Definition of gnaw in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /nɔː/


[no object]
1Bite at or nibble something persistently: watching a dog gnaw at a big bone
More example sentences
  • Never the same place twice. Once when he seemed almost awake, I asked him if he was worried about having his face gnawed on by the rat, but there was no answer, just a sort of grunt.
  • Who hasn't chewed on gummy bears or gnawed on licorice candy?
  • Now she takes you on a harrowing true life journey from childhood neglect so bad she gnawed at dog bones for nourishment.
chew, bite, nibble, munch, crunch, champ, chomp, masticate;
worry, tear
rare manducate, chumble
1.1 [with object and adverbial] Bite at or nibble (something) so as to wear it away: the grubs tunnel into the wood and gnaw it away
More example sentences
  • Kellie, 14, bought herself a ring, and she says wearing it keeps her from gnawing her nails.
  • As a rule, newscasts close with a brief on some animal with extraordinary skills - that day's feature was a parrot that gnaws sugar cane and nibbles at melon seeds.
  • I drove forward to the entrance and gnawed my fingernails until a man parallel to me on the left honked and waved at me to go, forfeiting his turn through the intersection.
erode, wear away, wear down, eat away (at), chip away (at), bite into, corrode, consume, devour
rare fret
2Cause persistent distress or anxiety: the doubts continued to gnaw at me
More example sentences
  • It takes root, festers, begins to gnaw at my soul.
  • He had never known words could hurt this much, that they could gnaw at him, cause so much pain.
  • But it's a challenge he does not intend to repeat because of the hours of training which have to be devoted to building up stamina - although he did admit on Tuesday that the thought of beating his time was beginning to gnaw at him.
prey on someone's mind, nag, plague, torment, torture, trouble, distress, worry, haunt, oppress, weigh heavily on someone's mind, be a weight on someone's mind, burden, hang over, harry, bother, exercise, fret;
niggle, rankle with;
persistent, nagging, niggling, lingering, constant, continual, unrelenting, unabating;
worrying, worrisome, troubling, concerning, disturbing


Old English gnagen, of Germanic origin; related to German nagen, ultimately imitative.

Words that rhyme with gnaw

abhor, adore, afore, anymore, ashore, awe, bandore, Bangalore, before, boar, Boer, bore, caw, chore, claw, cocksure, comprador, cor, core, corps, craw, Delors, deplore, door, draw, drawer, evermore, explore, flaw, floor, for, forbore, fore, foresaw, forevermore, forswore, four, fourscore, furthermore, Gábor, galore, gore, grantor, guarantor, guffaw, hard-core, Haugh, haw, hoar, ignore, implore, Indore, interwar, jaw, Johor, Lahore, law, lessor, lor, lore, macaw, man-o'-war, maw, mirador, mor, more, mortgagor, Mysore, nevermore, nor, oar, obligor, offshore, onshore, open-jaw, or, ore, outdoor, outwore, paw, poor, pore, pour, rapport, raw, roar, saw, scaur, score, senhor, señor, shaw, ship-to-shore, shop-floor, shore, signor, Singapore, snore, soar, softcore, sore, spore, store, straw, swore, Tagore, tau, taw, thaw, Thor, threescore, tor, tore, torr, trapdoor, tug-of-war, two-by-four, underfloor, underscore, war, warrantor, Waugh, whore, withdraw, wore, yaw, yore, your

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: gnaw

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.