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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English *schrewe, from Old English scrēawa (shrew, literally biter), 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).

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A shrew (def. 1)


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.
  • (mouselike mammal): ranny (obsolete)
  • (nagging woman): For semantic relationships of this term, see shrew in the Thesaurus.
Alternative forms[edit]
Derived terms[edit]


Etymology 2[edit]

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.
    • Chaucer
      I shrew myself.