To gnaw is to bite or chew. Your favorite food might be corn on the cob, because you love to gnaw along each row of kernels.

To gnaw also means to deteriorate or wear away as if by gnawing with the teeth. In Arches National Park, the weather has gnawed away at the rocks creating beautiful formations like arches, bridges, and balanced rocks. In this sense, to gnaw can be used even more figuratively. Something might gnaw at the back of your mind — something you were supposed to do, although now you can't quite remember what it was.

Definitions of gnaw

v bite or chew on with the teeth

gnaw an old cracker”
Type of:
chew, jaw, manducate, masticate
chew (food); to bite and grind with the teeth
bite, seize with teeth
to grip, cut off, or tear with or as if with the teeth or jaws

v become ground down or deteriorate

eat at, erode, gnaw at, wear away
Type of:
crumble, decay, dilapidate
fall into decay or ruin

v gnaw into; make resentful or angry

eat into, fester, fret, grate, rankle
Type of:
annoy, bother, chafe, devil, get at, get to, gravel, irritate, nark, nettle, rag, rile, vex
cause annoyance in; disturb, especially by minor irritations

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