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gnaw

[naw] /nɔ/
verb (used with object), gnawed, gnawed or gnawn, gnawing.
1.
to bite or chew on, especially persistently.
2.
to wear away or remove by persistent biting or nibbling.
3.
to form or make by so doing:
to gnaw a hole through the wall.
4.
to waste or wear away; corrode; erode.
5.
to trouble or torment by constant annoyance, worry, etc.; vex; plague.
verb (used without object), gnawed, gnawed or gnawn, gnawing.
6.
to bite or chew persistently:
The spaniel gnawed happily on a bone.
7.
to cause corrosion:
The acid gnaws at the metal.
8.
to cause an effect resembling corrosion:
Her mistake gnawed at her conscience.
Origin
1000
before 1000; Middle English gnawen, Old English gnagen; cognate with German nagen, Old Norse gnāga
Related forms
gnawable, adjective
gnawer, noun
outgnaw, verb (used with object), outgnawed, outgnawed or outgnawn, outgnawing.
undergnaw, verb (used with object)
ungnawed, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for gnaws
  • For distraction, he gnaws on watermelon slices and spits out the pulp.
  • He gnaws the skull clean to the bone, then plunges it into the fire and calls me and the hunters over for a smoke.
  • And he throbs and he bobs and he picks up the cadence while he gnaws on his fist with his great toothless mouth.
  • The sulfuric acid they excrete gnaws away at the cave's limestone walls much faster than water alone would.
  • While this is truly awful, the thing that gnaws at me is the self-doubt.
  • It sucks the air out of my lungs and gnaws the marrow from my bones.
British Dictionary definitions for gnaws

gnaw

/nɔː/
verb gnaws, gnawing, gnawed, gnawed, gnawn (nɔːn)
1.
when intr, often foll by at or upon. to bite (at) or chew (upon) constantly so as to wear away little by little
2.
(transitive) to form by gnawing: to gnaw a hole
3.
to cause erosion of (something)
4.
when intr, often foll by at. to cause constant distress or anxiety (to)
noun
5.
the act or an instance of gnawing
Derived Forms
gnawable, adjective
gnawer, noun
gnawing, adjective, noun
gnawingly, adverb
Word Origin
Old English gnagan; related to Old Norse gnaga, Old High German gnagan
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 gnaws

gnaw

v.

Old English gnagan (past tense *gnog, past participle gnagan) "to gnaw," a common Germanic word (cf. Old Saxon gnagan, Old Norse, Swedish gnaga, Middle Dutch, Dutch knagen, Old High German gnagan, German nagen "to gnaw"), probably imitative of gnawing. Related: Gnawed; gnawing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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