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A shrew (def. 1)


  • enPR: shro͞o, IPA(key): /ʃɹuː/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -uː

Etymology 1Edit

From Middle English *schrewe, from Old English sċrēawa (shrew), from Proto-Germanic *skrawwaz (thin; meagre; frail), from Proto-Indo-European *(s)ker- (to cut; shorten; skimp). Cognates include Old High German scrawaz (dwarf), Norwegian skrugg (dwarf).


shrew (plural shrews)

  1. Any of numerous small, mouselike, chiefly nocturnal, mammals of the family Soricidae (order Soricomorpha).
  2. Certain other small mammals that resemble true shrews (order Soricomorpha).
  3. (derogatory) An ill-tempered, nagging woman: a scold.
    • 1863, Sheridan Le Fanu, The House by the Churchyard:
      The clerk had, I'm afraid, a shrew of a wife—shrill, vehement, and fluent. 'Rogue,' 'old miser,' 'old sneak,' and a great many worse names, she called him.
    • 1959, Mordecai Richler, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz:
      His wife was a shrew with warts on her face and she spoke to him sharply when others were present, but Simcha did not complain.
Usage notesEdit

The best-known use of the meaning 'ill-tempered woman' is probably from The Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare.

Alternative formsEdit
Derived termsEdit

Etymology 2Edit

From Middle English schrewen (to make evil; curse), from Middle English schrewe, schrowe, screwe (wicked; evil; an evil person), from Old English *scrēawa (wicked person, literally biter). Perhaps ultimately from the same word as Etymology 1 above.


shrew (third-person singular simple present shrews, present participle shrewing, simple past and past participle shrewed)

  1. (obsolete, transitive) To beshrew; to curse.