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From Middle English chewen, from Old English ċēowan, from Proto-Germanic *kewwaną (compare West Frisian kôgje, Low German käwwen, Dutch kauwen, German kauen), from Proto-Indo-European *ǵyewh₁- (compare Latin gingīva (gums), Tocharian B śuwaṃ (to eat), Polish żuć (to chew), Persian جویدن(ǰavīdan), Pashto [script needed] (žovạl, to bite, gnaw)).



chew (third-person singular simple present chews, present participle chewing, simple past chewed, past participle chewed or (rare) chewn)

  1. To crush with the teeth by repeated closing and opening of the jaws; done to food to soften it and break it down by the action of saliva before it is swallowed.
    Make sure to chew thoroughly, and don't talk with your mouth full!
    The steak was tough to chew as it had been cooked too long.
    • Henry Lyte's Herball (1578)
      The same chewn upon maketh one to avoid much phlegm.
    • Journal of Glenn T. Seaborg
      And gruesome they areː We find cattle still alive with hindquarters chewn off, still alive with their eyes chewn out, their ears chewn off, their noses and faces chewn till they look like (a) Hamburger, their tails hanging in shreds. Or, we find them after a slow and cruel death. Can you understand why cattlemen will shoot YOUR dog if he is seen wandering on ranchland?
    • Rameau's Nephew / D'alembert's Dream (Penguin, 1966)
      But meanwhile Mademoiselle's book had at least been found under an arm-chair where it had been dragged, chewn up and torn to pieces by a young pug-dog or by a kitten.
    • Seal Team Seven 14: Death Blow
      He wore two sweaters, both moth chewn and filthy but warm.
    • The Lost Stories of Sherlock Holmes by Tony Reynolds (2010)
      His left cheek seemed to have been cut and chewn awayǃ
  2. To grind, tear, or otherwise degrade or demolish something with teeth or as with teeth.
    He keeps his feed in steel drums to prevent the mice from chewing holes in the feed-sacks.
    The harsh desert wind and sand had chewed the stump into ragged strips of wood.
  3. (informal) To think about something; to ponder; to chew over.
    The professor stood at the blackboard, chalk in hand, and chewed the question the student had asked.
    • Alexander Pope
      Old politicians chew wisdom past.
    • Prior
      He chews revenge, abjuring his offense.


Derived termsEdit



chew (countable and uncountable, plural chews)

  1. The act of chewing; mastication with the mouth.
    I popped the gum into my mouth and gave it a chew.
  2. A small sweet, such as a taffy, that is eaten by chewing.
    Phillip purchased a bag of licorice chews at the drugstore.
  3. (informal, uncountable) Chewing tobacco.
    The school had banned chew and smokes from the school grounds, even for adults.
  4. (countable or uncountable) A plug or wad of chewing tobacco; chaw or a chaw.
    The ballplayers sat on the bench watching the rain, glumly working their chews.
    The first time he chewed tobacco, he swallowed his chew and got extremely sick.
  5. (uncountable, informal) The condition of something being torn or ground up mechanically.
    • 1995, Keyboard (volume 21, issues 7-12, page 138)
      Avoiding Tape Chew. In the early days of the ADAT, the "V" blocks (two arms that thread the tape around the front of the head) could sometimes get out of alignment and "chew" the outside track []

Derived termsEdit