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)
- Any of numerous small, mouselike, chiefly nocturnal, mammals of the family Soricidae (order Soricomorpha).
- Certain other small mammals that resemble true shrews (order Soricomorpha).
- (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.
The best-known use of the meaning 'ill-tempered woman' is probably from The Taming of the Shrew by Shakespeare.
- shrow (obsolete)
- (mouselike mammal): ranny (obsolete)
- (nagging woman): See Thesaurus:shrew
- (mouselike mammal): common shrew
- common shrew (Sorex araneus in family Soricidae)
- elephant shrew (Macroscelididae)
- Etruscan shrew (Suncus etruscus in family Soricidae)
- hardishrew (Sorex araneus in family Soricidae)
- jumping shrew (Macroscelididae)
- Nelson's small-eared shrew (Cryptotis nelsoni, family Soricidae)
- otter shrew (subfamily Potamogalinae in family Tenrecidae)
- shrew opossum (family Caenolestidae))
- shrewmouse (Sorex araneus in family Soricidae)
- tree shrew, treeshrew (families Tupaiidae and Ptilocercidae in order Scandentia)
- West Indies shrew (genus †Nesophontes in family Solenodontidae)
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)
- (obsolete, transitive) To beshrew; to curse.
- 1387–1400, Geoffrey Chaucer, “(please specify the story)”, in The Canterbury Tales, [Westminster: William Caxton, published 1478], →OCLC; republished in [William Thynne], editor, The Workes of Geffray Chaucer Newlye Printed, […], [London]: […] [Richard Grafton for] Iohn Reynes […], 1542, →OCLC:
- I shrew myself.
- (please add an English translation of this quote)