Printable Version
Pronunciation: hyu Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. (Transitive) To chop, cleave or carve with an ax or similar tool, as 'a table hewn from a maple log' or 'to hew a lane through the woods'. 2. (Transitive) To fell, as 'to fell a tall pine'. 3. (Intransitive) To adhere or conform to, as 'to hew to the party line'.

Notes: Today's verb is as strong as the person must be who carries out the action: hew, hewed, hewn. Hew is a native English word, accompanied by a personal noun, hewer, and a passive adjective, hewable. For the action noun and active adjective, we use the present participle, hewing.

In Play: Stone may be hewn, too: "Mark sculptured a statue of his mother from a slab of marble hewn from the mountain behind his house." The intransitive sense of today's word is not only used in reference to party lines: "Very little Leighton Early says about himself hews to known facts."

Word History: Hew in Middle English was hewen, from Old English heawan. All Germanic languages, like Old English, made their words from PIE kau- "to hew, hit". In Dutch it emerged as houwen and, in German, hauen "to cut, strike, hew". They made other words from the same PIE word: English hay and hack come from the same PIE word. Haggle and haggis, the Scottish dish from chopped sheep innards stuffed inside the stomach, were made from Old Norse höggva "to chop, hew". In Latin we find caedere "to cut, hew, fell". It appears in Slavic languages as kovat' in Russian, in Serbian as kovati and in Polish as kuć—all meaning "to forge, to hammer out on an anvil". (Let me now hew to the tradition of thanking our contributors and recognize Rob Towart for sharing today's small but fascinating Good Word with us.)

Dr. Goodword,

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