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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.
Origin of claw
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
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • In the hand of the Ostrich the first and second digits terminate in claws, while the third is without a claw.

    Dragons of the Air H. G. Seeley
  • We have brains, and with our brains we must do in a scientific way what Nature does with tooth and claw.

    Her Father's Daughter Gene Stratton-Porter
  • And Lew did not dare come down nearer the bear, lest the animal should again try to claw him.

  • The bird was standing upon one leg, and in the other claw held a stone.

    The Room in the Dragon Volant J. Sheridan LeFanu
  • The result was that Sinbad had gone raving mad and Dane's hands were now covered with claw tears which ran viciously deep.

    Plague Ship Andre Norton
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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