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shrew1

[shroo] /ʃru/
noun
1.
a woman of violent temper and speech; termagant.
Origin
1200-1250
1200-50; Middle English; special use of shrew2
Related forms
shrewlike, adjective
Synonyms
virago, nag, scold.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for shrewlike

shrew

/ʃruː/
noun
1.
Also called shrewmouse. any small mouse-like long-snouted mammal, such as Sorex araneus (common shrew), of the family Soricidae: order Insectivora (insectivores) See also water shrew related adjective soricine
2.
a bad-tempered or mean-spirited woman
Word Origin
Old English scrēawa; related to Old High German scrawaz dwarf, Icelandic skröggr old man, Norwegian skrugg dwarf
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin and History for shrewlike

shrew

n.

small insectivorous mammal, Old English screawa "shrew-mouse," unknown outside English, and "the absence of evidence for the word between the OE. period and the 16th c is remarkable" [OED]. Perhaps from Proto-Germanic *skraw-, from PIE *skreu- "to cut; cutting tool" (see shred (n.)), in reference to the shrew's pointed snout. Alternative Old English word for it was scirfemus, from sceorfan "to gnaw."

The meaning "peevish, malignant, clamorous, spiteful, vexatious, turbulent woman" [Johnson] is late 14c., from earlier sense of "spiteful person" (male or female), mid-13c., traditionally said to derive from some supposed malignant influence of the animal, which was once believed to have a venomous bite and was held in superstitious dread (cf. beshrew). Paired with sheep from 1560s as the contrasting types of wives.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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