O.E. heawan "to chop, hack, gash" (class VII strong verb; past tense heow, pp. heawen), earlier geheawan, from P.Gmc. *khawwanan (cf. O.N. hoggva, Du. houwen, Ger. hauen "to cut, strike, hew"), from PIE base *qau- "to strike, beat" (cf. O.C.S. kovo, Lith. kauju "to beat, forge;" L. cudere "to strike, beat;" M.Ir. cuad "beat, fight"). Weak pp. hewede appeared 14c. Seemingly contradictory sense of "hold fast, stick to" (in phrase hew to) developed from hew to the line "stick to a course," lit. "cut evenly with an axe or saw," first recorded 1891.