

  2. A pincer, as of a lobster or crab, used for grasping.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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Slang definitions & phrases for claw



A police officer


To arrest (1917+ Underworld)

Related Terms

have one's claws out

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Encyclopedia Article for claw

narrow, arched structure that curves downward from the end of the digit in birds, reptiles, many mammals, and some amphibians. It is a hardened (keratinized) modification of the epidermis. Claws may be adapted for scratching, clutching, digging, or climbing. By analogy, the appendages of other lower animals are frequently called claws. The claw's shape is ordinarily suited to the food-getting habit of the animal. Eagles have long, curved talons for grasping prey; the claws of chickens are short and sturdy, for scratching the ground for food.

Learn more about claw with a free trial on
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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