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Alternative forms[edit]


c. 1300, Middle English schrewed (depraved; wicked, literally accursed), from schrewen (to curse; beshrew), from schrewe, schrowe, screwe (evil or wicked person/thing), from Old English scrēawa (wicked person, literally biter). Equivalent to shrew +‎ -ed. More at shrew.

The sense of "cunning" developed in early 16th c., gradually gaining a positive connotation by 17th c.


  • enPR: shro͞od, IPA(key): /ʃɹuːd/
  • (file)


shrewd (comparative shrewder, superlative shrewdest)

  1. Showing clever resourcefulness in practical matters.
  2. Artful, tricky or cunning.
  3. (informal) streetwise, street-smart.
    • 2003, Ron Ross, Bummy Davis vs. Murder, Inc, page 287:
      Willie is very aware of this fact and lets Johnny Attell know that there is a fly in the ointment, and Johnny, who is a very shrewd article, has his chauffeur drive him to Bradford Street so he can change the kid's mind.
  4. Knowledgeable, intelligent, keen.
    • 2011 November 10, Jeremy Wilson, “England Under 21 5 Iceland Under 21 0: match report”, in Telegraph[1]:
      The most persistent tormentor was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who scored a hat-trick in last month’s corresponding fixture in Iceland. His ability to run at defences is instantly striking, but it is his clever use of possession that has persuaded some shrewd judges that he is an even better prospect than Theo Walcott.
  5. Nigh accurate.
    a shrewd guess
  6. Severe, intense, hard.
    a shrewd blow, or assault
  7. Sharp, snithy, piercing.
    a shrewd wind
  8. (archaic) Bad, evil, threatening.
    • c. 1596–1598 (date written), William Shakespeare, “The Merchant of Venice”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies [] (First Folio), London: [] Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, →OCLC, [Act III, scene ii]:
      There are some shrewd contents in yon same paper,
      That steals the colours from Bassanio's cheek:
      Some dear friend dead; else nothing in the world
      Could turn so much the constitution
      Of any constant man. What, worse and worse!— []
  9. (obsolete) Portending, boding.
  10. (archaic) Noxious, scatheful, mischievous.
    • 1687, John Aubrey, Remaines of Gentilisme and Judaisme, page 29:
      They were wont to please the Fairies, that they might doe them no shrewd turnes, by sweeping clean the Hearth and setting by it []
  11. (obsolete) Abusive, shrewish.
  12. (archaic) Scolding, satirical, sharp.

Derived terms[edit]


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